Mixing Alcohol and Sleeping Pills: How Dangerous Is It Really? (2023)

About 4 percent of American adults use sleeping pills, says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and that number is smaller than the number of people who deal with sleep troubles on a regular basis. This seems to suggest that most people look for other solutions, rather than medications, when they need to get to sleep at night.

Those who do use medications, however, might think of those drugs as benign substances that can be combined with almost anything. As a result, they may be tempted to mix their sleeping pills with alcohol. Mixing any prescription medication with alcohol without the express permission of your doctor is not wise, especially if the instructions that come with your prescription strictly prohibit alcohol use.

But if the thought of avoiding alcohol while you take your medications worries you, the dangers you might face can vary depending on the type of medication you’re using.

Benzodiazepines and Alcohol

Benzodiazepine medications sometimes used as sleep aids include Ativan, Valium, Restoril, and Halcion. These are some of the earliest medications ever prescribed for sleep troubles, and they work by altering brain chemistry.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, benzodiazepines can mimic a neurotransmitter within brain cells that is associated with sleepiness. People who take benzodiazepines may feel as though they are naturally sleepy, but the drowsiness they feel is a direct result of the drug they have taken.

In addition to altering brain chemistry, benzodiazepines can sedate key portions of the brain, leading to slower breathing rates and a slower heartbeat. It’s this attribute that makes mixing benzodiazepines with alcohol so very dangerous.

Alcohol can also slow one’s breathing rate. When alcohol and benzodiazepines are combined, this can lead to significantly impaired breathing. It is difficult to know how much alcohol a person must drink or how many pills are required to bring this problem about, as it depends on many factors, including one’s age, tolerance to both drugs, weight, and genetics.

It is known that people who combine benzodiazepines and alcohol can slide into a coma-like state and require care from a professional team to recover. Without that immediate, emergency care, people can die as a result of combining these drugs.

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Sedative-Hypnotic Sleep Aids and Alcohol

Benzodiazepines have been proven effective in helping some people get to sleep, but they come with uncomfortable side effects, including daytime sleepiness. Researchers developed new types of drugs, known as sedative-hypnotic drugs, that can also help people to fall asleep and stay asleep, and they are not associated with daytime drowsiness.

The creator of the sedative-hypnotic drug Lunesta reports that it is made for adults only, and it is considered a controlled substance because it has been associated with drug abuse and dependence. The makers report that the drug should not be given to people with a history of drug or alcohol dependence.

A similar warning appears in documentation from the manufacturer of the sedative-hypnotic drug Sonata. Here, manufacturers report that the drug should not be provided to those with a history of drug dependence and that it should be stored safely to prevent abuse.

Warnings like this should prompt you to avoid taking these drugs with alcohol. Their ability to alter brain chemistry and trigger changes that make drug use compulsive can be augmented with alcohol, and that could make an addiction appear in a very short time.

In addition, these drugs have been associated with a form of amnesia. People have been known to eat, drive, and shop while under the influence of these drugs. Those who begin drinking before taking these medications might drink even more when the drug takes effect, and they may not even remember doing so.

Unfortunately, combining drugs in this class with alcohol is somewhat common. As research published in the journal Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs points out, about 19 percent of people taking sedative-hypnotic sleep aids drink alcohol at the same time.

Researchers have not determined how many drugs are safe to take with alcohol, as it can vary depending on height, weight, age, tolerance, and more.

Antidepressants and Alcohol

For some people, insomnia symptoms are triggered by depression. As a result, antidepressant medications might be used to help people sleep. The theory is that the medications will address the underlying issue that is keeping people from sleep, and with that problem solved, people can get the rest they need.

Research published in Current Psychiatry Reports suggests that a very low dose of antidepressants given right before bedtime can help most people to fall and stay asleep. But larger doses can cause extreme sedation that persists through the day, and some can disrupt sleep. Doctors and patients often work together to find a medication that works just right for someone with insomnia.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests that all people who take antidepressants avoid alcohol, but the organization reports that some people are reluctant to give up drinking. As a result, they suggest that one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men is permitted by some doctors who prescribe antidepressants for their patients.

Sleeping Pills and Alcohol

Sleeping Pills and Alcohol

Sleeping pills and alcohol is extremely dangerous and leads to potentially dangerous interactions. In some cases, they can even turn deadly. Both sleeping pills and alcohol depress specific body systems and functions, so something like zopiclone and alcohol, or alcohol and Unisom, should always be avoided. When these drugs are used together, even in miniscule doses, it can lead to adverse symptoms that include dizziness, confusion, and fainting.

In addition to the dangerous effects that stem from mixing sleeping pills and alcohol, some sleeping pills also come with side effects like sleepwalking and memory loss. When sleeping pills are used in conjunction with alcohol, the risk of blacking out increases exponentially. Doctors also warn their patients that prolonged use of these prescription sleep aids can lead to a substance use disorder, causing even more severe problems than an inability to sleep.

Lastly, in the more severe cases, when using sleeping pills and alcohol simultaneously, you can lose your life. If you’re taking drugs like Lunesta and alcohol, you must stop. Temazepam and alcohol, Restavit and alcohol, and other depressants are extremely dangerous. Death occurs as a result of sleeping pills and alcohol depressing the respiratory system, causing the person to stop breathing.

How Do Sleeping Pills React with Alcohol?

How Do Sleeping Pills React with Alcohol?

Since the primary objective of sleeping pills is to sedate the user and help them fall asleep, nearly all of these drugs have adverse reactions to alcohol. If you mix alcohol and sleeping pills, expect these potentially deadly side effects to occur:

  • Sleepwalking
  • Decreased alertness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Injury from changes in alertness or because of altered judgment
  • Increased fatigue
  • Impaired memory
  • Slowed or labored breathing
  • Death

When these drugs are used in conjunction with one another, it results in the heightened effects of both substances. Since sleeping pills suppress activity in the central nervous system and alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, taking both drugs affects the body similarly and compounds their adverse effects, leading to dangerous health issues.

Combining these two drugs can also lead to other adverse outcomes and should be avoided by all means necessary. Those who enjoy mixing these substances and use alcohol frequently because of insomnia are at increased risk of becoming addicted to both drugs. Other common side effects include the following:

  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Suppression of the nervous system
  • Increased odds of developing a sleeping pill addiction
  • Increased chances of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • Interactions while asleep, including sleep-eating, sleepwalking, or sleep-driving
  • Worsened quality of sleep
  • Impaired memory
  • Risk of death

When you continually abuse both drugs, it can lead to suppression of the normal functions of your body, especially your nervous system, including the parts of the brain responsible for cognition, breathing, and alertness.

The odds of overdosing increase exponentially with alcohol and sleeping pills, meaning they should always be avoided. Many common sleeping pills can be deadly when mixed with alcohol, especially if you overdo it with either substance. Death is a real possibility when the combination suppresses your breathing beyond what is deemed safe. Even worse, the combination can affect your heart.

Although it’s common to think that sleeping pills and alcohol deaths are related to changes in your breathing or heartbeat, death can also be caused by your impaired judgment, alertness, and coordination. For example, when your inhibitions are lowered due to the alcohol, and you decide to drive a motor vehicle, your slowed reaction time can lead to a fatal accident. Even walking is dangerous if you fall and hit your head. You might wonder – is it ever safe to mix?

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Is It Ever Completely Safe To Mix?

Mixing sleeping pills with alcohol is a bit like playing personal roulette, says an expert writing for Psychology Today. You never truly know how the drugs will interact when they are in your body, and the experience you have one day might be completely different from the experience you have another day. Each time you combine the substances, you are hoping that you will not experience an issue that will cost you your life.

Even if the two substances together do not cause intense sedation and respiratory distress, they have the potential to alter your coordination. If you become confused and disoriented and you walk while impaired, you could fall, trip, or experience some other kind of accident that could lead to cuts, bruises, or broken bones.

You may also say or do something that you regret while under the influence. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, and sleeping pills can impair your memory. This can lead you to settle scores or get into difficult conversations without even remembering that you have done so the next day.

If you absolutely must mix the two substances, an expert writing for Live Science suggests placing at least six hours between your last drink of alcohol and your first dose of sleeping pills. That lag time could allow your body to process all of the active alcohol you’ve ingested before the sleeping pill begins to take effect.

Recognize Addiction Warning Signs

If you cannot imagine your life without a sip of alcohol in it, you could be dealing with an addiction issue.

Mixing Alcohol and Sleeping Pills: How Dangerous Is It Really? (1)An inability to stop drinking even when you want to do so suggests that your brain cells have been altered by the presence of alcohol and that you are losing control over your ability to make rational decisions about your drinking.

If you are hoping to drink alcohol with your sleeping pills to feel a fuzzy or blurry high, this is also cause for concern. Alcohol and sleeping pills are not benign substances.

Both have the power to change your life for the worst, and you may not notice the subtle signs of addiction as they develop.

If you’re searching online in the hopes of learning about a safe high, it might be time to get help.


Mixing Alcohol and Sleeping Pills: How Dangerous Is It Really? ›

In general, it is advised to never mix sedatives or hypnotics with alcohol. Combining sleeping pills with alcohol can increase the sedating effects of both, thus seriously increasing the risk of overdose.

How long after drinking alcohol can I take sleeping pill? ›

A: It's probably OK, doctors say, but the sleeping pill won't work as well as it should. Here's why: "Alcohol becomes a stimulant about three to four hours after you drink it, so you're actually working against your sleep medication," Arand says. "It's a terrible combination."

Why is it dangerous to combine alcohol with a sleeping pill quizlet? ›

Why is it dangerous to combine alcohol with a sleeping pill? Alcohol and sleeping pills are depressants; their combined action reduces nervous system activity and can lead to death.

Is it dangerous to drink sleeping pills? ›

When you take prescription sleeping pills over a long period of time, your body grows accustomed to the drug, and you need higher and higher doses to get the same sleep-inducing effect. But, if you take a high enough dose, this could lead to depressed breathing while you sleep, which can cause death.

What are the side effects of mixing sleeping pills? ›

The combination increases the sedative effects of the pills and can lead to slowed breathing or unresponsiveness. It can even cause you to stop breathing. Take sleeping pills strictly as prescribed by your health care provider.

What happens if you take melatonin and drink alcohol? ›

Melatonin supplements are generally safe, but you should avoid mixing them with alcohol. Risks include increased dizziness and anxiety, and trouble thinking clearly. The combination can also affect your liver.

Can I take Ambien 3 hours after drinking? ›

It would be safest to wait at least 24 hours after your last drink before taking Ambien. Every drug, including alcohol, has a half-life value. The half-life is how long it takes the body to metabolize half of the drug. After about five half-lives, the drug is completely cleared from the body.

What is the most dangerous drug interaction with alcohol? ›

Sedative, anxiolytic, or opioid medications: In suicidal patients taking sedative, anxiolytic, or opioid medications, there is an increased short-term risk of suicide attempt with these medications, especially in combination with alcohol.

What is one of the major effects of alcohol on sleep __________? ›

The alcohol in your system will mean you spend less time in the important Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep,2 with the end result that you wake up feeling less refreshed. Even just a couple of drinks will have an effect.

Why is mixing alcohol and prescription drugs a toxic mix? ›

Mixing drugs and alcohol is particularly dangerous. Alcohol increases the effects of many drugs. For example, prescription opioids, sedatives, and OTC cold medicines can slow breathing and heart rate. Taking these with alcohol can slow breathing so much that the person dies.

How long does sleeping pills stay in your system? ›

It can be detected in urine for 24-48 hours and in blood tests for 6-20 hours. Hair tests can detect it for up to 5 weeks. People who frequently use the medication, especially in doses that exceed recommended levels, may be at risk of developing physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.

What should you not take with sleeping pills? ›

Interactions with Other Medications: Extreme care should be taken when mixing sleeping pills with alcohol, opiates, antidepressants, or antihistamines. In particular, combining two or more drugs that depress the central nervous system can lead to slowed breathing and even death.

What alcohol helps you sleep best? ›

  • Rum.
  • Whiskey.
  • Vodka.
  • Gin.
  • Mocktails.
  • Tequila.
  • Mezcal.
  • View All.
Jun 22, 2017

What happens if you take 3 sleeping pills instead of 1? ›

If someone takes too much of a sedative-hypnotic drug like Ambien, Lunesta, or Sonata, it can depress the central nervous system to the point where breathing is difficult. The overdose may not be fatal, but it's best to get medical help just in case.

Is it OK to take 2 sleeping pills every night? ›

Sleeping pills are not meant to be taken every night. They are meant to be taken for short-term sleeping problems, such as jet lag. Long-term use is associated with risks such as diminished sleep quality, dependence, and more.

Are sleeping pills hard on your liver? ›

The majority of sleeping aids have not been linked to liver injury, either in the form of clinically apparent acute liver injury or in causing transient serum enzyme elevations.

Can you take Zzzquil with alcohol? ›

Zzzquil and alcohol can cause heavy sedation and drowsiness, impairing coordination and reaction time. Combining them can intensify these side effects leading to cognitive and mobility impairments.

Can you mix Benadryl and alcohol? ›

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is especially dangerous to combine with alcohol. That's because it can cause drowsiness, which can be worse with alcohol. It's best to avoid this combination.

Why can't I sleep after drinking? ›

Alcohol has both stimulant and sedative effects, which makes it difficult to fall (and stay) asleep for most people. Compared to naturalistic sleep, alcohol actually behaves like anesthesia and quite literally knocks you unconscious from wakefulness.

Can I take Ambien 5 hours after drinking? ›

The FDA warns against taking Ambien if you've consumed alcohol. Both drugs suppress the CNS, which controls breathing, heart rate, and brain function. Together the effects are intensified, which can be dangerous and can lead to serious physical problems, including: Dizziness.

Does Ambien affect the liver? ›

Thus, zolpidem has not been linked to cases of liver injury with jaundice, but rarely may cause transient, mild-to-moderate serum enzyme elevations with or without symptoms. Likelihood score: E (unlikely cause of clinically apparent liver injury).

How many nights in a row can I take Ambien? ›

Typically, Ambien should only be taken for two nights in a row; if the person does not fall asleep with Ambien in their body, then they will need a different approach to treat their insomnia or further medical examination for additional underlying causes.

What not to mix alcohol with? ›

  • Energy Drinks. Mixing caffeine with liquor may give you a lot of energy and lessen the effects of alcohol, but this will only make you continually drink more alcohol. ...
  • Marijuana. ...
  • Pain Relief Medication. ...
  • Painkillers. ...
  • Sleeping Pills. ...
  • Cocaine. ...
  • Hallucinogens. ...
  • Antidepressants.

What are 2 drugs that can cause synergism with alcohol? ›

Marijuana, Cocaine, Opioids, and Other Drugs

The most common illegal drugs that are mixed with alcohol are marijuana, cocaine, and opioids. Mixing two depressants (such as alcohol and heroin) greatly increases the effect of both intoxicants.

Which alcohol use disorder is most highly comorbid with? ›

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), three mental disorders most commonly comorbid with alcoholism are major depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. Less frequently co-diagnosed with alcoholism is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dependent personality disorder and conduct disorder.

Why do alcoholics sleep so much? ›

Alcohol may aid with sleep onset due to its sedative properties, allowing you to fall asleep more quickly. However, people who drink before bed often experience disruptions later in their sleep cycle as liver enzymes metabolize alcohol. This can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and other issues the following day.

Why do alcoholics sleep more? ›

It has been suggested that a primary causal mechanism of increased NREM sleep following acute alcohol consumption is the inhibition of wake-promoting neurons through activation of GABAA receptors.

What is a potentially fatal reaction to an alcohol overdose? ›

Alcohol poisoning is a severe and potentially fatal physical reaction to an alcohol overdose.

What are major drug interactions with alcohol? ›

Numerous classes of prescription medications can interact with alcohol, including antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, histamine H2 receptor antagonists, muscle relaxants, nonnarcotic pain medications and anti-inflammatory agents, opioids, and warfarin.

How bad is it to take Tylenol and drink? ›

It is not safe to mix acetaminophen and alcohol. Together they can irritate the stomach and, in severe cases, cause ulcers, internal bleeding, and liver damage. Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol or Tylenol, is a drug people use to treat mild-to-moderate pain and fever.

Is alcohol and acetaminophen toxic? ›

The liver can simultaneously metabolize the ingredients in Acetaminophen and alcohol; when the 2 are combined, however, they can cause liver damage (also known as hepatotoxicity) or even kidney damage. WebMD states that this combination “produces a 123% increased risk of kidney disease.”

What happens if we take 3 sleeping tablets? ›

Overdosing on sleep medications can lead to death. Physical signs of sleeping pill overdose are extreme lethargy, abdominal pain, breathing trouble and clumsiness. Overdosing on sleeping pills can occur when a person takes 60–90 times the intended dose.

What happens if you try to stay awake after taking sleeping pills? ›

Staying awake after taking a sleeping pill can cause dangerous side effects to surface, including hallucinations and lapses in memory. However, as with any medication, common side effects can be expected with regular use of Sonata. These include: Dizziness.

What happens if you take sleeping pills everyday? ›

Those who use sleeping pills over a long period of time are likely to experience intensified side effects. As they continue taking these pills over time, the substance builds up in their body and produces unwanted side effects. These effects may include high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and depression.

Can you mix sleeping pills and whiskey? ›

Sleep Medication

You should never mix medications that help you sleep with alcohol. Because alcohol depresses your central nervous system like sleep medications do, drinking alcohol while taking sleep medicine increases your risk of excessive sedation and potentially fatal slowing of breathing.

What is the safest sleep aid? ›

10 Natural Sleep Aids for Better Sleep in 2023
  • Melatonin.
  • Valerian root.
  • Magnesium.
  • Lavender.
  • Passionflower.
  • Glycine.
  • CBD.
  • Other supplements.

Is it better to not sleep or take sleeping pills? ›

Sleeping pills work best and are safest if you use them for a short time along with lifestyle changes. Research shows that lifestyle and behaviour changes are the best long-term choice to help you sleep well. Sleeping pills may have side effects, such as daytime drowsiness and nausea.

How long after drinking can you take sleeping pill? ›

If you absolutely must mix the two substances, an expert writing for Live Science suggests placing at least six hours between your last drink of alcohol and your first dose of sleeping pills.

Can you drink alcohol and take a sleeping pill? ›

In general, it is advised to never mix sedatives or hypnotics with alcohol. Combining sleeping pills with alcohol can increase the sedating effects of both, thus seriously increasing the risk of overdose. The side effects of mixing alcohol and sleeping pills include: Drowsiness.

What alcohol makes you the most sleepy? ›

But red wine is also most likely to make you feel lethargic. Red wine was voted the most likely type of alcohol to make a person tired or lethargic, with 60% of respondents reporting sleepiness after a few glasses.

How many pills is too much? ›

Taking more than five medications is called polypharmacy. The risk of harmful effects, drug interactions and hospitalizations increase when you take more medications.

What happens when you take 2 sleeping pills everyday? ›

When you take prescription sleeping pills over a long period of time, your body grows accustomed to the drug, and you need higher and higher doses to get the same sleep-inducing effect. But, if you take a high enough dose, this could lead to depressed breathing while you sleep, which can cause death.

What is the safest sleeping pill for the elderly? ›

In the elderly, should prescription medication be necessary, the first-line treatment is nonbenzodiazepines (e.g., zolpidem, eszopiclone, zaleplon, and ramelteon) as they have been found to be safer and better tolerated than tricyclic antidepressants, antihistamines, and benzodiazepines.

Why not take melatonin every night? ›

"By adding extra melatonin every night, you might throw off that delicate balance in the long run, and might experience the side effects of the body needing to re-balance, whenever you decide to stop using melatonin," says Dr. Raymann.

Which is better for sleep Advil PM or Tylenol PM? ›

Advil PM does not contain acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol PM, and it's been proven that Advil PM gives you a better night's sleep than Tylenol PM because you'll spend less time lying awake with annoying aches and pains and more time asleep.

What drug is most toxic to liver? ›

Acetaminophen. Taking acetaminophen in excess is the leading cause of drug-induced liver injury.

What damage can sleeping pills cause? ›

Approximately eight out of 10 people experience a hangover effect the day after taking sleep medicine. They feel drowsy, have muddled thinking and experience dizziness or balance problems. These daytime effects can negatively impact your ability to drive, work, go to school and complete daily tasks.

Can I take Ambien 6 hours after drinking? ›

The FDA warns against taking Ambien if you've consumed alcohol. Both drugs suppress the CNS, which controls breathing, heart rate, and brain function. Together the effects are intensified, which can be dangerous and can lead to serious physical problems, including: Dizziness.

Can I take a sleeping pill after one beer? ›

No. Drinking while taking any prescription or OTC sleep medication is a bad idea. Alcohol can worsen the side effects and the intended sleepiness of these medications. Drinking alcohol with any sleep aid can cause life-threatening sedation and raise your risk of an overdose.

Can I take Benadryl 2 hours after drinking? ›

How long after drinking can I take Benadryl? You should wait at least six hours before taking Benadryl after drinking. Healthcare providers prescribe Benadryl if a person is experiencing allergic symptoms. The drug is a helpful allergy medication.

Can I take I pill after drinking alcohol? ›

Usually, it won't change the effectiveness of the pill. The only time you would need to worry is if you drank so much alcohol that you vomited within two hours of taking your pill.

What not to mix with Ambien? ›

Combining Ambien with benzodiazepines, opioid painkillers, marijuana, alcohol or other addictive substances leaves individuals vulnerable to cognitive and psychological side effects such as the following: Memory loss.

How does zolpidem interact with alcohol? ›

The zolpidem and alcohol enhance the effects of one another, so that the Ambien tablets work faster so that the alcohol impairment is more profound. However, the alcohol also causes a psychiatric issues that can be alarming for many Ambien users.

What happens if you drink alcohol and then take Benadryl? ›

Because both alcohol and Benadryl depress your CNS, taking them together is dangerous because they can slow your central nervous system too much. This causes sedation and trouble doing physical and mental tasks that need you to be alert.

Is it okay to take Zzzquil after drinking? ›

Zzzquil and alcohol can cause heavy sedation and drowsiness, impairing coordination and reaction time. Combining them can intensify these side effects leading to cognitive and mobility impairments.

Can you drink alcohol with Benadryl nighttime? ›


Benadryl can cause side effects, including sedation and drowsiness, which impair coordination and reaction speed. Mixing Benadryl with alcohol can intensify these side effects and will impair a person's daily functioning.

How long does alcohol stay in your body? ›

In general, a blood test can measure alcohol in your body for up to 6 hours after your last drink, while breathalyser tests work for between 12 and 24 hours. Urine tests, such as the ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test, are also effective for around 12-24 hours after use.

How long after taking clonazepam can I drink alcohol? ›

Because Klonopin and alcohol are both central nervous system (CNS) depressants, they shouldn't be used together. If you are going to consume alcohol, you will need to wait at least five days after your last dose of Klonopin to avoid any interactions.

Can you drink alcohol after taking unwanted 72? ›

Alcohol. Alcohol is not known to cause any unpleasant side effects if taken along with Unwanted-72 Tablet 1's.


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