When you receive your prescription from your doctor and take it to your pharmacist, you will see that your prescription comes with directions on WHEN it should be taken. It is critical that all prescribed medication be taken exactly as directed.
Many medications need to reach a certain level in your bloodstream throughout the day. This is why your medication may be prescribed to be taken in the morning, or every few hours. Taking your medication too soon or waiting too long between doses could lead to improper levels of the medication in your bloodstream and impact the effectiveness of the medication on your medical condition.
Because your body functions differently while you are asleep compared to when you are awake and active, certain medications are prescribed to be taken at certain times of the day because that is when they will be most effective for your condition. For example, the British Heart Foundation advises that statins work best if taken in the evening or before bedtime because cholesterol production in the liver peaks at midnight and is lower in the morning and afternoon. ( Note: Consult with your doctor about the timing of your particular statin prescription.)
Certain pain medications should be taken before episodes of pain begin so the medication is in your bloodstream and active and ready to work on reducing your pain before it happens, rather than after you begin to experience an episode of pain. This would be for medications such as NSAIDS (naproxen and ibuprofen for example), which are often prescribed to be taken with your daily meals.
Which brings us to whether or not you should take your medication with meals. Food may interfere with the way your stomach and intestines absorb your prescribed medication, delaying or decreasing the absorption of the medicine, which is why some medications are taken on an empty stomach. Other medications, such as anti-inflammatory medications, are usually prescribed to be taken with or immediately after eating food to help your digestive system tolerate the medication’s side effects, which could include acid reflux, stomach upset or even gastric bleeding.
Another reason it is important to take your medication on time is to avoid the risk of taking too much medication at once. Pain medications, for example, can be dangerous if you take your doses too close together. Medication such as antibiotics, on the other hand, can be ineffective if you take your doses too far apart. (As a reminder, always finish your antibiotic prescription and never share your antibiotics with friends or family)
Other medications such as thyroid medications or blood thinners need to be taken as directed and monitored by your doctor to ensure the dosage is not too high or too low. Your doctor will review your blood test results and adjust your dosage accordingly.
So what can you do to ensure you are taking your medications at the right time?
- Read the label of your prescription bottle carefully.
- Ask your pharmacist about the timing of your medication.
- Let your doctor and pharmacist know if your medication causes any side effects such as digestive problems or affects your sleep patterns. Discuss any and all side effects you are experiencing with your pharmacist.
- If you have trouble remembering when to take your medication, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
- Consider setting an alarm on your smartphone to remind you when to take your medication.
This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor. It is not intended to be used as either a diagnoses or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation. If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).