A health survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4% of adults reported over-using prescription sleep aids in the last 30 days. Because there are so many types of sleeping pills, the advice is never to mix prescribed, over the counter, or natural sleep aids, such as melatonin or Benadryl medications with alcohol.
Sleep medications when used as prescribed can be helpful for short-term use; but when overused or combined with drugs/alcohol, serious side effects, physical dependence, or overdose can occur.
The side effects of mixing alcohol and sleeping pills may include any of the following:
Drowsiness, dizziness, memory problems, confusion/disorientation, unusual behavior, impaired motor control, slowed heart rate, lowered blood pressure, slowed or difficulty breathing, increased risk of overdose, and death.
Link between Alcohol Use and Sleep Issues
According to the American Sleep Association, 50-70 million Americans have a sleep disorder, with 30% experiencing symptoms of insomnia, 10% having chronic insomnia. Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between alcohol abuse and sleep issues. Both sleeping pills and alcohol are depressants, with the belief combining both should promote even better sleep. But mixing sleep medications and alcohol will result in inadequate quality of sleep. The combination of both substances may make a person tired, allowing them to fall asleep quickly, but because of the reduction of brain wave activity, when waking you will feel extremely tired, and not refreshed.
Addiction to Alcohol and/or Sleep Medications
Mixing alcohol and sleep medications may lead to a substance use disorder for alcohol, sleep medications, or both. Many have heard from their doctor that they cannot become addicted to sleeping pills, yet some might find it impossible to fall asleep without the help of a sleeping pill. As tolerance increases, the need to increase the dosage occurs to obtain the desired effect.
If you are struggling with sleeping pills, alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both, please call the Flight Attendant Drug and Alcohol Program helpline at 855-33FADAP or 855-333-2327 and you will connect to a FADAP peer with your airline to have a confidential discussion.