Sertraline and rapid eye movement sleep without atonia: an 8-week, open-label study of depressed patients

Bin Zhang, Yanli Hao, Fujun Jia, Yi Tang, Xueli Li, Wuhan Liu, Isabelle Arnulf
Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 2013 December 2, 47: 85-92
Previous studies have reported that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may induce or exacerbate rapid eye movement (REM) sleep without atonia (RSWA) and increase the risk of developing REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). However, most of these studies are retrospective and cross-sectional and employed small sample sizes and a mixture of SSRIs. In this 8-week open-label trial of sertraline in depressed patients (n = 31), depressed patients were administered 50mg sertraline at 8 am on the 1st day and subsequently titrated up to a maximum of 200mg/day. All patients underwent repeated video-polysomnography (vPSG) (baseline, 1st day, 14th day, 28th day, and 56th day). Both tonic (submental) and phasic (submental and anterior tibialis) RSWA events were visually counted. Tonic RSWA increased from 3.2 ± 1.8% at baseline to 5.1 ± 2.3% on the 1st day and 10.4 ± 2.7% on the 14th day; after that, measurements were stable until the 56th day. A similar profile was observed for phasic RSWA. The increases in tonic RSWA (r = 0.56, P = 0.004) and phasic RSWA (submental: r = -0.51, P = 0.02; anterior tibialis: r = 0.41, P = 0.04) were correlated with the degree of the prolonging of REM latency. All of RSWAs were not correlated with patients' demographic and clinical characteristics. Sertraline may induce or exacerbate RSWA. In contrast to idiopathic RBD, sertraline-related RSWA had the specific characteristics of being correlated with the degree of the prolonging of REM latency and no predominance of male sex and elder age, suggesting different pathophysiological mechanisms. The antidepressant-related RSWA should be a potential public health problem in the depressed patients.

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