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Beta Blockers May Cause Sleep Problems, But Not Depression: Study

The side effects of beta blockers may increase the likelihood of experiencing sleep problems or having unusual dreams, according to the findings of a new study. However, the drugs do not appear to increase the risk of depression, which has been a concern highlighted in earlier research.

In a report published this week in the medical journal Hypertension, German researchers evaluated the psychiatric impact of beta blockers, which includes brand name medications like Lopressor, Normodyne, Tenormin, and InnoPran XL.

The drugs are commonly used to treat cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure, chest pain, high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythm. Prior studies have suggested the medications may cause a number of side effects, including depression, anxiety, drowsiness, insomnia, hallucinations and nightmares. However, while the new findings do indicate the medications cause sleep disturbances, depression did not occur more commonly when compared to use of a placebo.

Researchers used data from 285 eligible studies, including more than 53,000 patients. Most of the studies used were double-blind, randomized controlled trails, primarily focusing on high blood pressure treatment. Of those, 31 studies assessed depression in placebo-controlled trials.

The new findings appear to contradict prior research that has suggested a link between depression and beta blockers.

Researchers indicate drugs like Lopessor and Normodyne do not increase the risk of depression or withdrawal for depression. However, the new study did find a link between taking beta blockers and patients having unusual dreams, insomnia, and sleep disturbances.

This is an analysis of large scale data from double blind randomized controlled trials. Researchers said the findings are compelling because double-blind randomized controlled trials are used to prove cause-and-effect, compared to large retrospective studies which only indicate an association.

“(N)o effect for beta blockers was found for other psychiatric adverse events, with the possible exceptions of sleep-related disorders,” the researchers concluded. “Consequently, concerns about beta blockers’ impact on psychological health should not affect their use in clinical practice.”

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