Sleeping pills are everywhere. They are available over the counter from drug stores, and more powerful sleep medications can be obtained with a doctor's prescription. While they can be very beneficial to those who suffer from insomnia, they can also be addictive or cause other problems.

Perhaps even more common is alcohol, which is a major menace to public health. It's hard to find a single restaurant, celebration, or household pantry that is totally devoid of alcohol. However, this drug is addictive, is implicated in many violent incidents, and can kill at a high enough dose.

When taken in moderation, each of these is safe, in general. However, when abused or used in tandem, they can start to cause trouble. Continue reading to learn more about the risks that come when these two depressant drugs are mixed.

What Are Sleeping Pills?

Sleeping pills are a type of medication that is available in varying strengths and dosages. Their primary purpose is to help people get to sleep. They can be a great help to those who suffer from insomnia on a chronic or periodic basis. Sleep aids can also be helpful for those times when people may wish to get to sleep earlier than usual, or in circumstances where they find resting difficult, as in a long plane trip.

For many, over-the-counter sleeping pills are sufficient for a good night's rest. Others may use supplements such as Melatonin or Valerian root, which can come in a tea form. However, there are many others who suffer from seemingly incurable insomnia. For these cases, they often consult a doctor and receive a more powerful, prescription sleep aid. It should be noted that even the lower-dose over-the-counter medicines are not without detrimental side effects and can cause negative effects when used in conjunction with other drugs, including alcohol.

Common Side Effects of Sleeping Pills

Though they are ubiquitous in our society, sleeping pills are far from benign. In fact, they can have serious side effects of which users should be aware prior to taking a dose or accepting a prescription. These side effects are often mild but they can become quite serious, depending on the medication. Some users even become addicted to them and begin to have trouble sleeping without their nightly pill.

Common side effects of sleeping pills include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Allergic reactions
  • Drowsiness that lasts past the desired sleep time
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Memory problems and other cognitive dysfunctions

It's been well documented that certain sleep aids, such as Ambien, can have truly alarming side effects. Ambien users sometimes experience dramatic memory loss and have been known to undertake dangerous activities while under the influence of the drug and still completely asleep. Some users have been known to drive, take long walks, hallucinate, and become irritable. Users can even have full conversations with loved ones yet have no memory of the event later on.

Interactions of Alcohol and Sleeping Pills

Whenever users consider taking two drugs at once, it's advised to first consult with a doctor or other medical professional. Since many use alcohol as a sleep aid, it may be doubly important to find out what sorts of interactions occur when they introduce an over-the-counter or prescribed sleep aid to their nightly glass of wine or whiskey. That is because both depress the central nervous system.

Interactions include, but are not limited to:

  • Drowsiness far beyond the norm
  • Disorientation
  • Memory problems
  • Slow reaction times
  • Low blood pressure
  • Bizarre speech or other odd behaviors

Keep in mind that there are many different types of sleeping pills. Though it is rare these days, doctors still may still prescribe barbiturates or benzodiazepines to assist with sleep. These drugs have very strong interactions with alcohol and include all of the list above.

Users should also be aware that even seemingly benign herbal supplements can have negative interactions with alcohol. Though chamomile and Valerian may be found in herbal teas, they do have a sedating effect on the central nervous system. Thus, it is not recommended to follow an alcoholic nightcap with a cup of chamomile or Valerian tea.

Alcohol Poisoning and Sleeping Pill Overdose

Addiction is often triggered by mixing two or more drugs. When users mix two drugs with similar effect, the risk grows all the greater. This is because, when alcohol interacts with other drugs with similar effect, it tends to enhance those effects. Alcohol and most sleeping aids work to depress the central nervous system. In fact, many alcoholics begin to abuse their drug of choice when they experience insomnia.

As use of alcohol and sleeping pills increases, so does the risk of addiction. Addiction, in turn, heightens the risk of overdose. Most occurrences of overdose are accidents. An ambien user may rise in the middle of the night and drink an excessive amount of alcohol with no knowledge of what they’re doing, or a drunk and blacked-out person may unwittingly take too many sleeping pills because they forget taking the first one.

Overdose of alcohol or sleeping pills includes symptoms such as:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Memory loss (blackout)
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of proper judgment
  • Bizarre behavior or speech
  • Seizure
  • Bluish hue to the skin
  • Vomiting
  • Tremor
  • Coma
  • Death


Once addiction has set in and the user begins to exhibit the symptoms of that malady, it's vital to explore detoxification. With detox comes a difficult period of withdrawal. Alcoholic withdrawal in itself is very dangerous and can lead to death. Drinkers will experience tremors, shakes, hallucinations, and high anxiety when they stop drinking. The anxiety can reach such a level that it induces cardiac arrest.

Withdrawal from sleeping pills is also accompanied by negative side effects when addicts undergo detox.

Patients frequently exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Elevated heartrate / high blood pressure
  • Seizure
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

When it's time to undergo detoxification, users should discuss this with a healthcare professional. Medical detoxification is always the safest route and the clinics then find patients a suitable treatment facility where they can make lasting changes.

Treatment for Sleeping Pills Addiction

After an overdose and/or detoxification, people who have become addicted to sleeping pills or alcohol should pursue treatment for the state of mind which induced them to look for medication to combat the symptoms in the first place. It's recommended that all addicts pursue detoxification in the presence of medical professionals, especially when alcohol is involved. Withdrawal from two drugs at once, in this instance sleeping pills and alcohol, tends to raise anxiety and blood pressure to dangerous levels. It's not unheard of for withdrawal to result in heart attack or death. Further, if seizures ensue, there could be secondary problems such as slips and falls, swallowing one's tongue, and more.

The detoxification clinic will have plenty of resources to help addicts continue their treatment. Many clinics are even attached to rehabilitation centers and patients can visit 12 step meetings on the premises. This will not only provide a welcome break from one's hospital bed but will serve as a helpful introduction to recovery and sobriety.

Detox clinics will often have brochures and contact information for local rehabilitation facilities. Once checked in, patients can begin working on the causes and conditions of their addiction. They will then learn more about sobriety, relapse, and how to pursue their best life, free from addiction.