The prevalence and characteristics of REM sleep without atonia (RSWA) in patients taking antidepressants

Kenneth Lee, Kelly Baron, Rodolfo Soca, Hrayr Attarian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: The association of REM sleep without atonia (RSWA) as well as REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) with the intake of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) is well established. Our study objective was to determine the prevalence of RSWA and RBD among a group of sleep center patients taking SSRI and SNRI. Methods: A retrospective chart review was done at our tertiary sleep center, and 10,746 consecutive records from October 1, 2007, through October 31, 2013, were searched for SSRI and SNRI names using the Sleep Cataloguer Software. Results: The search resulted in 1,444 records, which were then reviewed for keywords of RSWA and RBD. The AASM scoring criteria were used to determine RSWA. Reports of 41 patients with known narcolepsy or α-synucleinopathies were excluded. The remaining records were mined for age, sex, presence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), type of antidepressant (SSRI or SNRI), and diagnosis for which antidepressant was prescribed. We used logistic regression analysis to adjust for age, OSA, and sex. Of the 1,444 participants on antidepressants, 176 (12.2%) had RSWA (all confirmed by the investigators) compared to 226 of the entire sleep lab population of 10,746 (2.1%), risk ratio (95% CI) 9.978 (8.149, 12.22). Seven of the 176 patients on antidepressants had RBD (0.48%) compared to 108 of 10,746 (1%), p = 0.005. Conclusions: SSRI and SNRI are associated with a higher prevalence of RSWA but not of RBD. This is independent of medication type.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-355
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016


  • Antidepressants
  • REM sleep behavior disorder
  • REM sleep without atonia
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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