Antidepressants can be highly effective medications, whether you decide to take them in the morning or at night. But the time you choose ultimately depends on the type of medication you're on and how your body and mind react to it.
For example, "Some antidepressants have sedating or drowsiness properties, and should therefore be taken at night," says Timothy Jeider, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist with Nevada Mental Health.
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Meanwhile, other meds may make you feel energized or motivated, which would make taking them when you wake up a better bet.
As a general rule of thumb, activating antidepressants (such as Prozac and Wellbutrin XL) should be taken in the morning, while sedating meds (like Remeron) should be taken at night. But it also all boils down to how your medication affects you personally.
"Some medications are neutral, but there is individual variability to response, and thus the treatment needs to be customized to the specific patient as to what dose and what time is best for them," says Sid Khurana, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist with Nevada Mental Health.
Ultimately, the best time to take an antidepressant depends on the side effects you experience from it. Here are the factors to take into consideration when you're deciding what time to pop your pill.
Why Antidepressants Affect People Differently
When it comes to antidepressants, there's variability in both what a person's body does to the medicine and what the medicine does to the body, Dr. Khurana says.
For example, your diet, lifestyle habits, the way your liver and kidneys function and the medical conditions you have all account for some of the reasons why antidepressants work or affect you differently from the next person.
Also, keep in mind that some people have unexpected responses.
"If a medication typically makes people tired, but it activates you [instead], then you should take it in the morning," Dr. Jeider says. "And vice versa — if a medication normally makes people activated, but it makes you tired, then you should be taking it at night."
Ultimately, you should consider your symptoms as helpful clues into the optimal time for you to take your meds.
Benefits of Taking Antidepressants in the Morning
1. It Might Help You Sleep Better Later That Night
Certain antidepressants, such as Prozac, Wellbutrin and Wellbutrin XL, are specifically made to be taken in the morning because they have energizing properties, Dr. Jeider says. In that case, you'll want to stick to taking them in the a.m. to avoid sleepless nights.
Any antidepressants that are "activating" can disrupt your sleep pattern.
"When the medication is activating, this energizing property is usually felt shortly after taking it, so taking this medicine in the morning allows its activation to happen in the first part of our day rather than at night when we are trying to wind down and sleep," Dr. Jeider says.
2. It Might Make It Easier for You to Remember to Take Your Meds
You might find it easier to take your meds in the morning if you're forgetful.
"As a rule of thumb, I like morning medications because they can potentially give you all day to remember to take them — that way, if you forget a morning dose, you still have the rest of the day to remember to take it," Dr. Jeider says.
3. It May Help You Avoid Waking Up to Pee at Night
Some antidepressants may have you running to the restroom — and while that's certainly annoying during the day, it's even more frustrating if the urge to pee wakes you up at night.
"The urge to urinate comes from pressure building up in the bladder as urine accumulates, and antidepressant medications make the bladder more sensitive to pressure," Dr. Jeider says. "This makes smaller amounts of built-up urine feel larger than they are, which leads to an urgent need to urinate despite only having small amounts of urine in your bladder."
If you notice this side effect, taking your meds in the morning can potentially help you get more zzzs at night.
"Taking medicines in the morning allows the bulk of this increased pressure response to occur during waking hours as opposed to evening hours," Dr. Jeider says.
And that means fewer middle-of-the-night wake-up calls from your bladder.
4. It May Help With Sexual Dysfunction
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a common type of antidepressant, can sometimes make it difficult to get aroused and sustain that arousal, per Harvard Health Publishing. Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine) and Celexa (citalopram) are popular types of SSRIs.
"Orgasming is mediated through our sympathetic nervous system, and some antidepressant medications disrupt that nervous system," Dr. Jeider says.
So if you find that your libido has plummeted since starting your meds, consider speaking to your doctor about taking them in the morning (if you aren't already).
"Increasing the time between when you take the antidepressant and engaging in sexual activity can limit some of the sexual dysfunction side effects in some people," Dr. Jeider says.
In other words: Taking your meds in the morning might make it easier to get intimate with your partner at night (which comes with its own mood-boosting benefits...).
Benefits of Taking Antidepressants at Night
1. It Might Help You Sleep Better
Certain antidepressants can cause you to doze off. And this happens via one of two mechanisms: Either they have a Benadryl-like (antihistamine) effect, or they work on the sympathetic nervous system (adrenergic receptors) and change dopamine indirectly, resulting in drowsiness, Dr. Khurana says.
Trazadone and mirtazapine are two common antidepressants that can cause sleepiness. If drowsiness is a common side effect of your antidepressant, it's best to take it at night so you can use it to your advantage and catch up on zzzs.
2. It May Help You Avoid Nausea
Queasiness is a common side effect of antidepressants, per the Mayo Clinic, but it might be avoided by taking your medication before hitting the hay.
"Antidepressants work on certain receptors in the stomach and the GI tract, thereby causing nausea, especially early on in treatment," says Dr. Khurana. "Taking it at night, especially if the nausea is mild, might help you sleep through this side effect," Dr. Khurana says.
Most of the time, the nausea is mild and goes away relatively quickly, but if your nausea persists or keeps you up at night, speak to your doctor about changing your meds.
Other Tips on Medication Timing
1. Don't Make Any Dosing Adjustments Without Speaking to Your Doctor First
If you're currently taking your medication before bed and feel like you'd be better off doing so when you wake up (or vice versa), speak to your doctor before making the switch.
"With some medications, it makes sense to skip a dose, while with others, it might make sense to switch the same day," Dr. Khurana says.
2. Take It at the Same Time Every Day
While you may be able to switch the time of day you take your meds, you'll need to be consistent and stick to a routine. Taking your meds at the same time every day helps you remember to take them. And taking them daily means they'll work better.
How you respond to your antidepressant will ultimately help you decide on the best time to take it, and the answer may be different from person to person for that reason.
Talk to your doctor about taking your antidepressant in the morning if you:
- Have trouble falling asleep at night
- Often forget to take your meds
- Experience sexual dysfunction
Talk to your doctor about taking your antidepressant at night if:
- The med makes you drowsy
- You experience nausea as a side effect
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