Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 11/09/2020
Escitalopram, sold under the brand name Lexapro®, is a common antidepressant that’s used to treat depression and certain anxiety disorders.
First approved for use by the FDA in 2002, Lexapro is a popular antidepressant. It’s used by millions of people of different ages and backgrounds to make dealing with depression and anxiety an easier experience.
Although some antidepressants are associated with sleep difficulties, the data on Lexapro and insomnia is mixed. While some Lexapro users report insomnia, there’s also research showing that Lexapro may actually make it easier to fall asleep.
Below, we’ve explained what Lexapro is and how it works. We’ve also looked at the major links between Lexapro and sleep difficulties such as insomnia. Finally, we’ve provided several tips to help make falling and staying asleep easier if you’re prescribed an antidepressant.
Lexapro is an antidepressant that contains the ingredient escitalopram. It belongs to a class of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.
SSRIs like Lexapro work by changing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in your brain and body. Serotonin, alongside other neurotransmitters, plays a key role in regulating the way your brain behaves, affecting everything from your mood to your ability to sleep properly.
As an antidepressant, Lexapro is very effective. A large-scale scientific review from 2006 found that not only is it effective at treating major depressive disorder, but also that it’s more effective than many other antidepressants.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe Lexapro if you’re affected by depression, or if you have an anxiety disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Insomnia is a common side effect of many antidepressants, including Lexapro. For example, it’s listed as one of the most common adverse reactions experienced by people prescribed Lexapro in FDA documentation.
According to data from the FDA, more than five percent of people who use Lexapro experience insomnia. This means that if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep after you start to use Lexapro, you’re definitely not alone.
On the other hand, there’s also some scientific evidence that escitalopram (the active ingredient in Lexapro) may actually make it easier for people to fall asleep. For example, a study published in 2012 noted that menopausal women experienced improved sleep quality after using escitalopram.
Overall, the data is mixed, with insomnia reported as a common side effect of Lexapro, while some research suggests that Lexapro may actually improve sleep.
It’s important to understand that insomnia is a very common symptom of both depression and anxiety, the two disorders Lexapro is commonly prescribed to treat.
Because of this, if you experience insomnia while you use Lexapro, it may not always be due to your medication. It can often take several weeks for Lexapro to start working, meaning some of your depression or anxiety symptoms may persist even after you begin treatment.
Dealing with insomnia can be an extremely frustrating experience. Luckily, there are steps that you can take to make falling and staying asleep easier. We’ve listed many of these techniques below:
Try taking Lexapro in the morning. If you find it hard to fall asleep at night, try taking your dose of Lexapro in the morning instead of later in the day. Make sure that you talk to your healthcare provider to verify that it’s safe to take your medication at this time.
Avoid drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages late in the day. Caffeine has a long half-life, meaning it can affect your ability to fall asleep even if you consume it hours before you go to bed.
To avoid making it even more difficult to fall asleep, avoid drinking coffee or other drinks that contain caffeine after midday.
Stay active. Not only can exercising make it easier for you to fall asleep at night, it may also improve your depression or anxiety symptoms. Research shows that exercise is an effective, all-natural treatment for improving depression and anxiety.
Don’t drink alcohol. It’s important to avoid drinking alcohol while you’re using Lexapro or other antidepressants. Not only can this cause side effects, but there’s also evidence that drinking can further disrupt your sleeping patterns and worsen insomnia.
Avoid technology before bed. As tempting as it can be to spend time on Facebook or watching TV late at night, using technological devices shortly before you go to bed may have a negative impact on your ability to sleep.
These devices can trick your body into thinking that it’s still daytime, preventing it from releasing the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. To avoid this, try switching off your computer, TV and other screens about an hour before you need to sleep.
Our comprehensive guide to insomnia lists more techniques that you can use to improve your sleep habits and overcome insomnia.
If you still experience insomnia from Lexapro after making changes to your lifestyle, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider.
Depending on the severity of your insomnia and the progression of your depression or anxiety symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend adjusting your dosage of Lexapro. They may also suggest switching to another type of medication.
Alternatively, your healthcare provider may prescribe a sleeping medication to help you fall and stay asleep more easily while you use Lexapro.
Lexapro and other antidepressants may cause you to experience insomnia. You may notice that it takes you longer than it normally should to fall asleep, or that you struggle to fall asleep even if you feel tired.
If you notice insomnia symptoms after using Lexapro, try applying the techniques listed above to make falling and staying asleep easier. If these aren’t effective, talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about your options for overcoming insomnia and improving your sleep quality, or getting off Lexapro.
Escitalopram, the active ingredient in Lexapro, is one of several antidepressants prescribed for depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. Our guide to SSRIs goes into more detail about how these medications work, their side effects and more.
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