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June 27, 2013

Anti-depressants & Sleep Studies

Question:

I have a patient who has opted to seek counsel with their physician regarding a sleep study. She has tremendous daytime drowsiness among other symptoms.

Originally, her doctor persuaded her to not visit a sleep center for reasons I can only imagine. In the meanwhile, at my prodding, she has visited her doctor again and he wrote a script for a PSG study at her local hospital. However, the doctor also prescribed Lexapro to ‘keep her alert’ during the day so that she would have a nice sleep the nite of the study. If I remember from your class, that class of drugs limits or reduces REM sleep. Do I recall correctly?

Dr. Smith:

Lexapro and other anti-depressants will remove REM sleep, which indirectly improves the AHI, but at the expense of a valuable segment of sleep. They will sleep better if their anxieties are preventing sleep initiation, so it can be helpful, but will not give a true picture of the patient’s sleep architecture. That may or may not matter to the sleep physician, but I would ask the expert before deferring to the general MD.

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