Sleeping Pills and Alcohol

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Sleeping pills, both prescribed and over the counter, are widely used to help people fall asleep. Because they are sedatives, sleeping pills help to calm the central nervous system and cause the user to feel drowsy and sleepy. People use many types of sleeping pills, including Benzodiazepines (Ativan, Valium, Halcion, Restoril), over-the-counter pills (Melatonin, Unisom), and sedative-hypnotic medications (Sonata, Lunesta). 

Many people assume that since alcohol is also a sedative, it is safe to take sleeping pills with alcohol. The reality is that combining these two substances is dangerous because they compound each others’ effects, which can have a devastating impact on the brain and body. 

Why do People Mix Alcohol and Sleeping Pills? 

Although some people mix the two substances by accident, many people intentionally mix sleeping pills and alcohol because they believe there is no risk in doing so. As an example, someone using Melatonin (a natural, over-the-counter sleeping pill) may decide to drink some gin (a relatively low-alcoholic drink) afterward. 

Yet other people who abuse sleeping pills or alcohol may intentionally take both substances together to increase the immediate pleasurable after-effects from their substance of choice, regardless of the risks involved. If you are using both alcohol and sleeping pills together to enhance the effects of either of them, educate yourself so you know the dangers of doing so. 

It is important to be honest with your doctor when he or she is prescribing sleeping pills to address your sleeping issue. If you regularly use alcohol, let him know in order to avoid issues far worse than the inability to sleep. Just a few sips of alcohol after taking your sleeping pill can be irreversibly damaging.  

How Long After Drinking Can You Take a Sleeping Pill? 

If you’re taking sleeping pills to help you fall asleep at night, refrain from taking any alcohol before 6 hours have elapsed. The same is true if you have just consumed alcohol; wait 6 hours before taking your sleeping pill.

How Alcohol Affects the Body

Research has shown that 3 million deaths occur yearly worldwide due to overconsumption of alcohol. This figure amounts to a shocking 5.3% of all deaths. Additionally, alcohol can cause over 200 different injuries and diseases, many of which lead to premature deaths.

Although alcohol is known to have some benefits for the heart, that is only true when consumed in moderation. An excessive amount of alcohol can cause liver cirrhosis, cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, pancreatitis, damage to the brain, and cancer in several parts of the body.

Alcohol and Sleeping Pills Side Effects 

The side effects of sleeping tablets and alcohol are no joke. Since both sleeping pills and alcohol are central nervous depressants, they can interact together to slow down- or even shut down completely- different internal organs.

Every person is different, and every type of alcoholic beverage and sleeping pill produces a different reaction, so it’s impossible to know the exact effects of mixing the two substances. However, these are some common effects that many people experience:

  • Drowsiness- The person will be very tired but experience a very fitful, light sleep that leaves them feeling disoriented and agitated when they wake up.
  • Interactions while sleeping- The user may experience sleep-walking, sleep-eating, sleep-driving, and other dangerous behaviors during their sleep.
  • Impaired coordination, memory function, perception, and balance- These impairments can cause accidents, injuries, unintended breaking of the law resulting in arrest, and other negative occurrences.
  • ADR (Adverse Drug Reaction)- Adverse drug reactions will be different for every user, but someone experiencing an ADR almost always needs to be admitted to a hospital.
  • Heart attack- Heart attacks occur when the sleeping pills and alcohol are particularly strong, causing the heart to stop working.
  • Overdose- This can happen when the amount of sleeping pills and alcohol taken affects the heart or slows the breathing completely.  

Sleeping Pills Commonly Used with Alcohol 

Listed below are some sleeping pills or sleep aids commonly used with alcohol: 

  • Benzodiazepines- Ativan, Valium, Halcion, Restoril
  • Non-benzodiazepines- Lunesta, Sonata, Albien, Zolpimist
  • DORAs (Dual orexin 1 and 2 receptor antagonists)- Belsomra, Dayvigo, Quiviviq

Each of these sleeping pills produces different effects and varying levels when mixed with alcohol.


Using sleeping pills with alcohol is dangerous and possibly deadly. If you or your loved one is playing around with either sleeping pills, alcohol, or both, now is the time to come clean and start the journey of long-term sobriety. Avenues Recovery Center is here to act as a beacon of light and hope in the confusion and darkness of addiction. We know how overwhelming addiction can be, and are here to guide and support you through the rehabilitation process. Our top-of-the-line staff are empathetic, caring and true experts in the field of addiction. We have helped thousands of people reach lasting recovery, and we can help you too. Reach out to Avenues Recovery Center to receive a customized treatment plan and all the therapies and support you need to achieve a life of freedom, serenity, and peace.

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