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Does Gabapentin Help With Insomnia? (Research-Backed)

by Dale Cudmore | Updated: Jul 13, 2021

Gabapentin is one of the most prescribed medications in North America.

Don’t confuse it with Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, which is sold in “GABA” supplements over the counter.

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication that also affects sleep, and requires a prescription.

I’m going to summarize the research on how gabapentin affects insomnia in this short post.

The Effect of Gabapentin on Insomnia

While it might not be the main purpose of the drug, gabapentin has a reliably positive effect on sleep quality.

In one study, patients took gabapentin for 4 weeks with promising results (1):

Gabapentin enhances slow-wave sleep in patients with primary insomnia. It also improves sleep quality by elevating sleep efficiency and decreasing spontaneous arousal.

Another randomized double-blind controlled study also found that gabapentin increased sleep duration and quality. It resulted in fewer disturbances during the night, and overall shorter wake after sleep onset (WASO) time (2).

Subjects either had a placebo or gabapentin (250 mg or 500 mg) 30 minutes before bedtime.

A total of 16 out of 377 subjects had at least 1 adverse effect. Most were mild in the form of headaches and nausea.

SummaryMultiple studies have shown that gabapentin is effective for most people with insomnia at improving multiple aspects of sleep quality.

Gabapentin vs. Other Sleep Medication

Another study looked at the effect of gabapentin vs trazodone.

Trazodone is an antidepressant that is sometimes prescribed for sleep issues.

The researchers assessed subjects after 4-6 weeks of being on medication using the Sleep Problems Questionnaire (SPQ) (3).

Both groups did see improvements in sleep, but gabapentin had a slightly better effect.

Does Gabapentin Work In Children With Poor Sleep?

The majority of gabapentin research focuses on adults.

However, there’s one study that shows that it might be appropriate for children as well (more research will be needed). The study had children with neuro-disorders and insomnia take gabapentin before sleep (4). Improved sleep was seen in 78% of children.

There were adverse effects in 6 children, and other research shows that gabapentin can exacerbate behavioral problems in children (5).

SummaryGabapentin can improve sleep in children, but there are questions over how safe it is and in what specific populations it should be prescribed for.

How Safe is Gabapentin?

As noted before, adverse effects aren’t too common with gabapentin and are mostly mild.

However, gabapentin misuse can lead to toxicity and even death. Research has shown that people misuse it mainly to get high, but that’s mainly in the context of opioid withdrawal (6).

Finally, gabapentin can interact with other medications, but also common substances like caffeine and magnesium oxide. It’s important for prescribing doctors to be aware of a patient's diet and any other medication they are taking.

SummaryGabapentin is one of the safer medications prescribed for insomnia, but does cause significant side effects that may not be tolerated well in all patients.

Summary: Gabapentin and Insomnia

In summary, gabapentin is an effective medication at reducing insomnia symptoms in most cases of primary insomnia.

However, it can cause adverse effects, which should be monitored closely by the prescribing physician.

References

  1. Treatment Effects of Gabapentin for Primary Insomnia
  2. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Single-Dose, Placebo-Controlled, Multicenter, Polysomnographic Study of Gabapentin in Transient Insomnia Induced by Sleep Phase Advance
  3. Open pilot study of gabapentin versus trazodone to treat insomnia in alcoholic outpatients
  4. Gabapentin Shows Promise in Treating Refractory Insomnia in Children
  5. Behavioral Side Effects of Gabapentin in Children
  6. Review about gabapentin misuse, interactions, contraindications and side effects

Medical Disclaimer: The information on SnoozeUniversity.com is not intended to be a substitute for physician or other qualified care. We simply aim to inform people struggling with sleep issues about the nature of their condition and/or prescribed treatment.


About the authorDale is the founder of Snooze University and a sleep researcher. I overcame my sleep issues and now I'd like to help you do the same by summarizing the latest sleep studies for you.