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Published on June 22, 2021

When’s the best time of day to take your medicine?

Medication Timing

“Take one every day.” We’ve all seen it on a pill bottle, and the instructions seem as simple as can be. But life can be a little more complicated than that. For some medications, what time of day you take it is just as important as taking it daily.

“In some situations, it doesn't matter what time you take a medication, and, in some situations, it matters quite a bit, “ said Angela Medeiros, PharmD, director of Outpatient Pharmacy Services for the Cape Cod Healthcare Retail Pharmacy.

For medications for occasional aches and pains, like ibuprofen, you take them as needed. But for maintenance-type medications that you take every day, you should have a routine, because that is how many medications are most effective, she said. 

“Pick a time that fits into your lifestyle, and stick with it,” she said. “For me, I know that I eat lunch every day at 11:30, like clockwork. So, the best time for me to remember to take my medication is with my lunch, because I'm never going to skip lunch.

“The best way for patients to remember is to couple it with something that you do every day and have that consistency.”

She pointed out that for some medications, there are preferred times of day for them to be metabolized or preferred ways to take them, whether it be on an empty stomach or a full stomach. Some of those medications are:

  • Thyroid medications – “Most people are very sensitive to these medications. If you vary your routine, it can make a big difference in the clinical result. To best absorb a thyroid medication, you should take it on an empty stomach, 30 minutes to one hour before breakfast," Medeiros said.
  • Cholesterol medications – “Some of these have an extended release, so it doesn't matter as much when you take them. But other cholesterol meds are shorter acting, and it is best to take them before you go to bed at night, because your body actually produces more cholesterol while you're sleeping than when you're awake. Maybe that means you put it on your nightstand.”
  • Blood pressure medications – “One of the popular types of blood pressure medications are called diuretics, commonly known as water pills. You want to be careful not to take these before bedtime because you may be up all night using the restroom. We encourage patients to take them in the morning, and if you have to take it twice a day, take the second one in the late afternoon."

“Most patients are on multiple blood pressure medications. To get the greatest benefit, you should separate them. If you’re on three of them, take one in the morning and two at night, or two in the morning, one at night.”

Some other tips, from Medeiros:

  • If you feel as though you're experiencing an unwanted side effect from a medication during the day, try taking it at nighttime.
  • If you take multiple medications, phone apps can help to remind you when it’s time to take you daily dosages. You also can set daily alarms on your phone.
  • Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about an individual medication or possible interactions between multiple medications.