Antidepressants may disrupt the sleep patterns of older adults and cause a disorder that can contribute to dementia, according to new research.

Investigators at SUNY Upstate Medical University analyzed 10 studies published within the last five years to determine how antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, affect sleep.

“We take into account other side effects of antidepressants, including weight gain and sexual side effects, but we are less concerned about sleep, especially when we use the SSRIs,” lead researcher Muhammad Tahir, MD, told Medscape Medical News.

Tahir’s team found that SSRIs interrupted seniors’ sleep patterns and increased the risk for rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep disorders. These disorders often leave the body agitated during sleep, and can serve as an early sign of neurodegeneration that eventually progresses to dementia.

“Our literature review suggests that we should be careful about using SSRIs in the elderly population and not underestimate the effectiveness of psychotherapy and other holistic care approaches,” Tahir said.

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