Should I Take My Antidepressant at Night or in the Morning?

You can use timing strategically to optimize the effects of your medication

Man taking medicine
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Does it matter what time of day you take your antidepressant? It may, depending on the specific medication, its side effects, and how it influences your quality of life. There are two reasons that your prescribing doctor may suggest a specific time of day for you to take your antidepressant: 

  • Maximize the therapeutic effectiveness of the medication.
  • Minimize any adverse effects that may be associated with that antidepressant—perhaps even to the person's advantage.

    Some antidepressants are sedating, and others can cause sleeplessness for some individuals—especially early on in treatment—so that is another important factor to take into account. 

    Maximize Antidepressant Effectiveness

    One example of an antidepressant that has been shown to be more effective if taken at a particular time of day is clomipramine (brand name Anafranil). In an older double-blind study involving 30 people with depression who were given a daily dose of 150 mg of this drug for four weeks, it was found that a noon dose of the medication was more effective than a morning or bedtime dose.

    However, other antidepressants, such as citalopram (Celexa), sertraline (Zoloft), and venlafaxine (Effexor) in their sustained-release formulations, do not appear to be any more or less effective when taken at varying times of the day. However, some SSRI's (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), the class to which these medications belong, can disrupt sleep for some people and may be best taken in the morning.

     

    It's important to note that not all antidepressants have had this type of study performed—one that looks at the timing of medication administration and how it relates to the drug's benefit. In fact, these types of studies are quite rare. 

    In the end, your doctor or the manufacturer's information sheet will be able to provide you with specific recommendations about whether your antidepressant should be taken at a particular time of day for the best results.

    Minimize Antidepressant Adverse Effects

    While taking your anti-depressant in the morning or evening may influence its effectiveness, it may also affect your chances of experiencing adverse effects, such as problems sleeping. 

    For example, the manufacturer of fluoxetine (brand name Prozac) recommends it be taken in the morning because it can make some people feel more energized, especially at the beginning of treatment. On the other hand, when Prozac is given in combination with olanzapine (brand name Zyprexa)—this combination is called Symbyax—as a therapy for treatment-resistant depression, it is recommended to be taken in the evening.

    Paroxetine (brand name Paxil) is also generally given in the morning in order to prevent sleeplessness at night. However, it may be given at bedtime if it causes drowsiness when taken in the morning.

    Bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin) is another antidepressant that is recommended to be taken in the morning in order to prevent insomnia at night.

    Certain other medications, on the other hand, generally tend to make patients feel drowsy so they are better tolerated if taken at bedtime. Among these medications are fluvoxamine (Luvox), mirtazapine (Remeron), and the tricyclic antidepressants:

    • Amitriptyline (Elavil)
    • Desipramine (Norpramin)
    • Doxepin (Silenor)
    • Imipramine (Tofranil)
    • Nortriptyline (Pamelor)

    Other Medication Strategies to Optimize Your Mental Health 

    In addition to discussing the time of day that is best to take your antidepressant with your doctor, it's critical to remember that there are other strategies (and ones better studied) that affect how well your medication will work.

    One of these approaches is patience—antidepressants take time to work, anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks for the full effect, although many people notice improvement within a week or two. So when you start your antidepressant, keep in close touch with your doctor and stay positive—you can find a way to treat your condition, but it may take a little bit of trial and error.

    A second strategy is consistency. Take your antidepressant as directed and do not stop it without first talking to your doctor. If your antidepressant is causing side effects, many will go away with time. If intolerable, though, get in touch with your doctor right away, as there is a solution—often a dose change, switching to a different antidepressant, or taking a second medication to soothe that side effect.

    A Word From Verywell

    The big picture here is that taking an antidepressant needs to be part of a well-thought-out plan with your doctor to maximize its benefit and minimize any potential side effects.

    Finally, if you are currently taking one of the medications listed in this article, you should not attempt to make a change in your treatment plan without consulting with your doctor first. These recommendations noted here are general and may or may not be applicable to your own unique situation.

    Sources:

    Stahl SM. Cambridge University Press: Stahl's Esential Psychopharmacology Online. Fluoxetine.

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  (October 2016). Depression: FDA-Approved Medications May Help.

    Zhu LL, Zhou Q, Yan XF, Zeng S. Optimal time to take once-daily oral medications in clinical practice. Int J Clin Pract. 2008 Oct;62(10):1560-71.

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