Drugs Q & A

Wellbutrin Insomnia: How Long it lasts, Does it go Away?

Insomnia is a type of sleep disorder. Individuals with insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both. People with insomnia often don’t feel refreshed when they wake up from sleeping, either. This can lead to fatigue and other symptoms. Insomnia is the most common of all sleep disorders, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

In fact, the APA states that about one-third of all adults report insomnia symptoms. Between 6 to 10 percent of all adults have symptoms severe enough for them to be diagnosed with insomnia disorder.

The APA defines insomnia as a disorder in which people have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Doctors make a clinical diagnosis of insomnia if both of these criteria apply:

  • Sleep difficulties occurring at least three nights a week for a minimum of 3 months.
  • Sleep difficulties creating major distress or functional difficulties in a person’s life.

What is Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin (bupropion) is an antidepressant medication used to treat major depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder. It comes as an immediate-release, sustained-release, or extended-release tablet that is taken orally.

One factor that makes Wellbutrin especially unique among antidepressants is that it doesn’t tend to affect your libido and sexual function. In fact, it’s often prescribed along with other antidepressants to help counter the sexual side effects, like loss of desire, experience with other antidepressant medications.

Does Wellbutrin Cause Insomnia?

Yes, despite its many advantages, research has shown that people who take Wellbutrin have an increased risk of insomnia than those who take other antidepressants.

However, in most people, Wellbutrin (bupropion) does not suppress REM sleep, as do most antidepressant drugs, but it actually results in an increase in REM sleep time. REM sleep happens about an hour to an hour and a half after falling asleep. REM sleep is when you tend to have vivid dreams.

When you enter REM sleep, brain activity increases again, meaning sleep is not as deep. The activity levels are like when you’re awake. That’s why REM sleep is the stage where you’ll have intense dreams.

At the same time, major muscles that you normally control (such as arms and legs) can’t move. In effect, they become temporarily paralyzed.

Usually, REM sleep arrives about an hour and a half after you go to sleep. The first REM period lasts about 10 minutes. Each REM stage that follows gets longer and longer.

Wellbutrin-induced insomnia can affect your health and shorten your life expectancy. An analysis of 16 studies that covered over 1 million participants and 112,566 deaths looked at the correlation between sleep duration and mortality. They found that sleeping less increased the risk for death by 12 percent, compared to those who slept seven to eight hours per night.

A more recent study looked at the effects of persistent insomnia and mortality over 38 years. They found that those with persistent insomnia had a 97 percent increased risk of death.

How long does it take for Wellbutrin insomnia to go away?

Drug effects and their side effects can change over time, Wellbutrin insomnia will go away within two to four weeks after the medication is stopped or discontinued. However, discontinuing an antidepressant usually involves reducing your dose in increments, allowing two to six weeks or longer between dose reductions. Your clinician can instruct you in tapering your dose and prescribe the appropriate dosage pills. Wellbutrin tapering schedules are usually fairly short. Working with your doctor, you can make a schedule to incrementally reduce your dose over the course of one or two weeks.

How to deal with Wellbutrin insomnia

Sleep is important to your health and there are several things you can do if your Wellbutrin insomnia doesn’t go away.

If you think your Wellbutrin prescription is causing insomnia, you should talk to your healthcare provider about it. They may:

  • Recommend an alternative medication
  • Reduce your medication dose
  • Recommend a supplement to help promote sleep
  • Prescribe a stronger medication to help you sleep

Tips for better sleep

There are also some strategies you can take on your own to promote better sleep. Here are a few you can try, starting today:

Establish a bedtime routine: Turn off bright screens and any sources of blue light (like TVs, laptops, or smartphones), keep your room dim or dark, and engage in a calming activity like a bath, shower, or meditation.

Avoid physical activity several hours before bedtime: Getting your heart rate up throughout the day is a great way to stay healthy and promote more sound sleep. But if you exercise too close to bedtime, your body may not have enough time to settle, which can cause trouble falling asleep.

Avoid caffeine late in the day: Save your coffee and tea breaks for the morning and early afternoon. Caffeine too late in the evening can disrupt your sleep. If you enjoy warm tea to relax before bed, try a caffeine-free option like chamomile or lavender.

What are the other possible side effects of Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin may cause other serious side effects including:

•          blurred vision,

•          confusion,

•          eye pain or swelling,

•          fast or irregular heartbeat,

•          feeling extremely happy or irritable,

•          increased energy,

•          racing thoughts,

•          reckless behavior,

•          seeing halos around lights,

•          seizure (convulsions),

•          severe problems with sleep

•          talking more than usual, and

•          tunnel vision,

•          unusual changes in mood or behavior,

Get medical help right away, if you have any of the symptoms listed above.

The most common side effects of Wellbutrin include:

•          agitation,

•          confusion,

•          constipation,

•          dizziness, and

•          dry mouth,

•          fast heartbeats,

•          feeling anxious or nervous,

•          headache,

•          hearing problems,

•          hostility,

•          joint pain

•          nausea,

•          rash,

•          sleep problems (insomnia),

•          stuffy nose,

•          sweating,

•          tremors,

•          vision problems,

•          vomiting,

Tell the doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

These are not all the possible side effects of Wellbutrin. For more information, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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