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Anxiety medication and sleep

MissChanandlerMissChanandler Alum Member Sage
in General 3256 karma

So I have a little bit of a dilemma. I am currently taking a prescribed anxiety medication, which does a really great job of keeping away panic attacks, but makes me not sleep very well and I often feel drowsy and my brain is foggy. I know that ultimately I am the only one who can answer this for myself, but does anyone have any thoughts about taking a break on the medicine until the September LSAT is over so that I can get better sleep?


  • Leah M BLeah M B Alum Member
    8392 karma

    I have no experience with anxiety meds specifically, so just spit balling here. Do you know if the brain fog and drowsiness is a product of the lack of sleep or is it from the medication directly? Like, if you try a bunch of things to help you get more sleep, could you stay on the med and not be foggy? Or is that a separate side effect?

  • MissChanandlerMissChanandler Alum Member Sage
    3256 karma

    I think it's both, but mostly from not getting enough sleep. I might try your suggestion to do a bunch of stuff to get more sleep for the next week or so and see how it goes. Thanks for the response!

  • MarClaAveMarClaAve Member
    123 karma

    Melatonin is a natural vitamin you can buy at the drug store that might help you fall asleep. Not something you nevessarily want to take forever (the more you take it the less your body feels the need to produce it making it difficult in the long run to utilize your body’s natural sleep methods) but it might be a good temporary fix.

  • Leah M BLeah M B Alum Member
    8392 karma

    It's worth trying! I personally take 3mg of melatonin every night - I see a naturopath who says that's a safe level to take long term without harming how much your body produces naturally. I also take a magnesium supplement before bed called "Natural Calm". My doctor also recommended that when I had back spasms as it is supposed to help your muscles relax. As an added bonus, it significantly helped me be able to fall asleep and get better quality sleep.

    If you want to try something short term just to see if better sleep gets rid of the brain fog, you could always try Nyquil or their sleep medication Zzzquil (takes out the alcohol and the cold medication part that you don't actually need). Of course there's always Unisom and things of those nature too. Or if the sleep thing is really really bad, maybe talk to your doctor about trying Ambien. I know that can cause some people to be foggy too though. But maybe a short term jolt in catching up on sleep could help overall, even if that isn't a permanent solution.

    And of course, good "sleep hygiene" can make a difference too. Try cutting out all caffeine, no screen time (computer, phone or TV) within an hour or 2 of bed, and keeping lights dim from the evening onward. Doing something relaxing like drinking an herbal tea and reading right before bed is great too.

    Have you talked to your doctor about these side effects? If so, any advice there?

  • Bianca1234-1Bianca1234-1 Alum Member
    69 karma

    There's no harm in trying. Just be careful because many of those medications can cause seizures if you stop abruptly.

  • MissChanandlerMissChanandler Alum Member Sage
    3256 karma

    Melatonin is a good idea! And I could definitely be better about my sleep hygiene. My doctor has told me that there is no danger in stopping (I'm on such a low dose that I don't need to be weaned off or anything like that). Basically, no matter what I take there's always the chance of some unpleasant side effects but since they're relatively mild I just kind of deal with it.

  • Tom_TangoTom_Tango Alum Member
    902 karma

    Which medication is it? I have some personal experience and understand the grogginess. I actually started something a week or two before I took the LSAT. You can PM if you want to talk about it more but I wouldn't really make any changes in medication as it gets closer to the test.

  • tekken1225tekken1225 Alum Member
    edited August 2018 770 karma

    If it's a benzodiazepine, it might prove tricky. First few days/nights off of them, you'll get pretty bad withdrawal symptoms. If you can weather that, then it might be worth it. I've seen plenty of cases when I was practicing medicine.

  • MissChanandlerMissChanandler Alum Member Sage
    3256 karma

    It's an SSRI (Lexapro)

  • btownsqueebtownsquee Alum Member
    1207 karma

    Just throwing this out there since I've been dealing with lack of sleep too. If you look up Yoga with Adriene on Youtube and do her yoga for sleep sequence--that always helps me relax enough to fall asleep.

  • MissChanandlerMissChanandler Alum Member Sage
    3256 karma

    I love Adriene! She's the only yoga channel I watch

  • Raychul123Raychul123 Member
    179 karma

    Magnesium, Chamomile Tea and diet. People really underestimate the power of eating whole foods on your sleep and mood (including anxiety). Try to eat a ton of nutrient dense vegetables, healthy fats, and high quality proteins. Think Paleo/Whole 30. It was a game changer for me.

  • keets993keets993 Alum Member 🍌
    edited August 2018 6045 karma

    100% second magnesium supplements.

  • Leah M BLeah M B Alum Member
    8392 karma

    My biggest hesitation with saying you should stop the medication is that while you need to get through the LSAT, obviously this is all leading to law school... which will mean more exams, and a lot of mental concentration. So I'm thinking more long term, it might be best to see if you can get yourself functional without having to stop the med. I think worst case scenario, you could likely go off of it for just a week or two to clear up the brain fog and get through the exam. But ideally, we can figure out a solution for you to feel better rested and clearer, but keep taking your med.

    Sounds like everyone is behind the suggestion of magnesium and melatonin. :) That combination does work well for me and I'm a chronic insomniac. Good luck!

  • samantha.ashley92samantha.ashley92 Alum Member
    edited August 2018 1777 karma

    If you can lower the dose of your med (OF COURSE WITH THE HELP AND APPROVAL OF A DOCTOR), I bet you would be able to process information faster and more accurately with better sleep. Even just lowering the dose a little bit can help a lot. If you're testing in September or November, now is the time to talk to your doctor. But please, no matter what any of us say, do whatever is best for you! The last thing you want is to be fighting an anxiety or panic attack on test day.

  • samantha.ashley92samantha.ashley92 Alum Member
    edited August 2018 1777 karma

    I basically just repeated myself so I deleted this comment haha.

  • alyhobbsalyhobbs Alum Member
    715 karma

    Seriously so grateful for posts and comments like this. Here I am past midnight on the forum because I can’t sleep and I wonder why I have trouble studying the next day. I sometimes take my adderall too late and when I have a lot on my mind it’s very hard for me to relax and get sleep. I really need to be consistent with doing mediation but I am going to take some of the advice on here about the magnesium and melatonin. I toss and turn so much during the night so even if I fall asleep at a decent hour I still struggle with waking up throughout the night. I’m also super thankful for the yoga recommendation. I want to start doing yoga in the morning was actually looking earlier this week on YouTube but there are so many videos it’s overwhelming. Love this community!

  • MissChanandlerMissChanandler Alum Member Sage
    3256 karma

    Thank you guys for all of your comments and support!

  • willis91willis91 Alum Member
    101 karma

    hi @MissChanandler , you should definitely consult with your doctor about it, but i've been prescribed lexapro for almost 10 years now, off and on. It's very different for everyone, but for me and for many people, the withdrawal symptoms can be severe and last for many weeks. Personally, the brain fog of withdrawal is really bad.

    I think it would be a big risk to alter medication before the test, especially an SSRI which has a significant effect on your brain. Melatonin is great, and you can also try L-Theanine, a natural supplement found in tea that works great in combination with a little caffeine to get your brain going.

    I also swear by meditation - I love the Calm app which has tons of guided meditations including some for focus, deep concentration, and anxiety that are great for the morning before I start studying. I also use it for falling asleep!

    I hope this helps - feel free to PM me if you want to chat anxiety/medications :)

  • Chipster StudyChipster Study Yearly Member
    893 karma

    Perhaps @tekken1225 can chime in here, but for sleep you can also add that most ancient of soporifics - music. You could try one of the CDs by the Benedictine nuns of Our Lady of Ephesus Priory, particularly the most recent one. The Prioress was a former musician with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, so the arrangements, etc are professional quality. They are always at the top of Billboard charts in sales. I had my patients put it on right before they got in bed and it just konked them right out.

  • KlaraHenryKlaraHenry Alum Member
    edited August 2018 57 karma

    Hey! looks like you you've gotten lots of help, just wanted to chime in since I am in exactly the same boat--I got major brain fog and had issues sleeping while on Lexapro, so I went off (also from a very very low dose) this spring, hoping that I'd resolve anxiety issues without meds and would benefit from going off and getting better sleep. I think my anxiety is generally pretty low during the day, but the pressure of this test meant I actually started sleeping worse once I went off, and I'm going back on Lexapro this week in anticipation of the Sept. test. I would not necessarily recommend going off meds, even at a low dose, right before this exam. The Lexapro could be helping more than you think, and ultimately the trade-off between no panic attacks and not great sleep versus high anxiety and (possibly) better sleep right before a massive exam is one I'd really stop to consider before quitting the meds. Obviously you can always go back on, but it took me several weeks to acclimate once I stopped taking them, and I am very very glad I did it months before my exam rather than a few weeks before. Even at low doses, Lexapro changes your brain chemistry in complicated ways, both in starting the meds and in stopping them, so I'd hesitate to make any life changes leading up to the test. Certainly you should work on getting better sleep if you can! Having a consistent schedule is key, and supplementing with yoga/meditation/calming bedtime rituals can never hurt.

  • MissChanandlerMissChanandler Alum Member Sage
    3256 karma

    Thank you guys for all of the great ideas! I think I am going to stay on my low dose and try to up my sleep game with melatonin etc.

  • lcf02139lcf02139 Alum Member
    18 karma

    I wonder if you might be able to reduce reliance on the medication by performing 30 min. of aerobic exercise, mediation and/or yoga classes? These activities are not as easy as popping a pill but could both, help reduce anxiety and promote a good nights sleep. They are proven to be helpful.

    Sleeping tips I found helpful: Studying or just being outside in sunlight. (Shade or with sunscreen, of course) Breathing exercises (in/out thru nose) balances the parasympathetic nervous system with the sympathetic system. The sympathetic system controls anxiety. The long exhale promotes the parasympathetic nervous system, which is part of the relaxation response.

  • MissChanandlerMissChanandler Alum Member Sage
    3256 karma

    I'm an athlete and I stretch/exercise very frequently; I'm definitely not just "popping a pill" because it's easier haha.

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