Xanax for Sleep: Is it Safe? (2023)

Anxiety and insomnia are among the most common disorders in the country, affecting between 40 and 50 million Americans. Many people will find themselves struggling with an anxiety attack and a sleep disorder, at the same time, and are kept awake all night.

With this in mind, the idea of using one medication to treat both problems does not seem all that far-fetched. Xanax, the brand name of the drug alprazolam, was first released onto the pharmaceutical market in 1981 to treat symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders. It remains one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States.

Xanax can help people with anxiety disorders function normally in their daily lives without the fear of a debilitating panic attack.

Therefore, it is not unreasonable for a Xanax user struggling with insomnia or other sleep issues to take an extra dose of Xanax, hoping its sedative effects can help them fall asleep and stay asleep.

So: Is using Xanax to sleep, a use for which it has not been approved, a safe thing to do? If it is, does Xanax help with sleep?

(Video) Is Xanax/Alprazolam Safe for You?

What Is Xanax Used For?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved Xanax in 1981. The prescription medication is specifically approved for treating anxiety and panic disorders. As a benzodiazepine, Xanax works in the brain and nervous system to slow down activity, which leads to anxiolysis (anti-anxiety). However, it achieves these effects by working with a neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a chemical messenger that creates rest and relaxation. It binds to its receptors and releases a negative charge that starts to shut things down, like turning off the lights before closing a store.

However, people with anxiety and panic disorders may have a mental or biochemical issue that sends their central nervous systems into overdrive. Anxiety can cause mental and physical symptoms. You may worry and experience racing thoughts, but you may also experience heart palpitations, sweating, and even aches and pains. GABA isn’t enough to allow you to feel calm when you’re experiencing anxiety symptoms.

Xanax works by binding to GABA receptors and making GABA more potent. It allows more of that negative charge to slow down the central nervous system activity. This can help people with panic disorders calm down when they’re experiencing an attack. It can also help them manage anxiety symptoms throughout the day.

Anxiety symptoms can cause other symptoms like insomnia and sleep problems. In many cases, addressing an anxiety disorder can help you get better sleep. However, like other depressants, Xanax can also directly facilitate sleep. GABA is closely tied to sleep, and it helps people wind down before sleeping. Xanax may have direct applications as a sleep aid.

Off-Label Use

As mentioned earlier, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Xanax for treating anxiety and panic disorders. However, physicians prescribe it for “off-label” use, meaning that, while it has not been approved for a specific purpose, which in this case is inducing sleep, it has been found to be useful in doing so.

(Video) Sleep Meds: Benzodiazepines | What You Need to Know

Xanax is part of a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, medications that work against symptoms of anxiety by depressing the central nervous system and producing feelings of sedation and relaxation. Benzodiazepines are widely prescribed in the United States despite their fairly high risk for abuse and potential addiction. Benzodiazepines work by mimicking a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA regulates how the body responds to feelings of stress, fear, and yes, anxiety, and generally calms brain activity and inhibits nerve signals.

By mimicking GABA and binding to the brain’s GABA receptors, benzos activate the receptors and greatly increase GABA production, depressing the central nervous system in a way that the body would never be able to do naturally on its own.

In comparison, non-benzodiazepine sedatives like Ambien and Lunesta, commonly known as “Z-drugs,” are more discriminating in what GABA receptors they activate, strictly activating the receptors that induce sleep. Because benzos have a more widespread effect on the central nervous system, they are much stronger than Z-drugs, but they also have far more side effects, some of them more dangerous than others.

Sleep Hangover and Other Side Effects

If someone is taking Xanax for their anxiety, meaning only occasional use, and they decide to take Xanax to sleep, then they are extremely likely to experience what is known as a “hangover effect,” which can include feelings of grogginess, reduced motor skills, impaired coordination, and even amnesia.

These effects can persist from anywhere between eight and 12 hours, which means someone taking Xanax for sleep could wake up feeling more tired than they would have without it, or, if they take Xanax late at night, such as after midnight, and then wake up at six in the morning, they could potentially be dealing with sleep-hangover side effects for the next six to seven hours.

(Video) This is what happens to your brain when you take Xanax

Another part of this issue is that, as has been stated, Xanax’s main purpose is to treat anxiety, and so when someone takes Xanax while experiencing an anxiety or panic attack, the medication is working against chemicals in the body, counteracting them by mass-producing GABA.

When someone takes Xanax for sleep rather than for the symptoms of anxiety, because there is nothing for the Xanax to counteract, they will experience even more intense sleep-hangover effects. This could prove to be extremely dangerous if someone has to drive or do other activities that require alertness in order to be safe.

Not Worth the Withdrawal

While taking Xanax to sleep will most likely not have any immediate harmful effects, falling into a pattern of use presents many possible problems. Perhaps most important is that someone regularly taking Xanax can become tolerant to its effects very quickly. Just one to two weeks of nightly Xanax use is enough to build up a tolerance and start requiring more of it to achieve the same insomnia-fighting effects.

As a person’s tolerance grows and they need to take more Xanax, they are likely to begin misusing it, and misuse is a short road to abuse, which can then progress to dependence and addiction. Once someone has become dependent on Xanax, especially needing Xanax to sleep, it becomes extremely difficult to stop using. This is in part because the withdrawal symptoms for Xanax, as well as benzodiazepines in general, can be unpleasant, painful, and sometimes even dangerous.

Any attempts to stop using Xanax should be done under the supervision of a medical professional, ideally at a medical detox center. There, generally, an individual will be put on a tapering schedule to slowly lower their Xanax dosage until it is safe for them to stop using.

(Video) How to use Alprazolam? (Xanax, Niravam) - Doctor Explains

The worst thing someone can do is try to stop using Xanax all at once. Not only can this bring about difficult to manage symptoms like rebound insomnia, which is typically worse than the initial insomnia someone would have been dealing with before taking Xanax, it can also cause life-threatening seizures.

In short, while Xanax does, technically speaking, work against insomnia and can help someone fall asleep, the side effects and potential for abuse and addiction make it far too risky a choice, especially when considering that someone using it is just as likely to wake up as groggy and unrested as they would be without it.

Other Options Besides Xanax for Sleep

Xanax may be used to treat sleep problems off-label, but it’s usually not a first-line medication for sleep. There are medications that facilitate hypnosis without the same risks of dependence and addiction that come with Xanax. In many cases, antihistamines, which are used to treat allergies, are used to facilitate sleep because they can cause drowsiness as an added effect. Some are sold over the counter, but your doctor may prescribe a better medication for your needs.

Antidepressants are also used to address sleep problems in some cases, especially when sleep issues occur alongside mental health problems. However, antidepressants may be less useful if your sleep issues aren’t necessarily tied to mental health issues.

Several types of sedative medications that work similarly to Xanax are called non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics. A group of these drugs is sometimes called Z-drugs because they often start with the letter Z. Drugs like Ambien (zolpidem) are commonly prescribed to help people get to sleep. However, they may cause similar side effects to Xanax, like next-day drowsiness.

(Video) A Mom's Revelation: "Xanax Makes Me Be a Better Mom"

Does Xanax Keep You Awake?

As a benzodiazepine, Xanax can cause drowsiness, sedation, and hypnotic effects. When you take it, it’s much more likely to make you feel sleepy than it is to keep you awake. However, if you use it regularly for a few weeks or take it in high doses, you may become chemically dependent on the drug. After you develop chemical dependence, you may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you try to cut back or stop using it. One of the most common withdrawal symptoms is rebound insomnia. In some cases, insomnia can be worse than when you were using the drug for the first time.


What is better for sleep Ambien or Xanax? ›

If you have sleep problems, where you have trouble falling and/or staying asleep, Ambien may be an appropriate medication for you. If you are experiencing anxiety or panic disorder, Xanax may be the right drug for you.

How much alprazolam should I take for insomnia? ›

Adults—At first, 0.5 milligram (mg) 3 times a day. Your doctor may increase your dose as needed. However, the dose is usually not more than 10 mg per day.

What is the safest sleeping pill for the elderly? ›

In these settings, melatonin is considered the preferred pharmacological option for elderly patients. It is also an option for patients who are blind and suffer from non–24-hour sleep–wake rhythm disorder, given evidence supporting circadian entrainment.

What works like Xanax for sleep? ›

If you have insomnia, you may want to talk to your provider about a Xanax substitute like trazodone to help aid in sleep. It is a melatonin receptor agonist, which helps to balance chemicals in the brain.

What are the side effects of Xanax? ›

Alprazolam may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
  • drowsiness.
  • light-headedness.
  • headache.
  • tiredness.
  • dizziness.
  • irritability.
  • talkativeness.
  • difficulty concentrating.
May 15, 2021

Will 0.25 mg of Xanax help me sleep? ›

Xanax truly does not do anything to treat insomnia. It simply numbs you from the symptoms and will return as soon as the drug is not taken. There are many other, much less addictive medications you can take to treat insomnia and some natural remedies to cure it.

How long does 25mg Xanax take to work for sleep? ›

The Time It Takes For Xanax To Kick In

Xanax is a relaxant so you should feel a sedative, relaxing effect within one hour of taking it. Most people feel the peak effects within the first hour or two.

Is alprazolam 0.25 mg a sleeping pill? ›

Alprazolam 0.25 MG Tablet is used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Uneasiness, difficulty in sleeping, sweating of hands and feet are some of the symptoms of anxiety disorder. Alprazolam 0.25 MG Tablet is used in the treatment of the panic disorder.

What is the safest sleep aid to take every night? ›

Melatonin: Melatonin is considered one of the safest over-the-counter sleep aids, with few side effects.

What is the healthiest sleep medication? ›

If you need a little extra help to get a good night's sleep, consider trying the following 9 natural sleep-promoting supplements.
  1. Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone your body produces naturally that signals to your brain that it's time to sleep ( 9 ). ...
  2. Valerian root. ...
  3. Magnesium. ...
  4. Lavender. ...
  5. Passionflower. ...
  6. Glycine.

What is the best sleeping pill to take every night? ›

Learn more about sleep difficulties here.
  1. Doxepin. Doxepin is a sleep aid with the brand name Silenor. ...
  2. Temazepam. Temazepam, which has the brand name Restoril, is a benzodiazepine. ...
  3. Eszopiclone. Eszopiclone (Lunesta) may help a person fall and stay asleep. ...
  4. Ramelteon. ...
  5. Suvorexant. ...
  6. Triazolam. ...
  7. Trazodone. ...
  8. Estazolam.
Sep 6, 2022

Does Xanax make you sleep faster? ›

Unlike some drugs, such as cocaine, that produce a “high” or euphoric feeling, Xanax users describe feeling more relaxed, quiet, and tired. These feelings may lead to falling asleep or passing out for a few hours.

What is the safest anti anxiety drug? ›

As of this writing, some of the anxiety medications with the fewest reported side effects and least risk of side effects include:
  • Most Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
  • Citalopram (Celexa - SSRI)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil - SSRI)

What medication helps with sleep and anxiety? ›

Sedative hypnotics include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and various hypnotics. Benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Librium, Valium, and Xanax are anti-anxiety medications. They also increase drowsiness and help people sleep.

What are Xanax benefits? ›

Xanax works by suppressing the central nervous system to relieve stress rapidly. In addition to treating anxiety symptoms and panic disorders, it can also be used for sleep disorders, depression, and in some cases, seizures.

Is alprazolam 0.5 a sleeping pill? ›

Yes, Alzolam 0.5mg Tablet makes you sleepy. Sedation (sleepiness) is a very common side effect of Alzolam 0.5mg Tablet. Please consult your doctor if you are prescribed Alzolam 0.5mg Tablet and your work requires you to remain alerted or you drive yourself as it may affect your driving.

Which is better alprazolam or Xanax? ›

Xanax can be considered the most potent benzodiazepine to treat anxiety. Alprazolam is one of the strongest short-acting benzodiazepines and is often prescribed by doctors because its half-life is shorter than 26 hours.

What not to do while taking Xanax? ›

Avoid operating machinery, driving, or performing tasks that require mental alertness while taking Xanax. Avoid alcohol while taking this medicine. The lowest effective dose of Xanax should be used for the shortest time possible.

Does Xanax help sleep apnea? ›

Sleeping pills that contain benzodiazepines (which includes well-known brands like Xanax and Valium) contain muscle relaxant properties. That means they can cause the muscles and tissues in your mouth or throat to collapse and block the airway, making sleep apnea worse.

Is it okay to cut Xanax in half? ›

Do not crush or chew extended-release tablets. Doing so can release all of the drug at once, increasing the risk of side effects. Also, do not split the tablets unless they have a score line and your doctor or pharmacist tells you to do so.

Is melatonin OK to take with Xanax? ›

Taking Xanax and melatonin together can temporarily increase your risk of side effects like sedation. You should always consult your physician or pharmacist first.

Is alprazolam safe to use? ›

Alprazolam is a safe and effective medication when used as directed. Benzodiazepines may produce emotional and/or physical dependence (addiction) even when used as recommended. Physical dependence may develop after 2 or more weeks of daily use.

What is the safest non addictive sleep aid? ›

Antihistamine sleep-aids (like doxylamine succinate and diphenhydramine) are largely considered to be “non-habit-forming,” because they do not cause physical dependence.

What are the top three sleeping pills? ›

Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata are three non-benzodiazepine medications used to help with sleep. The medications are similar in how well they work and their side effects. All three medications have a generic form available. Talk with a healthcare provider if you are considering or have questions about these medications.

How can I stay asleep for 8 hours? ›

  1. Establish a quiet, relaxing bedtime routine. ...
  2. Relax your body. ...
  3. Make your bedroom conducive to sleep. ...
  4. Put clocks in your bedroom out of sight. ...
  5. Avoid caffeine after noon, and limit alcohol to 1 drink several hours before bedtime. ...
  6. Avoid smoking. ...
  7. Get regular exercise. ...
  8. Go to bed only when you're sleepy.

Which is less addictive Xanax or Ambien? ›

Although some individuals may prefer the effects of one over the other, Ambien is considered a less addictive substance than Xanax.

What is the most effective benzodiazepine for sleep? ›

What Is the Strongest Benzodiazepine for Sleep? Nitrazepam, loprazolam, and lormetazepam are the strongest and more effective benzos that can work as sleeping pills to treat insomnia. Some drugs prescribed for anxiety can help patients sleep better if they are mandated to take them at night.

Do you get quality sleep with Ambien? ›

Zolpidem decreases how long it takes to fall asleep, improves sleep quality, increases stage N2 and N3 slow-wave sleep and reduces night‐time awakenings. In healthy adults, a study showed that a 10mg dose of zolpidem: reduced the number of awakenings and wake after sleep onset (WASO) improved sleep efficiency.

What over the counter medicine is most like Xanax? ›

However, OTC antihistamines (i.e., Benadryl/diphenhydramine) have been recommended as a short-term solution for anxiety symptoms. While there is likely not any harm in taking an occasional OTC antihistamine as an over-the-counter Xanax alternative, the sedating side effects are not ideal for regular use.

What is better than Xanax for anxiety? ›

Recommendations suggest using antidepressants over Ativan or Xanax in the treatment of anxiety disorders or panic disorders because benzodiazepines have the potential for withdrawal and misuse.

What medication is most like Xanax? ›

Other commonly prescribed drugs of this class include diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), temazepam (Restoril), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), and midazolam (Versed).

What is the first drug of choice for insomnia? ›

Zolpidem (Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar, Intermezzo, Zolpimist)

A sedative-hypnotic of the imidazopyridine class, zolpidem has a rapid onset and short duration of action. It is a good first choice for treatment of sleep-onset insomnia and produces no significant residual sedation in the morning.

How I cured my sleep anxiety? ›

Do relaxing activities before bed, such as meditation or listening to soft, peaceful music. Don't consume caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. Don't go to bed unless you feel sleepy. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

What is the drug of choice for insomnia? ›

The benzodiazepine medications approved for insomnia treatment in the United States are estazolam, flurazepam, quazepam, temazepam, and triazolam (table 6).

What are the 10 best sleeping pills? ›

What are the best medications for sleep?
  • Overview.
  • Doxepin.
  • Temazepam.
  • Eszopiclone.
  • Ramelteon.
  • Suvorexant.
  • Triazolam.
  • Trazodone.
Sep 6, 2022

What is the closest over the counter medicine to Ambien? ›

Sleep aids: The options
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Diphenhydramine is a sedating antihistamine. ...
  • Doxylamine (Unisom). Doxylamine is also a sedating antihistamine. ...
  • Melatonin. The hormone melatonin helps control your natural sleep-wake cycle. ...
  • Valerian. Supplements made from this plant are sometimes taken as sleep aids.

What is the best and safest sleep aid? ›

If you need a little extra help to get a good night's sleep, consider trying the following 9 natural sleep-promoting supplements.
  1. Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone your body produces naturally that signals to your brain that it's time to sleep ( 9 ). ...
  2. Valerian root. ...
  3. Magnesium. ...
  4. Lavender. ...
  5. Passionflower. ...
  6. Glycine.

What is the most prescribed drug for sleep? ›

Z-drugs and benzodiazepines

Z-drugs like zolpidem (Ambien) and zaleplon (Sonata) are commonly prescribed to help you fall asleep, especially if you don't have chronic insomnia. They can be taken as needed and usually work within an hour. Benzodiazepines are another option.

What are the most popular prescribed sleeping pills? ›

Common prescription sleeping medications include: Ambien® (zolpidem) Lunesta® (eszopiclone) Rozerem® (ramelteon)


1. 'Xanax' linked to more than 200 deaths - BBC News
(BBC News)
2. Xanax (Alprazolam) for Sleep & Insomnia: Side Effects, Risks, and Warnings
(Gallus Medical Detox Centers)
3. Xanax withdrawals 'like being tortured alive'
4. How David left Valium, Xanax and insomnia (Talking insomnia #124)
(The Sleep Coach School)
5. When People Request Sleeping Pills
(Doc Schmidt)
6. Understanding how Benzodiazepines (eg valium, xanax) can make anxiety worse with regular use.
(the PSYCH collective)


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