Xanax, also known as Alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine medication created by Upjohn Pharmaceuticals during the year 1981. The pharmaceutical company created the drug to battle one of the most common psychological disorders in the US namely panic disorder.
Abrupt discontinuation of Xanax, when used for sleep, has been associated with rebound insomnia that may be worse than the initial sleeping problem. Avoid combining Xanax with opioids such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. Profound sedation, respiratory depression (abnormally slow and shallow breathing), coma, and death may result. Updated treatment guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine published in 2018 don’t recommend trazodone for chronic insomnia because there's so little data to support its use.
Early clinical trials of Xanax showed that the drug had sedating and anxiolytic properties due to its pharmacological action. Hence, the Food and Drug Administration categorized it as a mild tranquilizer.
Additionally, the effectiveness of the drug made it extremely among patients and doctors. Three decades after the creation of the drug, Xanax has still held the 12th place among prescription medicines in the US. However, the drug also became very popular beyond its intended use.
Recreational users used the drug as a substitute for more expensive illicit drugs such as cocaine and morphine. By 2010, Xanax has officially become the most abused benzodiazepine in America.
Is Xanax Effective Against Sleep?
The US FDA has only approved the use of Xanax in treating two mental disorders. The first one was panic disorders and then anxiety. However, some users have claimed that Xanax can treat other disorders specifically the sleep disorder insomnia. (1)
Anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines, although not approved, have been commonly used to induce sleep among patients. However, one problem when using benzodiazepines like Xanax to treat insomnia is that although you may achieve sleep, there is a lesser possibility of feeling refreshed the next morning.
An adequate sleep means feeling refreshed after a complete and uninterrupted sleep session. The way Xanax works reduce the length of deep and slow-wave sleep needed to feel invigorated after an individual sleeps. In short, Xanax is effective for inducing sleep, but doctors highly discourage patients using it for such purpose. (2)
How does Xanax Work?
Xanax or Alprazolam contains the molecule C17H13ClN4. Similar to other benzodiazepines; Xanax functions by attaching itself to the GABA receptors in our brains. GABA receptors are protein molecules on the outer membrane of our neurons. Furthermore, they are usually at the end of our neural synapses. (1)
GABA receptors are also the primary inhibitory neurotransmitters of our nervous system. By binding to the GABA receptors, Xanax can regulate the electrical impulses that travel within the brain. Furthermore, Xanax amplifies the inhibitory property of our GABA receptors; hence, its anxiolytic and sedating properties.
Approved Uses of Xanax
Xanax exhibits strong anxiolytic properties. This property means it is capable of suppressing anxiety in patients taking the drug. However, research has shown that Xanax is most effective when treating depression-caused anxiety in patients.
Other than the treatment of panic disorders and anxiety, studies have shown that Xanax is an effective drug to lessen the effects of nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy treatments. However, the FDA is yet to approve the drug for such purpose.
Furthermore, it has shown potential in treating anticipatory emesis, or a nauseating feeling some cancer patients get before a chemotherapy session. However, doctors advise that the drug is taken with other palliative drugs when used for this purpose. (3)
Misusing Xanax increases the risk of developing physical dependence and addiction. Make sure to consult your doctor before using this drug for any purpose.
Overcoming insomnia. (2011, February). Retrieved September 1, 2017, from Harvard Health Publications: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/overcoming-insomnia
Occasional Xanax Use For Sleep Deprivation
Treatment-Related Nausea and Vomiting (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version. (n.d.). Retrieved September 1, 2017, from National Cancer Institute: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/nausea/nausea-hp-pdq
Alternatives To Xanax For Sleep
Xanax. (n.d.). Retrieved September 1, 2017, from Food and Drug Administration: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/018276s045lbl.pdf