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Sleep and withdrawal - tips


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This essay first appeared in Dan998's success story.


Also see: 

Tips to help sleep: so many of us have that awful withdrawal insomnia

What is the sleep cycle?

Melatonin for sleep

Supplements for sleep




Sleep and withdrawal 

by Dan998

I thought it would be a good idea to write an article about sleep. Everyone’s symptoms and experiences will be different, but the vast majority of our members suffer terribly from issues surrounding sleep. For me, sleep was probably my biggest struggle. Right from the beginning I had a hard time sleeping and it’s probably only in the last year or two that it has returned to what I would call normal.

Sleeplessness closely followed my pattern of windows and waves. Arriving a few days before and improving a few days afterwards. I’m convinced that these two things are closely linked to each other. During the worst of withdrawal I might have been lucky to get an hour of sleep per night. This sometimes went on for months and undoubtedly contributed to the mental confusion and cognitive incapacity that I have previously described. The cortisol mornings were particularly brutal. Fear, dread and panic rising from my core and quickly filling every part of my body as soon as I woke up.

Getting a good night's sleep is vital for all humans, not just those in withdrawal. I still occasionally get nights where my sleep is interrupted and I always feel groggy and slow throughout the following day. 

Thankfully, like everything else on the withdrawal rollercoaster your ability to sleep will improve with the passage of time. 

Dosage timing -
Some psychotropic drugs are activating, some have a sedative effect. You can use this to your advantage. Citalopram used to make me feel slightly drowsy, so I took my dose at night to help me sleep. Try to stay away from sleep meds if you can as most of them are highly addictive and you’ll quickly build up a tolerance to them.


Take a nap -
Sleep can often be elusive. Get it whenever you can. If you feel tired in the afternoon, then by all means take a nap. Every minute of sleep is valuable. It doesn’t have to be reserved for bedtime.


Blue light -
Blue light interferes with our natural circadian rhythms. In nature, blue light is only available during the daytime. The blue light emitted by T.Vs, computers and smartphones disrupts these natural rhythms and signals to our brains that we should be awake. Make use of the blue (night) light filters available on most computers and phones. If you’re watching TV, the movie setting often has a warmer colour temperature. I personally wouldn’t go online after about 10pm as I found it far too activating. Instead, I’d watch wildlife documentaries or sports as these provided much gentler viewing.

Bedtime stories -
Ok, I didn’t have actual bedtime stories. I would  listen to talk radio. A soothing voice, quietly whispering in the background would help me drift off. I used to listen to BBC Radio 5 as it didn’t have any annoying adverts. Nowadays, you’ll probably find all sorts of podcasts, audiobooks and background noises to listen to. Make sure it’s nothing too stimulating. Boring is best.

Darkness -
I found blocking out the light really helped my sleep. The darker the better. I messed about with blackout curtains, but some light always got past, and it only took the tiniest sliver to wake me up. In the end I solved this problem by screwing a sheet of ply board over the window, this also helped block out most of the street noise too. 

Secret sleep -
Sometimes you don’t realise you have been asleep. It seems that you’ve been laying there awake for hours and hours. In fact, there are many different levels of sleep. Just because you didn’t have any dreams, doesn’t mean you haven’t been asleep. So, even if you're not tired, you should go to bed at the same time every night. Lay down, make yourself comfortable and close your eyes. You'll be giving your body a rest and you might even grab an hour or two without even realising. 



I hope these hints and tips are of some benefit to those of you who are struggling with sleep. Things do get better as time goes on. Hang in there. Better days, and nights, are ahead of you. 




Edited by ChessieCat
moved admin note to top

1996-2018 - misc. polypharmacy, incl. SSRIs, SNRIs, neuroleptics, lithium, benzos, stimulants, antihistamines, etc. (approx. 30+ drugs)

2012-2018 - 10mg lexapro/escitalopram (20mg?)    Jan. 2018 - 10mg -> 5mg, then from 5mg -> 2.5mg, then 0mg  -->  July 2018 - 0mg

2017(?)-2020 - vyvanse/lisdexamfetamine 60-70mg    2020-2021 - 70mg down to 0mg  -->  July 2021 - 0mg

March-April 2021 - vortioxetine 5-10mg (approx. 7 weeks total; CT)  -->  April 28th, 2021 - 0mg

supplements: magnesium powder (dissolved in water) as needed throughout the day; 1 tsp fish oil w/ morning meal; 2mg melatonin 

August 1, 2022 - 1 mg melatonin


Courage is fear that has said its prayers.  - Karle Wilson Baker

love and justice are not two. without inner change, there can be no outer change; without collective change, no change matters.  - Rev. angel Kyodo williams

Holding multiple truths. Knowing that everyone has their own accurate view of the way things are.  - text on homemade banner at Afiya house


I am not a medical professional; this is not medical advice. 

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Thank you so much for this! My sleep has been horrible these past several days. And a bad night's sleep seems to exacerbate my symptoms.


My only issue is with the nap portion. Sometimes I find naps make me feel worse. I think it has something to do with how long they are and what rhythm of sleep you reached. I tend to avoid naps when I am mentally unwell. If I could manage to have one without feeling so awful I would. 

2008: March, Klonopin .5 mg to 1 mg

2009: Dec, CT Klonopin

2010: full year heavy alcohol use

2011: Jan - withdrawals start

2012: Apr- bad wave, start zoloft 50

2014 to 2020: Switch ADs

Sertraline 100mgs >Lexapro 20 mgs>Prozac 20 mgs >Lexapro 20

2021: Sertraline 25 mgs

2022: Mar. Cut dose down to 12.5

End of May, starting to crash physically/mentally.


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I'm glad that you pointed this out as it allows me to remind readers that withdrawal is experienced slightly differently for everyone going through it. What provides relief for one person, will make another feel worse. We have to listen to what our bodies are telling us. Also, what works today, might not work tomorrow, and vice versa.


Short naps, less than 30 minutes, tend to work better and help to prevent sleep inertia (grogginess, a desire to fall back asleep, impaired cognitive ability, impaired visual attention, impaired spatial memory).

Sleep Inertia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments - sleepfoundation.org

A 30-Minute, but Not a 10-Minute Nighttime Nap is Associated with Sleep Inertia - Pubmed

2001: 20mg paroxetine
2003-2014: Switched between 20mg citalopram and 10mg escitalopram with several failed CT's
2015: Jan/ Feb-very fast taper off citalopram; Mar/ Apr-crashed; 23 Apr-reinstated 5mg; 05 May-updosed to 10mg; 15 Jul-started taper; Aug-9.0mg; Sep-8.1mg; Oct-7.6mg; Nov-6.8mg; Dec-6.2mg
2016: Jan-5.7mg; Feb-5.2mg; Mar-5.0mg;  Apr-4.5mg; May-4.05mg; Jun-3.65mg; Jul-3.3mg; Aug-2.95mg; 04Sep-2.65mg; 25Sep-2.4mg; 23Oct-2.15mg; 13Nov-1.95mg; 04Dec-1.75mg; 25Dec-1.55mg.
2017: 08Jan-1.4mg; 22Jan-1.25mg; 12Feb-1.1mg; 26Feb-1.0mg; 05Mar-0.9mg; 15Mar-0.8mg; 22Mar-0.7mg; 02Apr-0.6; 09Apr-0.5mg; 16Apr-0.4mg; 23Apr-0.3; 03May-0.2mg; 10May-0.1mg

Finished taper 17 May 2017.

Read my success story


I am not a medical professional. The information I provide is not medical advice. If in doubt please consult with a qualified healthcare provider.

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