Valium (Diazepam) for Sleep: What It Is and How It Works
Valium, also known as Diazepam, is a benzodiazepine used to treat a variety of conditions including anxiety, acute and continuous seizures, alcohol withdrawal, and muscle spasms. Valium is also given to patients during certain medical procedures, prior to anesthesia.
Valium works by calming the brain and nerves, which is one reason it’s commonly prescribed to treat various anxiety disorders. Thanks to its calming effects, Valium may also be an effective way to ease insomnia symptoms and promote sleep.
In this article, we’ll discuss how Valium works, its potential side effects, and whether or not it’s a viable treatment option for overcoming insomnia and achieving quality sleep.
How Does Valium Work?
Valium works by promoting healthy GABA activity in the brain. GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that slows down brain activity by blocking certain signals in your body’s central nervous system (CNS). These GABA receptors help reduce the number of nerve impulses in the brain, promoting relaxation and calm. Other areas affected by GABA receptors include thought, emotion, memory, and automatic functions like breathing.
Valium is most commonly used to treat anxiety. As it slows down the CNS, it also helps decrease feelings of agitation and nervousness while producing an overwhelming sense of calm and relaxation. Valium is said to ease most anxiety symptoms and lessen the intensity and frequency of panic attacks.
Valium for Sleep
Considering anxiety is one of the leading causes of insomnia, it should come as no surprise that some people use this medication to improve sleep quality. By reducing anxiety symptoms and promoting calm and relaxation, Valium can help certain insomnia sufferers fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
One of the most common side effects of Valium is fatigue. For individuals with anxiety and insomnia, increased drowsiness can make it easier to fall asleep at night. It can also reduce racing thoughts and stress over lack of sleep by promoting an overall sense of calm and well-being.
Diazepam (Valium) comes in several different forms including tablets, liquids, injectables, and rectal tubes. Depending on its use and the severity of your condition, a doctor can prescribe any combination of these medications to help treat your anxiety symptoms and/or sleep troubles. The common dosage for each form of diazepam is as follows:
- Tablets (2mg, 5mg, or 10mg)
- Liquids (2mg or 5mL)
- Injectables (10mg or 2mL)
- Rectal tubes (2.5mg, 5mg, or 10mg)
Diazepam is considered a controlled drug, which means it must be dispensed within 28 days, unlike other prescriptions which you can keep for up to six weeks. When not used as recommended, some patients can become addicted to Valium or sell their extra medication illegally.
Your prescribed dosage of Valium is based on your age, medical condition, and response to other treatments and medications. Always follow the doctor’s recommendation when taking Valium to avoid an accidental overdose or dependency. Don’t stop taking diazepam without first consulting with your doctor, since some patients can experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms. It’s best to slowly wean off of this type of medication.
For those individuals taking Valium for an extended period of time, you may notice it becomes less effective. If this happens to you, consult with your doctor so they can either increase the dosage and frequency or prescribe a different medication.
Things to Consider When Taking Valium for Sleep
Before you turn to diazepam for sleep, or even to ease the anxiety that’s keeping you up at night, there are a few things to consider. First, speak with your doctor about potential allergies or drug interactions. Some people are allergic to benzodiazepines, like Valium.
Your doctor will also ask for your complete medical history, including any underlying diagnosis or medications you’re currently taking. Diazepam may interact dangerously with medications including orlistat, sodium oxybate, clozapine, and fluvoxamine. In most cases, these interactions will simply intensify the side effects of Valium (covered below). Marijuana and alcohol use can also worsen the side effects of this medication and increase dizziness, drowsiness, and blurred vision.
People with certain medical conditions shouldn’t take diazepam for sleep or for anxiety. These include:
- Respiratory or lung problems (including sleep apnea and COPD)
- Myasthenia Gravis (muscle disease)
- Depression and other mood disorders
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
You should also avoid taking Valium if you have a personal or family history of substance abuse since this particular medication could be habit-forming.
Some individuals taking Valium for sleep may be more sensitive to certain side effects, including loss of coordination and drowsiness. This is especially common in elderly people and increases their risk of falling. Some older adults (and children) also experience the opposite intended effects of this drug. Instead of feeling relaxed and calm, diazepam can cause feelings of restlessness, extreme mood changes, and agitation. In severe cases, patients also experience hallucinations.
Diazepam is not recommended for pregnant women, women trying to get pregnant, or those who are breastfeeding.
Side Effects of Valium
Now that you know the intended use of Valium and potential risk factors, let’s discuss its side effects. Like any drug, diazepam has its fair share of potential side effects. When choosing the best medication for sleep or for easing the anxiety that’s keeping you awake at night, you need to consider the pros and cons. If the side effects outweigh the benefits, you may want to consider an alternative treatment plan.
Here are the most common side effects of Valium as reported by pharmacists and patients.
- Blurred vision
- Extreme fatigue
- Lack of coordination (unsteadiness)
- Itching or a skin rash
- Loss of interest in sex
Most people taking Valium experience minimal side effects. While these side effects are common, in some cases, people have a more serious, adverse reaction to this particular drug. Serious side effects include:
- Mood changes
- Problems with memory and other mental changes
- Cognitive impairment (confusion)
- Difficulty speaking
- Muscle weakness
- Trouble walking
- Difficulty urinating
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Sore throat, fever, chills, or other signs of an infection
- Slow or shallow breathing
If you experience any of these side effects, contact a medical professional right away and stop taking diazepam until you consult with a doctor.
FAQs About Valium (Diazepam)
If you still have questions about using Valium for sleep or if it’s the right medication for your anxiety and other underlying sleep issues, check out these frequently asked questions.
How Long Does it Take for Diazepam to Start Working?
Most people respond to diazepam rather quickly. You should feel its calming effects within 2 hours of taking the medication. If you’re using diazepam for sleep or anxiety, schedule it into your nighttime routine so that you’re feeling calm, relaxed, and prepared for sleep at your scheduled bedtime.
How Does Diazepam Affect Sleep?
If you’re taking diazepam for sleep, this is an important question to answer. Most users report feeling “very sleepy” soon after taking this medication. In some cases, these feelings can carry into the next day or morning, causing daytime drowsiness. On the other hand, some people have adverse affect when taking diazepam and feel restless. Another unpleasant side effect is strange dreams or nightmares, which may result in disrupted sleep.
Is It Okay to Take Diazepam with Other Medications?
Diazepam may affect the way that certain other medications work. Always tell your doctor or pharmacist what medicines you’re currently on and what conditions they treat. In some cases, your doctor can make dosage adjustments so that you can still experience the benefits of diazepam without compromising your other healthcare regimes.
How Does Diazepam Affect Daily Functions?
You may notice a change in several aspects of your life when taking diazepam for both sleep and anxiety. For one, you may notice a decrease in sexual desire. Some people also report feeling “numb” to normal emotions. These feelings aren’t usually associated with depression, but more so, a lack of feeling.
On a more positive note, once diazepam and its intended benefits take affect, you may notice an improvement in your sex life, intimacy, and overall relationships. When you sleep better, you have more energy to focus on important relationships in your life. Less anxiety also helps with this.
Diazepam may also have an impact on your ability to participate in other physical activities like playing sports that take a lot of concentration or focus. This is often due to blurred vision, dizziness, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, and forgetfulness. Similar to the long-term benefits associated with sex and intimacy, in time, getting more sufficient sleep may actually boost athletic performance.
Because diazepam can also affect your mental focus, it’s best to avoid taking it before important tests, exams, or work meetings. Studies show that diazepam can make it difficult to learn and process information and affect your short-term memory. The initial side effects of taking diazepam usually dissipate after a few weeks as your body adjusts to the medication. If you have important work obligations or school commitments coming up, you may want to postpone taking diazepam until after these tasks are complete.
Is It Okay to Drink Alcohol While Taking Diazepam?
It’s recommended you don’t mix alcohol and diazepam, but if you do, be very careful. While some people can handle very small amounts of alcohol while on this medication, it often makes them extremely sleepy – even beyond the desired effects. Consuming alcohol in excess while taking diazepam could cause breathing complications, especially in those individuals with prior lung or respiratory issues.
While illicit drugs are illegal and should be avoided at all times, this is especially true if you’re taking diazepam. It’s extremely easy to accidentally overdose on a mix of diazepam and “street” drugs. Even medical marijuana or cannabis mixed with diazepam could have dangerous side effects. Some people will fall into such a deep sleep that they experience difficulty breathing and struggle to fully wake up.
If you decide to start or stop smoking cigarettes while taking diazepam, you may need to adjust your dosage. Nicotine affects the amount of diazepam in your system and how effective it is. Current smokers may need a higher dose of diazepam whereas non-smokers need a lower dose. These dosage adjustments are usually made gradually over the course of one to two weeks.
How Does Diazepam Affect Driving?
Diazepam is designed to help you sleep and feel more calm and relaxed. In turn, it can cause dizziness and memory problems, especially when you first start taking it. Concentration issues, muscle weakness, and blurred vision can persist for several days following the first treatment. Until your body has adjusted to the medication, you should avoid driving a car or operating heavy machinery directly after taking diazepam.
Find the Best Treatment for Your Sleep Troubles
Everyone’s sleep troubles are unique and require an individualized treatment plan. While some insomnia sufferers may benefit from Valium (diazepam) for sleep, others may take it primarily to treat their anxiety with the added benefit of finding it easier to fall and stay asleep. Some cases of insomnia don’t require medication at all, but instead lifestyle changes to help replace unhealthy habits with more beneficial ones.
The sleep specialists at Somnus Therapy can help find a personalized treatment plan that works for your specific needs. Learn more about our methods here.