Prescription medications such as Ambien (zolpidem) and benzodiazepines are commonly taken to relieve insomnia and can be misused for their sedative effects.
Chronic use or misuse of ‘z drugs’ like Ambien can cause physical dependence in as little as two weeks, and result in symptoms of withdrawal if a person tries to stop taking them all at once.
Detoxification, also known as detox, is a process of getting off substances, like sleeping pills, ideally within a detox facility or on an outpatient basis with the help of a doctor.
Who Needs Sleeping Pill Detox?
Some form of detoxification is recommended and likely necessary for anyone who’s become physically dependent on a habit-forming or addictive substance.
This includes prescription sleep medications like:
Why is detox necessary? Physical dependence can cause what’s known as withdrawal if someone who’s been taking or misusing a substance for some time tries to stop taking it too suddenly.
Withdrawal syndrome is a reaction in the body that can become mild to severe in nature, with potential symptoms such as seizures, palpitations, hallucinations, and severe anxiety.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Sleeping Pill Withdrawal
Attempting to stop taking sleep medication after chronic use can cause symptoms of withdrawal, which may begin to set in within as little as 24 hours after your last dose.
Sleeping pill withdrawal symptoms may include:
- nausea and vomiting
- mood changes
- rebound insomnia
- stomach cramps
- uncontrollable crying
Serious withdrawal symptoms that can occur include:
- panic attacks
- extreme fluctuations in body temperature
- thoughts of suicide
What withdrawal looks and feels like can vary from person to person. This experience may be more severe for people with severe drug dependence and other health issues.
Sleeping Pill Detox Timeline
Early signs of sleeping pill withdrawal can begin to set in within 24 to 72 hours after your last dose and may last for anywhere from one to two weeks.
Days 1-3: Physical, emotional, and psychological withdrawal symptoms will generally begin within the first 25 to 72 hours after your last dose.
Days 4-7: Withdrawal symptoms may worsen over the course of the next few days. For most, the physical discomfort of withdrawal often reaches its peak about three to five days in.
Days 7-14: After the first five to seven days, withdrawal symptoms will begin to decline, with most completely or fully gone within two weeks after your last dose.
Days 15+: People with a long history of sleeping pill use, or severe drug dependence, may continue to feel anxious, depressed, or have trouble sleeping for several weeks or months.
What Factors Can Affect How Long Sleeping Pill Detox Lasts?
The timeline for how long it takes to fully detox from a medication like Ambien, Lunesta, or Sonata, can depend on a variety of factors.
For instance, the duration of withdrawal may depend on:
- type of drug used
- dose taken
- how long you’ve been taking it
- use of multiple drugs
- history of substance abuse
Gradually weaning off a sleeping pill, rather than stopping cold-turkey, is highly recommended. This process of tapering can help prevent serious complications, such as seizures.
Furthermore, receiving treatment for withdrawal through a detox program may help reduce the severity of withdrawal and its duration.
How To Detox From Sleeping Pills
Detoxing from sleeping pills can be accomplished in a couple of different ways: with the help of a medical doctor, through an outpatient rehab program, or within a detox facility.
What type of detox program is most suitable for yourself or a loved one may depend on the nature of your drug use, if you have a substance use disorder, and other health-related factors.
Detoxing From Home
If you’re looking to detox at home, talk to your doctor about how to safely stop taking a prescription ‘z drug’ before making any adjustments to your sleeping pill use.
Your doctor will likely recommend tapering your drug dosage over a period of time and can help you create a plan to do so to help prevent the risks of stopping a drug too quickly.
This method of detox isn’t recommended for everyone. For instance, this may not be suitable for people who have a history of substance abuse or those who are at risk for severe withdrawal.
Outpatient detox centers can offer a structured treatment plan and programming to help support individuals through the drug withdrawal process.
Outpatient detox may offer:
- regular check-ins with a doctor
- medical monitoring
- medicine for withdrawal symptoms
- behavioral therapy
An outpatient detox program may be flexible to meet the scheduling needs of people who are unable to enter an inpatient detox facility and those who have mild drug dependence.
Medically Supervised Detox Programs
Entering an inpatient detox facility for medical detox is highly recommended for people with severe drug dependence or a substance use disorder.
Medical detox programs can offer:
- 24-hour medical supervision
- treatment for withdrawal symptoms
- a quiet place to detox
- fluid support for hydration
- referrals for drug abuse treatment
Medical detox programs typically last anywhere from three to seven days. This can be a useful starting point before transitioning into a full drug abuse or addiction rehab program.
Risks Of Sleeping Pill Detox
Getting off a medication you’ve been taking as prescribed, or have been misusing, is not something that a person should attempt to do alone, due to potential dangers.
Drugs like Ambien are commonly taken to help someone fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. Getting off one of these medications may cause symptoms of insomnia to return.
To help with this, a doctor may be able to recommend another medication or other non-pharmaceutical treatments, such as therapy, to help you fall asleep naturally.
Those who experience significant discomfort during withdrawal, including rebound insomnia, may return to their use of a sleeping pill in order to relieve symptoms.
Relapse is a primary concern for people with a history of substance abuse, as this can perpetuate a chronic and harmful cycle of drug use behaviors.
Stopping your use of a sleep medication all at once, or too suddenly, may cause worrisome changes in one’s emotional and mental state.
Potential risks of this include:
- severe anxiety
- panic attacks
- thoughts of harming oneself or others
Mood swings like this can put a person at risk for self-injurious behaviors, reckless behavior, accidents, and relapse to drug use in order to regulate mood.
Seizures from quitting a high dose of a sleep medication after chronic use can occur. This side effect can be dangerous and may require medical attention and hospitalization.
Sleeping Pill Detox FAQs
Find answers here to frequently asked questions about detoxing from prescription sleep medications like Ambien and Lunesta.
❓ What Does Detoxing From Sleeping Pills Feel Like?
✔️ Getting off sleep medication after taking it for a long time may cause you to feel physically sick, have mood swings, and generally feel unlike your normal self.
Detox can be an uncomfortable process and may become dangerous without professional medical support.
❓ How Long Does Ambien Rebound Insomnia Last?
✔️ Rebound insomnia after Ambien detox may last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months after you’ve stopped taking it.
Difficulty sleeping after Ambien detox may be influenced by a variety of factors, including stress, overall health, diet, and the use of other substances like illicit drugs or alcohol.
People who have trouble sleeping after stopping Ambien may talk to their doctor about suggested treatment options, including natural and non-pharmaceutical alternatives.
❓ What’s The Best Way To Detox From Sleep Medication?
✔️ Because withdrawal from sleeping pills can be dangerous, entering an inpatient detox facility or rehab center for detox is the safest and most effective way to stop taking them.
Find Treatment For Sleeping Pill Addiction
Overcoming an addiction to sleeping pills is possible, and begins with finding a drug treatment program for sleeping pill abuse that’s right for you.
Don’t wait. Call our helpline to find sleeping pill detoxification and substance abuse treatment options for yourself or a loved one today.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- ScienceDirect — Seizure following sudden zolpidem withdrawal
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Prescription CNS Depressants DrugFacts
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Zolpidem