Disclaimer: The Bloom Team and Writers are not medical doctors and no content on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.
Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional before making any changes to your prescribed medication.
In the summer of 2016, I burst into tears in my GP’s office.
This is a story that no doubt will feel familiar to a lot of people. After months of telling myself over and over that I was just ‘feeling a bit low’ and that it would pass soon enough, I had finally booked an appointment. I can’t remember exactly what prompted me to go. My life back then was a haze of sleeping and getting through the day as best I could. Still, I made the appointment, showed up at the surgery, and waited for my name to be called.
I sat in the room as he tapped at his computer, and when he turned to ask what he could do for me, I choked out that I needed help. I had lost interest in my life, all I wanted was to fall asleep and not wake up until I was better.
I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression that day, and started taking antidepressants to stabilise my mood.
As with most medications, antidepressants come with a list of side effects.
Most are relatively minor, such as nausea and drowsiness, and will most likely settle as your body gets used to the medication.
Side effects I experienced included vivid dreams, sweating, weight gain, teeth grinding, decreased sex drive, and fatigue. Not terrible by a long shot, but enough to cause me to need a mouthguard to wear at night; continuous cycles of washing my bedding; and for “I’m fine, just tired” to be a frequently-used phrase.
I tried everything to improve my sleep. Camomile tea, yep. No screens before bed, tried it. Magnesium oil, no caffeine, meditation, ASMR. Hot showers, cold showers. Low GI diet. I stopped listening to true crime podcasts and reading thrillers, hoping it would lessen the vivid nightmares I experienced each night.
None of it worked.
I told myself that these side effects, though annoying, were nothing when weighed against the benefits of my medication. I finally felt good. I felt stable, solid. My waking hours were once again joyful and my life felt back on track. I didn’t want to risk disrupting that.
During one of my regular appointments, I mentioned these side effects to my GP. I expected him to think the same as me – that the upsides of the medication far outweighed the downsides. I only brought them up so they could be put in my notes, and was fully prepared to carry on as I was.
“What time of day are you taking it?”
It was an idea I had never even considered.
I was taking my medication every night like clockwork. Just before climbing into bed, I popped my pills. I had read somewhere that it was best to take your meds at the same time each day, and I had figured that before bed was as good a time as any.
My GP advised me to try taking it in the morning instead and to see if it made any impact.
Spoiler alert: it did.
He explained that because antidepressants affect neurotransmitters in the brain, it could be causing more brain activity shortly after taking it. This, in turn, could be causing the increased dreaming. However it works and whatever the science behind it, I was so relieved to have a solution! Since switching the time of day, my sleep has improved tenfold, and I’m generally forgetting what I dreamt about upon waking.
The best time of day for you
Everybody’s brain works differently, which makes it hard to predict how mood-altering medications will interact with a specific person. What works for one person might not work for another, and vice-versa. This advice is based on my personal experience, which will be wholly different to your own experience.
It may help to take your tablets in the morning if you suffer with:
- Vivid dreams
- Dry mouth
Or it may be that the evening is the best time for you, if you have:
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Decreased sex drive
Never change your treatment without first discussing it with your doctor. If the side effects are affecting your quality of life drastically, it may be that an alternative treatment would be better for you.
However you manage your depression, remember that you are a warrior. You wake up and battle with your own mind each day, and that makes you stronger than you can imagine.
Author bio: Gemma Elizabeth
Gemma is a freelance writer for hire, specialising in providing wellness and lifestyle content for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Gemma is also an evocative poet, and her debut collection, All at Sea, was published in 2018.
She strives to be a human sunbeam, and everything she does, from writing to solo dance parties in her kitchen, is an embodiment of her joy.
Find out more about her at gemmaelizabeth.com or on social media @gemmaewriter.