Lexapro, the brand name for the antidepressant escitalopram, is a daily medication. There is no specific time that is best to take it. However, a person experiencing insomnia may want to schedule Lexapro for the morning.

Taking Lexapro every day is more important than the specific timing.

Lexapro reaches peak concentration in the blood about 5 hours after taking it. However, it does not work immediately and needs around 2 weeks to reach steady and consistent concentrations in the blood. This means the timing of the daily dose is unlikely to affect how a person feels.

It can take up to 6 weeks to get the medication’s full effect.

A small number of people who use Lexapro can develop insomnia, where people may find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get good quality sleep.

There is no direct scientific evidence that the timing of the daily dose affects insomnia, but some users may prefer to take their medication early in the day.

Read on to learn about the best time to take Lexapro to avoid insomnia.

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Lexapro is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant. The drug works by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps send signals across a nerve synapse.

The drug can take effect by binding to the sodium-dependent serotonin transporter (SERT) protein in the brain. The SERT protein specifically helps transport serotonin across neural synapses.

Serotonin plays a role in various functions related to mood, behavior, sexuality, and memory. This indicates that SSRI antidepressants may affect mood but can also have side effects.

People do not have to take Lexapro with food or at a specific time of day. But forgetting to take it daily can cause withdrawal.

Learn more about Lexapro.

Clinical trial data show that people using Lexapro were more likely to report insomnia. In one trial, 9% reported insomnia on Lexapro, compared to 4% on placebo. People in the placebo group do not receive an active form of the drug.

While researchers know Lexapro raises serotonin levels in the brain, they do not fully understand how this might affect sleep. Studies on the topic have reached mixed — and sometimes contradictory — results.

The relationship between serotonin, the brain, and sleep is complex, with many factors to consider.

Role of serotonin

Serotonin levels play a role in determining sleep or inducing insomnia.

In people with depression, insomnia is already a common symptom, which may partially be due to low serotonin from depression. One theory is that an SSRI, such as Lexapro, can increase serotonin and induce wakefulness contributing to the insomnia.

That said, if high serotonin acts on a certain part of the brain, such as the dorsal raphe nucleus, it can also induce sleep. This may explain why people either have insomnia or feel sleepy after taking an SSRI.

Serotonin is also a precursor to melatonin, a hormone that regulates a person’s sleep-wake cycle.

People who develop insomnia while taking Lexapro may want to consider taking the drug earlier in the day. The medication reaches peak blood concentrations around 5 hours after a person takes it. The concentration steadily declines after that time.

No recent scientific research has assessed the right time to take Lexapro, but it is possible that reducing concentrations throughout the day could reduce insomnia. Therefore, a person should try taking it first thing in the morning.

People experiencing insomnia on Lexapro should try lifestyle interventions to help. Those include:

  • Sleeping in a cool, dark room. This includes turning off phones and television as well as blocking ambient light.
  • Minimizing noise by wearing earplugs or using a white noise machine.
  • Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
  • Avoiding daytime napping.
  • Exercising daily, but not in the 4–5 hours before bedtime.
  • Reducing caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening.

If insomnia does not improve after several weeks, a person may want to talk with a doctor about trying a lower dose or a different antidepressant.

Learn more about insomnia treatment options.

Some people may find that insomnia improves over time. And Lexapro may help ease the sleeplessness that many people with depression experience.

By regulating serotonin levels, Lexapro could even improve sleep in some people. However, insomnia remains a common issue.

However, there is limited scientific evidence that side effects go away or that they go away after a specific time after stopping the medication.

Insomnia is one of the most common depression symptoms. For people whose insomnia predates their use of Lexapro, treating depression may treat insomnia and other symptoms — often after several weeks.

Doctors may need to determine whether insomnia is occurring due to the medication someone is taking or if it is a recurring issue before commencing treatment.

Changing medications

People taking antidepressants often have to experiment — for example, trying different doses. This may involve waiting to see if side effects improve.

If they do not, and the insomnia is severe, a person may have to try a different medication. Switching medications may require a person to gradually taper off and completely stop taking a medication.

Typically, a doctor may introduce new medications at a low dose and gradually increase them until the person reaches the ideal dose.

Any changes made to how a person takes a drug should only occur under the guidance of a doctor.

A person should consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms or notice signs of depression. They should not take Lexapro without medical support.

Learn more about the signs of depression.

Someone should also contact a doctor if:

  • insomnia is severe, worsens, or does not improve with lifestyle changes
  • their depression does not improve
  • their depression worsens
  • they develop other side effects that they cannot tolerate

Below are some common questions and answers on using Lexapro for depression.

Can people take it before going to bed?

Lexapro takes time to begin working and does not immediately elevate serotonin levels, so people can try taking it before bed. If a person develops insomnia, taking it earlier in the day might reduce symptoms.

However, no recent scientific evidence has tested when the best time to take Lexapro might be.

What other side effects can occur when taking Lexapro?

Some of the most common other side effects of Lexapro include:

In clinical trials, side effects were more common among people taking higher drug doses.

Are there any alternatives to Lexapro that do not cause insomnia?

Dozens of other antidepressants are available. Some have more sedating effects and may help people with insomnia sleep better. They include:

Many people may also take other prescription sleep medications, such as benzodiazepines or Z-drugs, alongside an antidepressant to help manage insomnia.

Lexapro can treat depression and may also ease the sleep disturbances that sometimes occur.

In some people, it may also cause sleep issues, especially insomnia. A lower dose, a dose earlier in the day, and simple lifestyle changes may help. When they do not, a person should discuss trying a different medication with a doctor.

People should not stop taking Lexapro or change the dosage without first speaking to a healthcare professional.