What Causes Insomnia When Taking Lexapro And How To Avoid It?

Often, insomnia is a side effect of an underlying issue. It may stem from too much stress, anxiety, depression, and even the medications that are supposed to help us with these conditions. One example of this is Lexapro, which can cause an increase in insomnia for some people.

If you are taking Lexapro and unable to rest well during the night, we have some advice and tips on reducing the effects. We can also help you understand what may cause you to experience increased insomnia while taking Lexapro.

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What is Lexapro?

Lexapro¹ is a brand of medication used to treat depression. It is a drug known as escitalopram, classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). You can only get Lexapro with a prescription from a doctor. It is used to treat:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

  • Major depressive disorders

  • Depression

  • Dementia with depressive features

  • Depressive psychosis

To ensure optimal results while taking Lexapro, take a dose at the same time each day. Follow your doctor’s recommendations on proper dosage. Typically, the dosage will vary based on your age and your needs. The lowest effective dose is always used. 

  • Adolescents: 10 mg once daily for three weeks, and may increase to 20 mg daily

  • Adults: 10 mg daily, and may increase to 20 mg daily after the first week

You should avoid taking yourself off Lexapro suddenly. If you do, you could experience withdrawal symptoms. These are caused by the body’s inability to adjust to the sudden change in serotonin levels.

How often are antidepressants used in the U.S.?

It’s estimated that over 13.2%² of Americans take antidepressants regularly to improve their mood and take control of their mental health. Of those antidepressants, SSRIs are among the most popular, with name brands like:

  • Lexapro (Escitalopram)

  • Prozac (Fluoxetine)

  • Celexa (Citalopram)

  • Paxil (Paroxetine)

  • Zoloft (Sertraline)

Each of these prescription medications can be beneficial to someone who has depressive episodes or anxiety. However, sometimes they may also cause unwanted side effects. 

The good news is that most side effects are short-term and many others can be relieved if you make good choices while taking them.  

Can Lexapro cause insomnia?

When taking Lexapro, there are a variety of side effects you may experience. Unfortunately, two are very common: fatigue and insomnia. According to the FDA,³ adults experience insomnia and other side effects approximately 5% more often (or more) than those with a placebo if they have a major depressive disorder.

When you initially start taking Lexapro, it can throw things a little off balance, similar to how stopping Lexapro too fast can mess with the level of serotonin in your brain. The good news is because escitalopram has been shown to help improve sleep disorders,⁴ your initial insomnia or increased fatigue should not last long.

Will Lexapro-induced insomnia go away?

Most people who experience insomnia after starting Lexapro will improve their sleep patterns within a week or two. However, some individuals may experience a disruption in their sleep patterns for up to four weeks.

The best time to take Lexapro to avoid insomnia

One thing you can do to help yourself overcome Lexapro insomnia is to learn how to manage and deal with it. One option is to consider taking it in the morning so that you are awake during the day and ready for bed when it is time to rest. 

If doing this does not seem to work well for you, or if you cannot take it in the mornings consistently, there are other things you may want to try.

How to manage and deal with insomnia when taking Lexapro

If you are dealing with depression, anxiety, and other issues, you may already be familiar with sleep troubles. Beyond taking your medication in the morning, there are several things you may want to try if you want to get a good night’s sleep. Often, these ideas are the same whether you take Lexapro or not.

Here are the most common suggestions for avoiding insomnia when taking Lexapro:

Avoid alcohol or other stimulants

Although alcohol can make you sleep, it can also negatively affect your sleep. You should avoid consuming alcohol in the first place when taking Lexapro. Otherwise, you may end up feeling nauseated, which can make it even more challenging to rest.

Exercise more often

When you exercise, you may reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. It can help your body’s internal clock reset so that you can get back to a regular sleep routine.

Limit your caffeine intake

Caffeine can cause your body and mind to stay more alert,⁵ depriving you of sleep. If you are experiencing insomnia as a side effect, you may want to stop drinking it 6 hours before bed or longer if you still don’t feel that you get the sleep your body requires.

Turn off devices before bedtime

People often use their devices within an hour of going to bed. The screen can become a distraction,⁶ especially if you have difficulty setting limits for yourself on when to turn it off.

Create an effective sleep space

Your bedroom should be a place where you can relax. This may mean designing a bedroom that is made for sleeping. According to the Sleep Foundation,⁷ some things you may try are:

  • Upgrading your mattress and bedding

  • Reducing clutter

  • Limiting bold colors

  • Turning off the lights

  • Cooling your room

  • Using white noise

You may also consider using meditation and aromatherapies to help you fall asleep more soundly. Some popular essential oil choices⁸ are lavender, chamomile, and clary sage oils.

What are other potential side effects of taking Lexapro?

Insomnia is one of the many side effects of Lexapro⁹ or escitalopram. Some other common side effects may include:

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Dry mouth

  • Feeling nervous

  • Restless

  • Fatigue

  • Increased sweating

These side effects can disappear after a few weeks once your body adjusts to the medication. Some people may experience sexual side effects that may not go away with time.

When to see a doctor 

If you feel that your insomnia is affecting you too much or lasts beyond the first few weeks of taking Lexapro, your doctor can and will help. Insomnia is vital to address, as insufficient sleep can cause other health and wellness issues. 

Some things to look out for if you have insomnia are:

  • Feeling drained throughout the day

  • Feeling more depressed or irritable

  • Feeling as though you cannot focus on things around you

  • Feeling nauseous or sick frequently

These side effects of insomnia are not things we should ignore since they can negatively impact your daily life. However, this is not the only thing you should talk to your doctor about.

As with taking any other medication, there are sometimes serious side effects. Some possible severe reactions may include:

  • Eye troubles: Blurred vision, tunnel vision, halo, eye pain, swelling

  • Unusual thoughts or feelings: Extreme happiness or sadness, uncommon risk-taking, racing thoughts

  • Signs of low sodium: Confusion, slurred speech, weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, constant headaches

  • Nervous system reactions: High fevers, confusion, irregular or fast heartbeats, fainting or feeling as though you may, rigid muscles

  • Symptoms of serotonin syndrome: Agitation, hallucinations, fast heart rate, generally feeling unwell

  • Persistent rash, hives, or any swelling may indicate that you are allergic to Lexapro or its ingredients

This is not a list of all possible side effects for people taking Lexapro or other medications containing escitalopram. Therefore, if you have any symptoms that cause you to discomfort or make you worry, contact your doctor. 

If the side effects you feel are related to drastic changes in mood or suicidal thoughts, you should contact your doctor or your nearest emergency room immediately!

The lowdown

If you are wondering about the best time to take Lexapro to avoid insomnia, you’re not alone. Many people take it daily, and insomnia is a common problem for them because of the way Lexapro changes your brain’s serotonin levels.

There is no easy way to deal with insomnia from depression, anxiety, or your medications to treat those conditions. However, it will require you to try a few different things to see what works best for your Lexapro insomnia.

In most cases, insomnia may fade quickly once you begin taking Lexapro. If it doesn’t, or if you start feeling that your insomnia is negatively affecting your daily life, you should reach out to your doctor for help. They may change your medication or try to find something else that may work better for you.

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