Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/14/2022
If you’re one of the 21 million U.S. adults who have experienced a major depressive episode, you may have considered taking a medication like citalopram.
Citalopram is one of several antidepressants used to treat major depressive disorder, as well as anxiety disorders. And as with any medication, there are potential side effects.
But when you take citalopram could affect these common side effects. There could be benefits of taking citalopram at night, for example.
We’ll discuss the benefits of taking citalopram at night and whether there are any true differences that come from the time of day you take it.
Sold under the brand name Celexa®, citalopram is an antidepressant medication.
Citalopram is FDA-approved to treat major depressive disorder — also known as depression — a type of mood disorder that affects how you think and feel and can negatively interfere with everyday activities.
Other symptoms of depression can include fatigue, feeling pessimistic, slower speech or movement, difficulty sleeping, thoughts of suicide and more.
Off-label uses for citalopram include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, panic disorder (characterized by sudden panic attacks of extreme fear or worry) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
This medication may also be used to treat bipolar disorder, a condition that causes you to switch between low or depressed periods and periods of mania or elevated moods.
Citalopram is a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which works to increase serotonin levels in the brain.
Serotonin affects your mood, sleep, sex drive and other body functions. When your levels of serotonin are normal, you’ll feel happier, calmer and more focused, whereas low serotonin levels are associated with depression and anxiety.
By increasing serotonin levels, citalopram can help make anxiety or depression symptoms less severe.
Citalopram is available as a tablet and as a liquid solution for oral use and is normally taken once daily, in either the morning or evening.
It’s prescribed as a 10mg initial daily dose for both depression and generalized anxiety disorder. A healthcare provider may then increase your dosage of citalopram as needed to manage your symptoms.
Like many other antidepressant drugs, there are potential side effects of citalopram.
The most common side effects of citalopram include:
Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
Joint or muscle pain
Heavy menstrual periods
If you take citalopram, you may also experience sexual side effects, such as a decreased sex drive. You can learn more in our guide about the sexual side effects of citalopram.
In most cases, these side effects and other common ones tend to go away after a week or two. Be patient while your body adjusts to the medication and pay attention to any new or lasting side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider about these side effects and any concerns you may have about citalopram.
There are also rare but more serious effects of citalopram. Some of these adverse effects are low sodium blood levels, eye pain or other symptoms of angle closure glaucoma, teeth grinding and seizure.
Taking a daily dose of 40mg can also increase your risk of abnormal heart rhythms or an irregular heartbeat. Be sure to talk with a healthcare professional if you take more than 40mg of citalopram a day. You should also seek medical attention immediately if you experience cardiac side effects such as an irregular heartbeat, dizziness or shortness of breath. These are signs of a medical emergency.
There’s also the risk of serotonin syndrome if you take citalopram with another medication or supplement that increases serotonin levels, such as other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
Serotonin syndrome is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when serotonin levels in the body are too high.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome can range from mild to severe. If you develop a mild case of serotonin syndrome, you may experience shivering, excessive sweating, elevated blood pressure, tachycardia (a heart rate of 100 beats per minute or faster), dilated pupils and overly responsive reflexes.
Moderate serotonin syndrome can include agitation, hyperthermia (higher than normal body temperature), abnormal eye movements and hyperactive bowel sounds.
Severe serotonin syndrome involves a significantly elevated temperature (106°F or higher), confusion, rapid heart rate and dramatic changes in blood pressure, heart rate, muscle rigidity and mental state. Very severe cases of serotonin syndrome can potentially cause seizures, coma and death.
Other medications or supplements that shouldn’t be used while taking citalopram because of potential drug interactions include monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), amphetamines, anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen, diuretics, fentanyl, St. John’s wort, tryptophan and others.
Always let your healthcare provider know about any medications or supplements you’re taking before taking citalopram.
You also shouldn’t suddenly stop taking citalopram, even if you’re feeling better, as you can experience withdrawal symptoms. These may include irritability, headache, nausea, dizziness or a tingling sensation on the skin.
If you deal with an anxiety or depressive disorder and your healthcare provider has recommended you start taking citalopram, you may want to know the best time to take your medication. Are there benefits to taking citalopram at night or in the morning?
Determining if you should take citalopram at night or in the morning depends on the side effects you experience and how they affect your quality of life. Everyone reacts to medication differently, so there’s no one time to take citalopram that works best for everyone.
But while the medication can be taken in the morning or evening, there may be more benefits to taking citalopram at night. Namely, you may be able to handle some side effects better if you take your medication in the evening or before bed.
If you experience the common side effects of nausea or drowsiness, for example, you may benefit from taking citalopram before you go to bed — but taking it with food may also help nausea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Or if you are susceptible to headaches when you start citalopram, taking it in the evening can help.
Whether you take citalopram in the evening or the morning, try to take your medication around the same time each day.
If you struggle with a depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, a healthcare provider might prescribe citalopram.
There are potential benefits of taking citalopram at night — whether it will have benefits for you depends on how you react to the medication and which side effects you experience.
Whenever you decide to take your citalopram, make sure to take it as prescribed.
Citalopram is just one of many treatment options that might benefit you if you’re experiencing depression or anxiety.
If you’re interested in learning whether citalopram is the right treatment option, you can start by connecting with a mental health professional to get an online psychiatric evaluation, personalized advice, therapy and potentially medication.