Can Wellbutrin Lead to Insomnia?
Wellbutrin is a treatment used to treat certain mental health conditions. Unfortunately, some people find that this antidepressant — which is also known by its generic name, bupropion — can lead to or worsen sleeping problems.
Understanding how to properly take Wellbutrin and knowing how to get better sleep can help you use this medication more effectively to improve your mental health.
What Is Wellbutrin Used For?
This drug is officially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat major depressive disorder in adults. It can also help with seasonal affective disorder or SAD, a condition that causes depression-like symptoms during certain times of year.1
Wellbutrin is also sometimes used “off-label.” Doctors may recommend this medication to help people stop smoking or to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression caused by bipolar disorder, obesity, or sexual function.1-3
How Wellbutrin Affects Sleep
Experts don’t yet entirely understand how Wellbutrin works. This medication seems to affect the levels of different neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) such as dopamine and norepinephrine.4 These molecules affect your mood and allow you to focus, think clearly, and remember things. They also control processes in the body like blood pressure, heart rate, and sleep.5,6
By changing neurotransmitter levels, Wellbutrin may affect sleep processes. For example, one study found that people who took this drug spent more time in rapid eye movement or REM sleep — the deep sleep stage in which dreams occur. However, this study also showed that Wellbutrin led to lower-quality sleep with more disruptions. Researchers concluded that Wellbutrin could disrupt sleep in a way that increases a person’s risk of heart disease in the future.7
Overall, nearly one out of five people who take Wellbutrin experience insomnia.1
How To Take Wellbutrin
There are several forms of Wellbutrin, each of which comes with different dosing schedules:8
Wellbutrin — Taken three to four times per day, several hours apart
Wellbutrin SR (sustained release) — Taken two times per day, with doses taken at least eight hours apart
Wellbutrin XL (extended release) — Taken once per day
Your doctor may recommend different dosages or schedules based on your needs. For example, people with SAD may take Wellbutrin only during certain seasons.8
If Wellbutrin makes it harder for you to fall asleep, take this medication earlier in the day.8 The best option may be to take Wellbutrin XL each morning. By the time night comes around, levels of this drug in your body drop and you will be less likely to experience insomnia.4 Wellbutrin SR and Wellbutrin XL are less likely to lead to insomnia compared to standard Wellbutrin tablets.1
Recommended Dosage of Wellbutrin
When starting Wellbutrin, a standard dose is about 150 mg per day. This dose may be taken all at once or be spread throughout the day in multiple smaller doses. Your doctor may adjust your dose after a couple of weeks based on your symptoms and side effects.8,9
Can You Drink While Taking Wellbutrin?
You should avoid alcohol while using Wellbutrin for two main reasons: alcohol can make Wellbutrin less effective and increase the risk of side effects.10 In particular, the combination of Wellbutrin and alcohol can make you more likely to experience serious problems such as seizures.11
Wellbutrin Side Effects
In addition to insomnia, common side effects of Wellbutrin include:4,8
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of appetite or unexpected weight loss
Ringing in the ears
These side effects often go away over time. Most people who take Wellbutrin are able to manage these effects and continue using the medication long term.4
Tell your doctor right away if you start feeling confused or unusually afraid, have an irregular or fast heartbeat, or experience muscle pain, hallucinations, or seizures after taking Wellbutrin. These side effects are rare but can be serious.8
Healthy Ways To Treat Insomnia Caused by Wellbutrin
Many people treat insomnia using medications. Sleep aids can increase sleep in the short term, but they may cause side effects and they aren’t meant to be used long term — they stop working over time, and some can be addictive.12
Making lifestyle changes can be a natural way to sleep better. Research shows that you may get larger amounts of high-quality sleep when you develop habits like:13
Fight stress with relaxation techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, or hypnosis,
Follow a consistent schedule by waking up, eating meals, and going to bed at the same times each day
Only lie down in bed when you’re feeling sleepy
Don’t use your bed for non-sleep-related activities such as watching TV or browsing the internet
Keep your bedroom dark — remove electronics from the room, cover your windows, or wear a sleep mask
The best solution for improving your sleep may be cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), a treatment that helps you analyze your beliefs to see what is getting in the way of a good night’s rest and develop habits that allow you to sleep better. CBT-I doesn’t cause any side effects and has longer-lasting benefits than sleep medication.14
CBT-I can be carried out with the help of a therapist or counselor who is trained in these techniques. You can also access CBT-I online, from the comfort of your own home, through Dawn Health. Fill out our questionnaire today to get started down a path toward better sleep.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2009, June). Wellbutrin (bupropion hydrochloride) tablets. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/018644s039s040.pdf
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2016, June). Zyban (bupropion hydrochloride) sustained-release tablets, for oral use. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/020711s044lbl.pdf
Huecker, M.R., Smiley, A., & Saadabadi, A. (2022, October 10). Bupropion. StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470212/ (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470212/)
Fava, M., Rush, A. J., Thase, M. E., et al. (2005). 15 years of clinical experience with bupropion HCl: From bupropion to bupropion SR to bupropion XL. Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 7(3), 106–113. https://doi.org/10.4088/pcc.v07n0305
Juárez Olguín, H., Calderón Guzmán, D., Hernández García, E., & Barragán Mejía, G. (2016). The role of dopamine and Its dysfunction as a consequence of oxidative stress. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2016, 9730467. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/9730467
Endocrine Society. (2022, January 24). Adrenal hormones. https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/hormones-and-endocrine-function/adrenal-hormones (https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/hormones-and-endocrine-function/adrenal-hormones)
Schramm, P. J., Poland, R. E., & Rao, U. (2014). Bupropion response on sleep quality in patients with depression: implications for increased cardiovascular disease risk. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 24(2), 207–214. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euroneuro.2013.09.007
MedlinePlus. (2018, February 15). Bupropion. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a695033.html (https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a695033.html)
Mayo Clinic. (2022, November 1). Bupropion (oral route). https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/bupropion-oral-route/proper-use/drg-20062478 (https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/bupropion-oral-route/proper-use/drg-20062478)
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2020, December). Bupropion (Wellbutrin). https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Bupropion-(Wellbutrin) (https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Bupropion-(Wellbutrin))
Saffaei, D., Lovett, S., & Rech, M. A. (2020). New-onset seizure in patient medicated with bupropion for smoking cessation: A case report. The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 58(3), e145–e147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemermed.2019.12.020
Lie, J. D., Tu, K. N., Shen, D. D., & Wong, B. M. (2015). Pharmacological treatment of insomnia. Pharmacy & Therapeutics, 40(11), 759–771.
Saddichha S. (2010). Diagnosis and treatment of chronic insomnia. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, 13(2), 94–102. https://doi.org/10.4103/0972-2327.64628
Mayo Clinic. (2016, September 28). Insomnia treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy instead of sleeping pills. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/in-depth/insomnia-treatment/art-20046677 (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/in-depth/insomnia-treatment/art-20046677)
Therapist specializing in applying CBT principles for the treatment of insomnia.