Tag Archives: sleep

Sleeping Pill Overdose

When people think about overdosing, sleeping pills are usually on the bottom of the list of drugs that can cause an overdose. Many individuals seem to think that sleeping pills improve the quality of sleep and therefore it has to be ok or at the very least, harmless to the body. Realistically, how much damage could come from sleeping? Unfortunately, the dangers of sleeping pills is commonly underestimated and can cause your sleep to worsen, and potentially result in permanent damage or even death. 

Sleep 101

Sleep feels amazing. There is no doubt about that. However, many people struggle with falling asleep and staying asleep. According to the Sleep Research Society (SRS), the US economy loses $63 billion each year due to loss in productivity related to insomnia. Further, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nearly 35% of Americans do not get the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night. The causes of insomnia and other sleep issues are very complex. In some cases, there are reports of family history, depression, increasing work hours and even obesity as a cause for insomnia. Other issues such as the blue light emitted from our devices can contribute to sleep disorders. 

sleeping pill overdose

Millions of Americans use sleeping pills to help achieve better sleep and there are many options to pick from. For example, Benzodiazepine (benzos) sedatives are powerful prescription medications which sedate the body. Benzos are a less popular option due to the high potential for developing a dependence to the drug. Other popular options include Ambien, a sedative which falls under the hypnotic class of drugs, or Melatonin, a very common OTC sleep aid.

sleeping pill overdose

Can You Overdose on Sleeping Pills?

The short answer to “can you overdose on sleeping pills’ is yes. It is indeed possible to suffer a potentially fatal overdose on drugs such as Ambien. However, it is quite rare. Instead, most people will find that taking large doses or mixing sleeping aids with other drugs will produce a very bad experience, or in severe cases, permanent damage to the body. Sleeping pills in the past were more dangerous than they are now (such as Halcion) and saw high use among suicidal people as the idea of slowly falling asleep and never waking up sounded more pleasant.

Newer sleeping pills and sedatives have a design meant to help reduce the possibility of an overdose. For example, Ambien is typically prescribed in 10mg doses. Anything above 600mg can put you into overdose territory and cause permanent damage to your body. 2000mg is reported to be the fatal dose of Ambien- 200x the recommended dose.

Side Effects of Sleeping Pills

While all sleeping pills help induce some form of lethargy and sedation, different types of sedatives can have different side effects. 

For example, some side effects of pills such as Ambien, Rozerem, and Halcion include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Heartburn
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Stomach pain

In some severe cases, people may experience parasomnias. Parasomnias are involuntary actions during sleep which you are not aware of or have control of. Some parasomnia behaviors include sleepwalking, sleep eating, making phone calls or even sleep driving. It is difficult to predict if you will experience parasomnia until you try taking sleeping aids. 

sleeping pill overdose

What Does a Sleeping Pill Overdose Look Like?

A sleeping pill overdose may be hard to identify at first. Most pills help people sleep by sedating the individuals central nervous system and slowing brain activity until they fall asleep. The danger of taking too much is that the drug will suppress the body too much and critical organs such as your lungs, slowly cease to work. This can be worsened when sleeping pills are combined with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants.

Some indicators of a sleeping pill overdose are:

  • Extreme lethargy- By design, these medications will make you feel tired and very lethargic. However, there is a noticable difference between just sleepy and unable to function properly. In the latter case, it may be smart to contact emergency services just in case. 
  • Breathing problems- As mentioned, sedatives slow critical bodily function. However, a healthy dose will not make it uncomfortable and should be barely noticeable. If bodily functions begin to slow too much, this may be a sign of an overdose. Paying attention to breathing patterns is usually a good indicator of whether or not someone is experiencing an overdose.

Unfortunately, sleeping pill overdoses may even go unnoticed by the victim as they are fast asleep and too sedated to do anything about it. It may take the help of a bystander to get someone the help they need.

sleeping pill overdose

Sleeping Pills and Alcohol

While it is unlikely that someone will overdose on just sleeping pills, the mixing of any two central nervous system depressants can greatly increase the risk of an overdose. CNS depressants slow critical body function like breathing and brain function. Mixing ambien and alcohol for example can overpower the body causing the cessation of breathing and dangerously low brain and heart function. The mixing of two drugs is also known as polysubstance abuse and brings about its own deadly set of consequences.

Sleeping pills are not the only option when seeking better quality sleep. Usually, people struggle with getting sleep because of environmental and behavioral habits. Some ways to manage your sleep are:

  • Reducing stress or finding ways to manage it by picking up hobbies such as yoga
  • Better time management
  • Avoiding stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine in the evenings
  • Drinking more water
  • Avoiding daytime naps
  • Eating healthy food
sleeping pill overdose

The Bottom Line

Sleeping pills can be helpful for those who suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders. However, everything comes in moderation and taking more of a sleeping aid does not mean you will enjoy a better night’s sleep. In fact, taking too much of an aid like melatonin, can cause more sleep problems and make you feel less rested and more tired the next day. It is always recommended that you moderate your use to the prescribed amount and always seek professional opinion before taking any sleep supplements.

If you or a loved one you know is suffering from dependence to sleeping pills, please contact us today so we can help you on your path to recovery.

Melatonin and Alcohol

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in humans. However, it is increasing in popularity as a supplement as a sleeping aid. When taken in its correct dose, melatonin is very effective. But what if you have been drinking and want to take melatonin? What are the risks? These are important questions to consider when taking any drug or combining drugs. Melatonin and alcohol are both common substances. While the combination is not deadly, there are potential risks to consider. It is important to consider this with any substances.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycles our bodies naturally develop. Melatonin releases during the night or evening as the light around us decreases. Long before the abundance of technology, there was no exposure to artificial light such as that produced by our cellphones and laptops. Historically, the setting sunlight and onset darkness were the only things to help the release of melatonin. Light stimulates the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) which resides in the hypothalamus part of the brain. With light exosure, the SCN sends signals to the brain to release certain hormones such as cortisol, increase body temperature and prevent the release of melatonin. However, without light, the SCN essentially allows for the release of melatonin. 

Most of us know the news reports and medical journals advising us to avoid cell phone use before bed. It is because that artificial ‘blue’ light keeps the SCN active. This is preventing the release of melatonin and making sleep more difficult to achieve. Melatonin is also a very powerful antioxidant and is known to regulate fat cells in the body.

melatonin and alcohol

Melatonin is an over-the-counter drug found in most vitamin aisles in stores. There is no need for a prescription. It is usually sold in its pill form, although liquid melatonin is available.

Melatonin Abuse and Addiction

Most people use melatonin to help them fall asleep and there are no well known cases of melatonin abuse. Some individuals experience a decrease in natural melatonin production as they get older. Thus, they take melatonin pills to supplement what their body is already producing. In addition, the supplement is seen as a helpful aid in dealing with jet lag. Generally, melatonin supplements are considered to be safe for short and long term use. Currently, there is little risk of developing an addiction.

melatonin and alcohol

There are no well documented cases of melatonin abuse or addiction. There is no risk of developing a dangerous tolerance as there is with other substances. Subsequently, if you take the same dose everyday you feel essentially the same effects. Although, some feel it is less effective after long-term use. Still, anyone with a family history of addiction, or for themselves, should discuss with a doctor.

How Much Melatonin is Too Much?

While melatonin is a naturally occurring chemical, it is important to take the correct amount. Too little is not enough to help you fall asleep. Further, with too much there are potentially negative effects. It is also possible too much interferes with your sleep cycle. Melatonin does not work the same for everyone. If you are looking for ways to sleep, consider speaking with a medical professional to find solutions.

melatonin and alcohol

Can You Overdose on Melatonin?

While it is important find balance with anything, there are no known cases of melatonin overdose. It is possible that taking too much causes unwanted side-effects such as extreme drowsiness and can cause very vivid dreams. In some cases, taking excessive dosages have been reported to little effect and rather made it more difficult to fall asleep.

Other effects of melatonin include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Irritability
  • Low-blood Pressure
  • Tiredness the following day

Mixing Melatonin and Alcohol

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It has sedative effects on the body after just a few drinks. Even though alcohol seems to do essentially the same job as melatonin, mixing the two substances is never recommended. For some, alcohol helps with sleeping. However, it also promotes the release of stress hormones in the body that causes restlessness during sleep. Also, some studies show that alcohol inhibits the natural release of melatonin in the body. It potentially therefore interferes with any supplementation of the hormone. If you need to take melatonin, it is recommended that you wait around 2-3 hours after your last drink to consume melatonin. It is best not to combine another sedative with alcohol, a substance with potentially deadly sedative effects.

The Bottom Line

Melatonin is a rather harmless but useful supplement. Many people rely on it to have a good night’s rest. Some also rely on alcohol to achieve the same effects. Some refer to this as a ‘nightcap’. However, they frequently find that their sleep is more restless. Mixing the two substances is not likely to have deadly consequences as seen when mixing other drugs with alcohol. However, there are still potential negative side effects. Both are sedatives which is where some of the danger is.

Generally, mixing various substance with alcohol is a bad idea. Alcohol is the most abused drug in the world. Yet, the common usage makes it difficult to recognize when it is abuse or addiction. Few also recognize the dangers of alcohol. Further, its interactions with other drugs are potentially deadly. It is always best to discuss interactions of any substances with a medical professional if possible. Someone dealing with alcohol abuse or addiction is at risk. They likely do not realize the danger though of mixing something like melatonin with alcohol. If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol abuse, please contact us today.

Resources:

Suprachiasmatic nucleus and melatonin – Neurology
Blue light has a dark side – Harvard Health Publishing
Significance and application of melatonin – NIH
Alcohol and Fatigue – Harvard Health Publishing
Alcohol and Sleep: What you need to know – Psychology Today