Whether you’re starting Zoloft or have been taking it for a while, knowing the best time of day to take Zoloft can make a meaningful difference in managing anxiety.
The answer is simple – Zoloft must be taken once a day with or without food and at about the same time each day.
But do you take it in the morning or at night?
It depends on how the medication affects you.
This guide will help you optimize Zoloft’s benefits in alleviating anxiety, from dosage recommendations to potential side effects.
The best time of day to take Zoloft is linked directly to its side effects.
Let’s get into the details to understand why…
Understanding Zoloft and Anxiety
When managing anxiety with Zoloft, understanding its mechanism of action is crucial for effectively addressing your symptoms.
Zoloft, also known as sertraline, is an antidepressant that belongs to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of medications.
It is used to treat the following conditions:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Major depressive disorder (MDD, or what is commonly known as depression)
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder (PD)
It is an excellent medication to manage both anxiety and depression and is the “go-to” antidepressant we recommend for our patients in our geriatric practice.
To learn more, read my article Depression in Older Adults.
Zoloft works by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, which helps improve mood and reduce anxiety symptoms.
Building Zoloft into your daily routine or setting reminders can help ensure adherence to the prescribed treatment plan.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, to understand the best time of day to take Zoloft, we need to know its side effects first.
Common side effects of Zoloft (sertraline)
According to the Zoloft prescribing information, the following side effects are common:
- Diarrhea/loose stool
- Dyspepsia (upset stomach – pain/burning, gas, feeling full after starting to eat)
- Decreased appetite (throughout the day)
- Excessive sweating
- Decreased sex drive (libido)
- Difficulty ejaculating
- Drowsiness (severe in rare cases)
- Insomnia (up to 23% of people in studies reported experiencing this)
The last two bullets above will direct you to the best time of day to take Zoloft.
In other words, it depends entirely on how you respond to the medication.
Best time of day to take Zoloft
You should take Zoloft at the same time every day to maintain consistent levels in your body and optimize its effectiveness.
The specific time of day doesn’t affect its effectiveness, but consistency is key.
If you belong to the subset of people who become drowsy when taking Zoloft, it is recommended that the dose be taken at bedtime.
On the other hand, taking sertraline in the morning may be suggested if you have trouble sleeping.
Building Zoloft into a daily routine or setting an alarm can help you remember to take it.
It’s important to inform your healthcare provider about other medications being taken to avoid drug interactions.
This is not just theoretical – there can be real-world harmful consequences to you.
One of my patients, several years ago, went into phenytoin (an anti-seizure medication) toxicity when we initiated Zoloft for their newly diagnosed depression.
You can read about it in the case report I wrote here.
But, I don’t want to scare you away from taking Zoloft.
If your doctor has prescribed it for you, then they have determined that the benefits far outweigh the risks of taking Zoloft to manage your diagnosed anxiety or depression.
Remember, Zoloft is an effective medication for anxiety, and consistency in taking it is crucial for its effectiveness in treating your mental health condition.
Another important note: Zoloft is to be taken consistently and exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
It is NOT to be taken on an “as-needed” basis, like Tylenol or Advil for headaches.
It will take up to 12 weeks or longer before you start noticing the full therapeutic effects of Zoloft.
So, don’t stop it or change the dose on your own unless directed by your doctor.
In the video below, Dr. O’Donovan provides a nice overview of the medication, including the best time of day to take Zoloft:
Managing missed or overdoses of Zoloft
If you’ve missed a dose of Zoloft and it is close to your next dose, skip it and take the next dose at the usual time the following day.
For example, if you usually take your Zoloft at 9 am every morning and realize that you missed your dose at 11 pm the same day, wait until 9 am the next morning to take your dose.
Don’t take 2 doses at the same time to make up for your forgotten dose.
Use a pill box and alarm to help you remember to take your medications on time and consistently.
Missing a dose may lead to a reoccurrence of symptoms or withdrawal effects.
It’s important to maintain consistency in taking your medication to manage anxiety and depression effectively.
Dealing With Zoloft Overdose
Dealing with a Zoloft overdose is a serious matter.
The amount of Zoloft that can lead to an overdose varies from person to person and the dose that you are on.
If you suspect an overdose, symptoms may include vomiting, shaking, sleepiness, dizziness, fast heart rate, and seizures.
If you take more than your prescribed dose, seeking medical advice immediately by contacting a healthcare professional or going to the emergency department is important.
Don’t drive yourself; ask someone else to drive you or call for an ambulance.
Be sure to bring the Zoloft packet, leaflet, and any remaining medicine.
Stopping Zoloft: What to Know
If you have been feeling better for 6 months or more, your doctor may suggest discontinuing Zoloft.
Here’s what you need to know about stopping Zoloft:
- Gradual Reduction: Your doctor will likely recommend gradually reducing the dose over several weeks or longer to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
- Withdrawal Symptoms: Stopping Zoloft abruptly can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, numbness or tingling in your hands, insomnia, agitation, anxiety, tremors, headaches, and irritability.
- Medical Guidance: It’s essential to consult your healthcare provider before discontinuing Zoloft, as they can provide personalized advice based on your specific situation.
- Monitoring: After stopping Zoloft, your doctor may want to monitor your symptoms to ensure that the anxiety and any related conditions are adequately managed.
In conclusion, finding the best time to take Zoloft for anxiety management ultimately depends on how you respond to the drug.
If the medication makes you sleepy, take it at bedtime.
If it keeps you awake, take it in the morning.
Remember to follow your doctor’s dosage recommendations and be consistent with your routine.
If you miss a dose, don’t double up, and consult your healthcare provider.
Be aware of potential side effects, and never stop or change your medication without consulting a professional.
With the right information and approach, Zoloft can be a helpful tool in managing anxiety.