Sleeping Pills Addiction

Sleeping pills are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the world, and they can make a difference in the lives of those struggling with sleep disorders. However, while these medications can be effective in the short term and when taken as prescribed, their misuse can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. Sleeping pills addiction can dismantle your life piece by piece, so recognising symptoms as early as possible is important for avoiding the worst consequences.

If you are already addicted to sleeping pills, help is available through Sanctuary Lodge with our expert addiction teams, helping countless people achieve recovery.

What are sleeping pills?

Sleeping pills, also known as sedatives or hypnotics, are a broad range of medications used to assist people in falling asleep or staying asleep. Common sleeping pills include:

These include medications such as temazepam and lorazepam, which are generally prescribed for short-term relief of severe insomnia due to their potential for dependence.
Non-benzodiazepine hypnotics
Zolpidem, zopiclone, and zaleplon are widely known for their capacity to aid sleep with reduced side effects and a lower likelihood of dependency, though the potential for dependency remains.
Over-the-counter sleep aids
These are medicated, which typically contain antihistamines and are widely used but recommended only for short-term use.

Each class of sleeping pills works slightly differently, but all generally affect neurotransmitters in the brain to promote drowsiness and improve sleep quality.

Definition of sleeping pill addiction

Sleeping pills addiction is a type of prescription drug addiction where you start compulsively using sleeping pills even though they are negatively affecting you. This can mean problems with your health, issues with your career or education, harm to your relationships or any other adverse effects.

Sleeping pill addiction usually develops after prolonged, excessive use. This may begin with genuine prescription use or through the use of sleeping pills to self-medicate or to get high recreationally. Whichever the initial route, using sleeping pills regularly and in large doses can lead to physical and psychological dependency – the two key pillars of sleeping pill addiction.

Physical dependency means your body gets used to having sleeping pills in your system and reacts badly if you suddenly stop. This leads to various withdrawal symptoms as your systems go out of balance.

Psychological dependency means you believe you cannot sleep without the medication or need it to deal with daily life.

Telltale sleeping pills addiction symptoms to look out for include:

  • Using sleeping pills more often or in larger doses than you intended or were prescribed
  • Experiencing sleeping pill cravings or withdrawal symptoms when you haven’t taken the medication
  • Having trouble at work, school or with your friends or family because of your sleeping pill use
  • Being preoccupied or even obsessed with acquiring and using sleeping pills
  • Continuing to take the drugs even though you recognise these sleeping pills addiction symptoms

Common forms of sleeping pills addiction

You can develop an addiction to over-the-counter sleeping pills, benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, including:

Zaleplon button

Zaleplon addiction

Zaleplon addiction usually arises when someone repeatedly uses the drug to manage sleep difficulties but becomes reliant on it both to sleep and to cope with stress or other challenges in life.

Zaleplon addiction →

Zolpidem button

Zolpidem addiction

Zolpidem, often known by the brand name Ambien, is prone to both prescription misuse and sleeping pills abuse due to its potent sedative effects. Both can quickly lead to an all-encompassing addiction.

Zolpidem addiction →

Zopiclone button

Zopiclone addiction

Zopiclone addiction may occur as users start taking zopiclone not just for sleep but during the daytime too. This can lead to the need for increased dosages to experience its effects and a resulting compulsive use.

Zopiclone addiction →

Who is most at risk of sleeping pills addiction?

Many forms of sleeping pills have inherent chemical makeups that can lead to physical dependency, particularly if they are misused. However, there are a number of important factors which can greatly increase your risk of developing an addiction to sleeping pills, including:

  • Family history of substance abuse or addiction
  • Being able to acquire sleeping pills easily
  • Having a lot of stress that you use sleeping pills to cope with
  • Suffering from underlying trauma or mental health issues and using sleeping pills to self-medicate
  • Engaging in recreational sleeping pill abuse

Understanding these risk factors can help both sleeping pill users and their healthcare providers take appropriate and effective safety measures.

Sleeping pills addiction side effects and dangers

When taking sleeping pills, it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers that can occur if you become addicted. These can help dispel the myth that prescription or over-the-counter medications are somehow less dangerous than illicit drugs. Some of the most serious sleeping pill addiction side effects include:

  • Dizziness: This can make it tricky to handle tasks that require coordination and focus, such as driving.
  • Mood swings: You might experience unexpected changes in your mood, feeling more anxious or depressed for no reason.
  • Chronic fatigue: Although intended to aid sleep, over-reliance on sleeping pills can greatly disrupt your sleep, leading to poor-quality sleep, chronic daytime fatigue and associated dangers.
  • Respiratory issues: Especially in the elderly or those with existing respiratory problems, sleeping pills can exacerbate breathing issues during sleep, such as sleep apnea.
  • Heart rate variability: Some sleeping pills can alter heart rhythms, potentially leading to serious cardiovascular issues.
  • Memory lapses and hallucinations: Some people may experience short-term memory lapses or confusion, and in rare instances, complex behaviours like sleep-driving or hallucinations, which can be dangerous.
  • Exacerbation of mental health problems: Using sleeping pills for an extended period may worsen existing mental health issues or contribute to the development of new symptoms, such as depression or anxiety.
  • Rebound insomnia: Over time, your body can become so used to sleeping pills that they lose effectiveness. When you try to quit, you may find that your insomnia comes back even worse than before, a phenomenon known as rebound insomnia.
  • Risk of overdose: There is always a risk of overdose with sleeping pills, especially if they are taken in larger amounts than prescribed or combined with other substances like alcohol. Sleeping pills overdose can be fatal, which is just one of the reasons why strict adherence to prescribed doses is so important.

Understanding these risks associated with sleeping pill abuse and addiction is crucial. If you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself or someone you know, it may be time to seek professional help.

What does sleeping pills addiction treatment involve?

Sleeping pills addiction treatment requires a multi-stage process that usually involves:

  • Prescription drug detox: Detox is the first step in treating sleeping pill addiction, helping you break physical dependency and withdraw safely from the drug under medical supervision.
  • Prescription drug rehab: This involves a range of therapies to dive into the causes of your addiction so you can address underlying issues and change your behaviours.
  • Relapse prevention: Relapse is a serious risk without the proper planning and strategies in place including aftercare, lifestyle changes and attending support groups like Narcotics Anonymous.

Finding a treatment plan that includes all of the phases and addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction is key to a successful and lasting recovery.

Get help for sleeping pills addiction today

Dealing with an addiction to sleeping pills can feel overwhelming, but help is available. Our team at Sanctuary Lodge is dedicated to helping you every step of the way, offering the tools and support you need for meaningful progress. Reach out today and take the crucial first step towards reclaiming your life from sleeping pill addiction.


What are the most addictive sleeping pills?
The most addictive sleeping pills typically include those classified as benzodiazepines – such as temazepam, lorazepam and diazepam – which are often prescribed for both sleep and anxiety. Non-benzodiazepine hypnotics like zolpidem, zaleplon and zopiclone, while generally considered to have a lower risk of dependency, can also become highly addictive, especially when used beyond the recommended duration or dosage.
Is it okay to take sleeping pills every night?
Taking sleeping pills every night is generally not recommended unless specifically advised by a healthcare provider as part of a closely monitored treatment plan. Long-term use of sleeping pills can lead to tolerance, dependence and a variety of other health issues, so most are prescribed for short-term use to avoid these risks. If you find yourself needing sleeping pills regularly, you should seek professional help for the underlying causes of your sleep disturbances and explore safer, more sustainable treatment options.

(Click here to see works cited)

  • NCBI. “Using medication: What can help when trying to stop taking sleeping pills and sedatives?” NCBI, 20 April 2010, Accessed 23 April 2024.
  • Stalos, Steffini. “Sleeping Pill Addiction and Symptoms.” Health, 14 July 2022, Accessed 23 April 2024.
  • UK-Rehab. “Benzodiazepine Addiction | UK Rehab.” UK-Rehab, Accessed 23 April 2024.
  • UK-Rehab. “How to Tell If You Have Become Addicted to Sleeping Pills.” UK-Rehab, Accessed 23 April 2024.
  • Brett, Jonathan, and Bridin Murnion. “Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence.” Australian prescriber vol. 38,5 (2015): 152-5. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2015.055
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