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Chantix and Insomnia | Disturbed Sleep and Bad Dreams

Commercials for Chantix (varenicline) are compelling. People share their stop-smoking success stories. Serious side effects are mentioned, but we have not heard the announcer link Chantix and insomnia

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 www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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