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Atypical Antipsychotics: Sedation Versus Efficacy

John M. Kane, MD, and Zafar A. Sharif, MD

Published: February 28, 2008

Article Abstract

Many patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder experience disturbances in their sleep-wake cycle, which may be a result of the disorder itself, of pharmacotherapy, or of a comorbid sleep disorder. These sleep disruptions can seriously impair patients’ functioning as well as their quality of life. Therefore, accurate assessment of sleep problems is essential to appropriately treat patients and promote symptomatic remission. Sedating antipsychotics may ameliorate sleep disturbances, as well as agitation or other behavioral emergencies; however, these agents may also sedate patients to the point of dissatisfaction with the medication and/or impaired functioning, which may, in turn, increase treatment noncompliance and nonadherence. Using short-term adjunctive medications, such as benzodiazepines or hypnotic agents, with a nonsedating antipsychotic to alleviate sleep disturbances is a reasonable treatment option for patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Overall, the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of atypical antipsychotics are important factors to consider in the risk-benefit analysis, as are dosing strategies and individual patient factors, and clinicians must decide which agents are most appropriate for which patients.

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