August 27, 2021

Can You Get Addicted to Sleeping Pills?

sleeping pill addiction | gratitude lodge

Most people start taking sleeping pills for legitimate reasons. Many people who struggle with insomnia or stress that negatively impacts their ability to rest are able to help correct their sleep patterns by using sleeping pills for a short period of time. Unfortunately, sometimes a person ends up addicted to sleeping pills and needs help getting off them.


While sleeping pills can be a useful tool for individuals struggling with insomnia or other sleep disorders, they can also pose a risk for addiction. 

Sleeping pills work by slowing down the central nervous system, which can lead to a feeling of relaxation and drowsiness. 

This can be appealing for individuals who experience chronic anxiety and stress, however over time the body can develop a tolerance to the sleeping pills. This ends up causing them to require higher and higher doses to get the same results as before. 

This issue can quickly lead to addiction and dependence, making it difficult for individuals to quit using sleeping pills on their own.


When a person experiences insomnia or other sleep disorders, they are often prescribed sleeping pills. Sleeping pills fall under the category of sedative-hypnotics and are meant to be taken short-term in order to help regulate a person’s sleeping patterns. They affect the part of the brain responsible for being able to relax, allowing a person to return to a more natural circadian rhythm, which is the 24-hour cycle that’s part of the body’s internal clock. 

The three most popular prescription sleeping pills are Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata. These and other sleep aid pills all contain the risk of someone developing an addiction to them. While they are meant to be taken short-term, some people end up using them long-term either because their sleep cycle has not corrected itself or because an addiction has developed. The pills should be taken orally, but abuse of them may result in someone crushing them into a powder so they can feel an increased effect from snorting them. 

When anxiety or other situation-specific events are going on in a person’s life that contribute to difficulty sleeping, talk therapy may be used to complement the effects of the sleeping pills. Patients who take anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications often receive more than just a benefit for their mood disorders. These types of meds can offer assistance in getting to sleep and staying asleep, helping address a problem common for those experiencing anxiety or depression. Similar to sleeping pills, someone who develops an addiction to other medications that initially help them achieve better sleep may have trouble recognizing when an addiction has developed. 


Whether used as directed or as part of an addiction, side effects from using sleeping pills can occur. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Tingling in hands, arms, feet, or legs
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Unusual dreams
  • Difficulty thinking or paying attention
  • Hallucinations
  • Diarrhea or nausea
  • Prolonged drowsiness
  • Allergic reaction
  • Sleep-related behaviors, like driving or eating while still half asleep
  • Changes in thinking and behavior, such as hallucinations, agitation, trouble recalling events, intrusive thoughts, and uncharacteristic behavior
  • Daytime memory and performance problems


Because addictive tendencies can vary from person to person, there’s no “one answer” to how fast it can take to become addicted to sleeping pills. Addiction is a complex process that is influenced by a number of factors including genetics, the type of sleeping pill used, dosage, duration of use, and biodiversity between individuals, and behavior. 

Some individuals may become addicted to sleeping pills after only a few uses, while others may use them quite frequently without becoming addicted. However, like with any substance use, using sleeping pills for an extended period of time (even when prescribed), increases any existing risk of dependence to them. 

The risk factor for addiction also varies by type. Some sleeping pills like Benzodiazepine can be highly addictive even when taken as prescribed. Benzos (common name) work by increasing the effect of GABA in the brain, which helps the body to relax and fall asleep. Over time however, the brain can become used to the extra GABA, and can begin to require higher doses to get the same effects. 

Other sleeping aids like Zolpidem or Eszopiclone have a much lower risk factor of addiction, however they can still become a concern especially when taken over a long period of time. 

To avoid an increased risk of addiction to sleeping pills, only use prescription sleeping pills as prescribed by your doctor and do not exceed the recommended dosage or length of use. If you feel concerned about becoming addicted to sleeping pills, it’s important that you consult with your doctor about what’s right for you.


It can be easy for a person who takes sleeping pills to find it difficult to understand when they have crossed the line into addiction. Often, an individual holds on to the idea that because a physician prescribed a medication, using it cannot become problematic. The problem can come in when they are using a higher dosage than they were prescribed or taking the pills more often than recommended. Some people with a prescription also seek other resources for sleeping pills or similar medications in order to keep up with their increasing need to sate the addiction. 

Even over-the-counter sleep aids can result in addiction. Similar to prescription meds, when someone becomes addicted to over-the-counter medications, they will take more than the recommended dosage and more often than directed. They may believe that because these drugs are over-the-counter, they do not come with any risks for addiction.

Symptoms of being addicted to sleeping pills can include: 

  • Taking more than the recommended dosage
  • Cravings for the pills when a person does not have them
  • An inability to sleep without them
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slurred speech
  • Trying to quit taking them but failing
  • Using pills to achieve a high
  • Combining pills with alcohol or other medications or drugs


Once a person has become addicted to sleeping pills, professional treatment becomes necessary. While there may be the temptation to go it alone when it comes to stopping the use of sleeping pills, doing so proves to be a risky endeavor for many. Withdrawal symptoms can range from bothersome to physically dangerous. Most medical professionals recommend a person who needs to end the abuse of drugs do so under trained supervision. Detox programs provide a short-term residential setting that gives a person the assistance they need. Detoxifying from sleeping pills may result in physical and emotional difficulties. Trying to cope with these alone at home can be dangerous or prove so frustrating that the person gives up. 

A detox program can offer needed medications to address physical withdrawal symptoms, as well as therapeutic assistance for the emotional difficulties many people experience while detoxing. After detox, a plan can be put in place that allows a seamless transition into inpatient or outpatient care that helps the individual stay in recovery and handle the challenges that come with it. Trained professionals who understand sleep disturbances can also help teach their patients how to use natural remedies to achieve the sleep they need. 


Taking the first step towards recovery from addiction can be one of the most challenging decisions anyone can make. It requires courage, strength, and a willingness to seek help. 

At Gratitude Lodge, we understand this and provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals seeking recovery. We know that addiction can impact every aspect of a person’s life, from relationships to work and personal goals. That’s why we offer a range of programs designed to provide comprehensive care and support.

Our detox program is staffed with experienced medical professionals who provide around-the-clock supervision and care to help individuals safely withdraw from drugs or alcohol. Our outpatient and inpatient programs offer evidence-based therapies, including individual and group counseling, behavioral therapies, and more, to help individuals build the skills and resilience needed to maintain recovery.

At Gratitude Lodge, we believe that everyone deserves access to high-quality addiction treatment and support. We are dedicated to providing compassionate care that helps individuals achieve lasting recovery and live the life they deserve. 
If you are ready to take the first step towards recovery from addiction, contact us today. Our team is here to help you every step of the way!

Addicted to sleeping pills FAQs

Yes, sleeping pills can be addictive if not used as prescribed or if used for an extended period. They can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. It’s essential to follow a doctor’s instructions and use them only as a short-term solution for sleep issues.

Yes, it is possible to become dependent on sleeping pills if they are used for an extended period or not taken as prescribed. Prolonged use may lead to physical and psychological dependence, making it challenging to sleep without them. To avoid dependency, it’s essential to use sleeping pills under the guidance of a healthcare professional and explore other non-pharmacological approaches for improving sleep.

To overcome sleeping pill addiction, it’s crucial to seek professional medical assistance and guidance. Gradual tapering of the medication under the supervision of a healthcare provider can help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, incorporating non-pharmacological sleep strategies, such as establishing a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and practicing relaxation techniques, can aid in promoting healthier sleep patterns.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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