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Comparative Effects of Mirtazapine and Fluoxetine on Sleep Physiology Measures in Patients With Major Depression and Insomnia

J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64:1224-1229

Background: Sleep complaints are common in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Both MDD and antidepressant drugs characteristically alter objective sleep measures. This study compares the effects of mirtazapine and fluoxetine on sleep continuity measures in DSM-IV MDD patients with insomnia.

Method: Patients (N = 19) received initial baseline polysomnography evaluations over 2 consecutive nights. Subjects were randomly assigned to either fluoxetine (20-40 mg/day) or mirtazapine (15-45 mg/day) treatment for an 8-week, double-blind, double-dummy treatment trial. Single-night polysomnograms were conducted at weeks 1, 2, and 8, with depression ratings assessed at baseline and weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8. Statistical analysis was performed by repeated-measures analysis of variance followed by Dunnet's post hoc analyses.

Results: Patients receiving mirtazapine (N = 8) had significant improvement in objective sleep physiology measures at 8 weeks. Improvements in sleep latency, sleep efficiency, and wake after sleep onset were significant after only 2 weeks of mirtazapine treatment. No significant changes in sleep continuity measures were observed in the fluoxetine group (N = 11). Both groups improved clinically in mood and subjective sleep measures from baseline, with no differences between groups.

Conclusion: These data demonstrate the differential effects of mirtazapine and fluoxetine, with significant improvement in favor of mirtazapine, on objective sleep parameters in MDD patients with insomnia.