smoking cigarette, quit smoking

Chantix (varenicline) has been widely advertised on television. Perhaps you have seen some of the commercials. In this one Mark smiles and says he quit smoking with Chantix. The announcer lists a bunch of scary side effects including “changes in behavior or thinking, aggression, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, or suicidal thoughts or actions with Chantix.” Other complications of Chantix include seizures, sleep walking and allergic skin reactions (“which can be life threatening”). The announcer notes that “the most common side effect is nausea.” Nowhere during the commercial does the announcer mention insomnia as an effect of Chantix. Yet we have heard from readers that disturbed sleep is a problem with Chantix.

Chantix and Insomnia:

Q. Here is my story with Chantix: I successfully quit smoking, which is amazing. The drug had a load of side effects. That caused me to stop taking Chantix after five weeks.

Here is what happened starting with the worst reactions: consistent nausea, insomnia, leg cramps, especially at night, heartburn, an unpleasant taste in my mouth, lower back ache.

My dreams were definitely more vivid but not nightmares. It was like an awesome 3-D movie!

Chantix made me violently sick when I increased to the 1mg dose. Even though I weaned myself off before stopping, I experienced severe depression for three days. I would never take this stuff again. I am grateful that I have quit smoking.

A. A number of people report that the stop-smoking drug varenicline (Chantix) causes insomnia. Some individuals also have nightmares.

Joyce in Illinois also suffered from Chantix and insomnia:

“When I first tried Chantix to stop smoking I experienced horrible nightmares. I also walked in my sleep.”

“This time I cannot sleep more than two hours at a time and am very restless. I am sick to my stomach and feel like I have to throw up. During the day I am dizzy and I fall asleep too easily with no advance notice.”

D.M.F. reported that her husband had bad nightmares:

“My mother and husband took Chantix to stop smoking on several occasions. Each time they took this drug, a new side effect seemed to pop up.

“My mother experienced severe depression. My husband had auditory hallucinations as well as frightening nightmares while taking Chantix.”

“It seems that each time a person goes on Chantix (even if they have been on it before), they get a ‘Wheel of Misfortune’ of varying side effects that differ from the previous use.”

CC reports a real connection between Chantix and insomnia:

“I’ve been on Chantix for almost six weeks. I stopped smoking after the first week.

“The first week was fine. Then I had flu-like symptoms: sweating, chills, migraine headaches, vomiting, and weakness. I was unable to sleep more than a few hours. I also experienced depression, nightmares and leg cramps.

“Then there was anger and rage. I found myself yelling at people for no reason. Nothing tastes right. I don’t want to eat. Everything smells awful. I don’t want to do anything.

“I hate the way I feel. All I want to do is stay in pajamas on the couch and not interact with anyone. I’m having trouble with my memory. My husband says that he wants his ‘happy’ wife back. I will never use this medication again or recommend it to anyone.”

Drugs That Cause Insomnia:

Chantix is not the only medication that can trigger insomnia. A surprising number of drugs can interfere with sleep. Some produce disturbing dreams, while others cause insomnia. Decongestants are common culprits and are found in many OTC allergy medicines.

Here is a partial list: beta blockers like metoprolol and propranolol, antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and levofloxascin (Levaquin), asthma inhales like Advair, antidepressants such as duloxetine (Cymbalta), fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil). We worry that patients may not be told that their medicine may cause insomnia, nightmares or other sleep disturbances. That may lead to a prescription for sleeping pills, which have their own potential problems.

You will find a much more in-depth list of drugs that can trigger sleeplessness in our Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. This online resource provides dos and don’ts for falling and staying asleep as well as information on nondrug options and sleeping pills. It is available online at

Share your own Chantix and insomnia story below in the comment section.

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  1. Nicholas

    I used chantix in the past to quit smoking and was successful. I found it made the daunting process relatively easy. I didn’t experience any negative side effects. I didn’t have a cigarette for five years but eventually started smoking again. I used chantix again and found it once again very helpful, but this time I developed pretty severe insomnia. When I stopped taking it after eight weeks my sleep returned to normal. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to quit.

  2. Jenny

    I quit smoking with Chantix 7 years ago. I did have vivid dreams but no other problems, and I haven’t smoked since. But 2 months ago my husband tried to quit chewing tobacco, and I gave him my leftover Chantix on the third night. Very early in the morning he had a nightmare. He jumped on top of me. He was fighting for his life. He thought someone was trying to kill him but he was sitting on top of me punching me! I put my arms up to protect my head and start screaming, “Wake up it’s me, Mark, wake up!!” I knew he was asleep and that it was the Chantix making him have this nightmare.

    I was terrified. I reached my right hand up to try to slap his, face thinking that that would wake him up, and he bit down on my ring finger, hard. My horrifying scream woke him up. He got off of me real fast, stood up, and we were both crying. He started to tell me that there was a man trying to kill him with one of his tools and that he was fighting for his life, and it wasn’t my face and it wasn’t my hand or my finger that he bit on. There was blood everywhere. He got me dressed and took me to urgent care. It was horrifying.

  3. Doug

    Took in in 2009, and it was marvelous. Vivid dreams and easy smoking cessation. (Unsuccessfully Tried nicorett gum and patches in previous years). The dreams were really interesting as I had never once in my prior 55 years had a dream!
    Since then the vivid dreams calmed down, but even 9 years latter I still have numerous dreams all night long. Getting very tired of the dreams. Would rather sleep quietly all night.

  4. Carol
    Wake Forest NC

    I quit smoking using first, Nicorette Mini tabs, then Wellbutrin to quit using Nicorette. Was never willing to try Chantix as several people had shared frightening side effects from their use.

    I personally know 2 people who used Chantix successfully. Both, however, have become substance abusers several years after Chantix. Is there any information about long term or future side effects from using this drug?

  5. Ken

    With Chantex, the nicotine withdrawal effect seems to always get blamed on Chantix. This is not to say that nobody gets unwanted effects with Chantix, but depression, fatigue, irritability are all seen with people who stop nicotine using other methods – including cold turkey stopping. It seems to me that depression is especially common in people who started smoking when they were young and somehow achieved adult identity while they were already smokers.

  6. Jane

    I figured I’d better return the unopened Chantix I bought at a big national chain pharmacy when I found out it makes you want to commit suicide (good job FDA!) but they wouldn’t take it back. Beware Chantix, and take at your own risk.

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