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

Optimize Your Mental Health With Medication Timing

Man taking medicine
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Do you know what time of day you should be taking your antidepressant: morning or night? Does it matter? It may, depending on the specific medication, its side effects, and how it influences your quality of life. 

The benefits that can be obtained from the correct timing of a person's antidepressant dosage falls into two categories: 

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

    Maximizing Antidepressant Effectiveness

    One example of an antidepressant which has been shown to be more effective if taken at a particular time of day is Anafranil (clomipramine). 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 Celexa (citalopram), Zoloft (sertraline), and Effexor (venlafaxine) in their sustained-release formulations, do not appear to be any more or less effective when taken at varying times of the day.

    It's important to note that not all antidepressants have had this type of study performed—one that looks at the timing of medicine 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.

    Minimizing Antidepressant Adverse Effects

    While taking your antidepressant in the morning or evening may affect its effectiveness, it may also influence your chances of experiencing adverse effects, like problems sleeping. 

    On that note, the manufacturer of Prozac (fluoxetine) 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 Zyprexa (olanzapine)—this combination is called Symbyax—as a therapy for treatment-resistant depression, it is recommended to be taken in the evening.

    Paxil (paroxetine) 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.

    Wellbutrin (bupropion) is another antidepressant which should 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 Luvox (fluvoxamine), Remeron (mirtazapine), and the tricyclic antidepressants:

    • Elavil (amitriptyline)
    • Norpramin (desipramine)
    • Silenor (doxepin)
    • Tofranil (imipramine)
    • Pamelor (nortriptyline)

    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 a complete 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 many 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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