Mixing sleeping pills and alcohol can result in the heightened effects of both substances. Sleeping pills are sedative substances that typically suppress activity in the central nervous system, and alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Taking two drugs that affect the body in similar ways can compound their negative effects and lead to dangerous health issues.

Common Sleeping Pills Mixed With Alcohol

Some of the most common prescription sleeping medications include:

  • Ambien (zolpidem)
  • Dalmane (flurazepam)
  • Lunesta (eszopiclone)
  • Prosom (estazolam)
  • Restoril (temazepam)
  • Sonata (zaleplon)
  • Rozerem (ramelteon)
  • Belsomra (suvorexant)
  • Halcion (triazolam)
  • Silenor (doxepin)
  • Desyrel (trazodone)

While these prescription medications all aid with sleep, other sleep aids may be purchased over the counter. The most common over-the-counter sleep aids include melatonin and medications containing diphenhydramine, which is the active ingredient in Benadryl.

How these medications work are all somewhat different, but almost all of these medications in some way decrease a person’s level of consciousness and can cause serious side effects when mixed with alcohol.

Side Effects of Mixing Sleeping Pills With Alcohol

The side effects of mixing alcohol and sleeping pills are due to each substance increasing the effects of the other.

Common side effects of mixing sleeping pills and alcohol include:

  • Suppression of the nervous system
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Increased risk of sleeping pill addiction
  • Increased risk of alcohol use disorder
  • Interactions while sleeping, such as sleepwalking, sleep-eating or sleep-driving
  • Impaired memory
  • Worsened quality of sleep
  • Risk of death

Frequently, the effects of mixing these substances are related to a suppression of the normal function of the body, especially the nervous system, including the parts of the brain that affect breathing, cognition, and alertness.

Risk of Overdose

The risk of a sleeping pill and alcohol overdose is very real. Studies show that many common sleeping pills can be deadly when mixed with alcohol, especially if too much is used of either substance.

Death can occur when the combination suppresses the level of breathing beyond what is safe, or if this combination affects the heart. While it is common to think of a sleeping pill and alcohol death being related to changes in the heartbeat or breathing, death may also be more likely due to the combined impairment of alertness, judgment, and coordination. This impairment makes seemingly simple activities like swimming, driving or crossing the road potentially deadly.

Sleep Interactions

Mixing sleeping pills and alcohol can also lead to sleepwalking and impaired memory. There are several documented cases of people sleepwalking, sleep-eating and even sleep-driving on the popular sleeping medication Ambien.

These episodes may not always be remembered afterward. When alcohol is mixed with a medication like Ambien, these effects are worse. These episodes could result in injury or, in some situations, like sleep-driving, may lead to arrest or other unintended legal consequences.

Decreased Sleep Quality

Finally, mixing sleeping medications and alcohol does not improve sleep. While this combination may make a person feel more tired and fall asleep more quickly, the rest that they will get will be of poor quality. The changes in the chemicals in the brain that occur with alcohol use, especially when combined with sleeping pills, will decrease the sleep-related brain waves and cause the person to feel unrested when they wake up.

Key Points: Sleeping Pills and Alcohol

Mixing alcohol and sleeping pills can create several dangerous and potentially deadly side effects. These include:

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

The combination of these two substances can lead to several negative outcomes and should be avoided. People who are likely to mix these substances include those who use alcohol frequently and struggle with insomnia or those who have an addiction to sleeping medication.

If you or a loved one find yourself struggling with habitual use of alcohol or sleeping medication, know that recovery is possible. The Recovery Village has caring professionals who can guide you through treatment options and help achieve recovery. Contact one of our compassionate staff members today to start your recovery.

Other Questions About Mixing Alcohol with Medications

  • What Happens When You Mix Alcohol with Dayquil?

    In general, do not drink alcohol during a cold or flu. Alcohol dehydrates the body and weakens the immune system. Additionally, alcohol should not be mixed with Dayquil because:

    • Alcohol interacts with both acetaminophen and dextromethorphan
    • Different doses of Dayquil interact negatively with alcohol
    • In high quantities, alcohol, and acetaminophen directly damage the liver
    • Using both substances together can increase a person’s risk of overdose

  • Can You Drink Alcohol While on Seroquel (Quetiapine)?

    While it is recommended that people who use Seroquel not drink alcohol, the effects of using alcohol while taking Seroquel are considered minor. However, while the effects may be minor, both of these substances will increase the effects of the other, making smaller amounts of each substance more potent when used together. Here are several important points to keep in mind about alcohol and Seroquel use are:

    • Consult with a doctor before using Seroquel and alcohol simultaneously
    • Alcohol and Seroquel increase each other’s effects and will worsen each other’s side effects
    • If you do use both alcohol and Seroquel together, start with small amounts of alcohol until you know the effects you will experience
    • While there is no absolute rule against using Seroquel and alcohol together, it is rarely recommended

  • Is It Okay to Drink While on Accutane?

    In general, the answer is no, alcohol and Accutane are probably not a safe combination, particularly if you drink large amounts. Accutane can have side effects related to the liver and liver toxicity in rare cases, and if you combine alcohol and Accutane, you could increase the chances of these dangerous side effects. Also, combining alcohol and Accutane can alter lipid levels in your blood, which can also be problematic. Some doctors may say that alcohol and Accutane are okay together if you drink very moderately, but when your doctor looks at your medical history, they may say alcohol and Accutane should definitely not be combined. It will really be based on your medical history, including any relevant information from blood tests as well as the health of your liver.

  • What Happens When You Mix Flagyl (Metronidazole) and Alcohol?

    While some antibiotics are safe to take while drinking a moderate amount of alcohol, unfortunately, Flagyl is not one of them. Mixing alcohol and Flagyl can cause and worsen side effects. The body relies on specific enzymes to break down alcohol into substances that can be eliminated. Several by-products are created through this complex process. One of the byproducts is a toxic substance called acetaldehyde. Flagyl can prevent the functioning of enzymes that are responsible for breaking down acetaldehyde.

    When this interaction happens, acetaldehyde can build up in the body, leading to many side effects, including: abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache and flushing. These effects usually occur five to 15 minutes after consuming alcohol.

    Flagyl can increase a person’s sensitivity to alcohol. Even having a small amount of alcohol while on Flagyl can make some people very sick, and they experience not only nausea and vomiting but also the feeling of shortness of breath. Some other side effects of mixing alcohol and Flagyl may include: changes in blood pressure, liver damage, rapid heart rate, stomach pain and hot flashes.

  • Can You Drink Alcohol with Sudafed?

    Mixing alcohol and Sudafed can cause the symptoms of either to become more obvious, and it can also alter your thinking and perception. Something else to think about if you’re considering mixing alcohol and Sudafed is the fact that alcohol can reduce the work of your immune system. If you’re taking Sudafed because you’re sick, it can take your body longer to heal itself and fight the infection.

  • Can You Drink Alcohol After Taking Tylenol?

    To put it simply, if you’re asking “can you mix alcohol and Tylenol,” the answer is no. The standard guideline is that if you’re taking acetaminophen, you have no more than three drinks in a day, but many physicians and pharmacists will recommend avoiding alcohol altogether. This is because the risks are so high, and not everyone is going to understand what is meant by moderate drinking, or even three drinks in a day. Continue reading to learn more about the risks of mixing alcohol with Tylenol.

  • Can You Drink Alcohol While on Naproxen?

    It is not recommended to drink alcohol while on naproxen. Naproxen is in a class of pain relievers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include ibuprofen and aspirin. One of the most dangerous side effects of NSAIDs like naproxen is that they can increase bleeding risk. Doctors aren’t quite sure how they increase bleeding risk, but it is a side effect that has shown up in multiple large studies. Alcohol can also increase bleeding risk, especially among people who have struggled with alcohol use for a long time. Continue reading to learn more about the risks involved with mixing Naproxen and alcohol.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.