Does Zoloft Cause Insomnia?

Dr. Colleen Ehrnstrom, PhD
Oct 28, 20214 min read
Girl laying in bed on top of covers

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder and, according to the Cleveland Clinic, it affects around 70% of Americans every year. Insomnia can be transient (lasts a few days or weeks) or acute (lasts more than three months). For around 15% of the population, insomnia is chronic, and for many, it is a struggle that can last for years. Contrary to popular belief, having insomnia doesn’t just mean you don’t get enough sleep. You can meet your sleeping quota, but if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or feeling rested during the day, these sleep challenges also fall under the category of insomnia.

Insomnia can be caused by many factors, some better known, such as stress, anxiety, or an uncomfortable sleeping environment, and others, lesser-known. For example, insomnia can also appear as a side effect of antidepressants, which frequently interfere with sleep physiology.

Does Zoloft cause insomnia?

Zoloft is an antidepressant that belongs to a group of drugs called selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). The generic name for Zoloft is sertraline, and it works by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. While depression isn’t necessarily caused just by low serotonin levels, SSRIs can improve mood symptoms which, in turn, can increase responsiveness to other treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, common side effects of Zoloft can be quite unpleasant and include dizziness, blurred vision, low sex drive, and sleep issues, such as insomnia. 

SSRIs and Insomnia

Insomnia can be a broad side effect of antidepressants, but has been shown in the research to specifically be attributed to SSRIs. The scientific reasoning behind this is that serotonin has a complex involvement in sleep-wake regulation, so any drug that modules serotonin activity, such as sertraline, will often affect sleep. Various clinical studies have shown that all SSRIs suppress REM sleep, and that the class effects of SSRIs include waking up during the night, and subsequently a decrease in overall sleep quality. In many cases, Zoloft and other serotonin drugs may successfully improve the symptoms of depression but exacerbate insomnia, which is why it’s essential to discuss side effects and determine the best course of action for treatment with your doctor.

Ways to treat insomnia

Although many people believe that insomnia can only be cured with drugs, the truth is that there are effective non-pharmacological methods for treating insomnia. In fact, guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American College of Physicians recommend non-pharmacological treatments as first-line interventions.

  • Exercising. Studies have shown that exercising regularly works just as well as sleeping pills, but without the side effects. What’s more, 83% of people who exercise regularly reported sleeping better. Additionally, exercise is also an excellent way to manage depression.
  • Meditation and yoga help reduce stress, which is one of the leading factors behind insomnia. According to a 2019 study, those who do yoga and other mind-body practices, such as meditation, tai chi, and qigong, have better sleep patterns. Studies have shown that mindfulness is an effective intervention for insomnia.
  • Improving your sleeping habits can also promote healthy sleep patterns. The more you provide a stable routine for your sleep, the more optimal your sleep will be over time. When sleep becomes more reliable, you will decrease the links between sleep and negative emotions, and thus reduce and eventually avoid hyperarousal.

If you struggle with depression and insomnia, be sure to discuss these concerns with your physician to determine the potential cause and the best course of action for treatment.

Why CBT-I may be the best cure for insomnia

Curing insomnia doesn’t have to involve drugs that create dependency and cause unwanted side effects. CBT-I is a scientific, evidence-based approach to treating insomnia. CBT-I is based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – a form of talking therapy that focuses on the connection between our thoughts, emotions, and habits.

CBT-I is recommended by the American Academy for Sleep Medicine, the American College of Physicians, and the European Sleep Research Society.

Utilizing the principles of  CBT-I, Dawn is completely safe, and, unlike drugs, it does not cause side effects or create dependency. In clinical trials, 80% of people who underwent CBT-I reported better sleep patterns, and Dawn success stories show that CBT-I can help you fall asleep effortlessly, without pills.

To learn more about how to effectively treat your insomnia and why Dawn is the right choice for you, please fill out this form to start your journey to a restful night’s sleep!

For more resources on insomnia and how CBT-I can help, visit Dawn.health.


Dr. Colleen Ehrnstrom, PhD

Dr. Colleen Ehrnstrom is a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialty practice in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Areas of expertise include insomnia and other sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression.

Dr Ehrnstrom is the co-author of the book End the Insomnia Struggle: A Step by Step Guide to Help you Get to Sleep and Stay Asleep which offers a comprehensive, personalized sleep program that integrates the physiology of sleep, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

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