Clonazepam for Sleep: Side Effects

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Dr. Colleen Ehrnstrom, PhD
Sep 12, 20226 min read
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Anxiety is a very common issue among adults. This condition may prompt many people to reach for medications like benzodiazepines for fast relief.

As many as one out of eight U.S. adults use benzodiazepines. There are many reasons why people find these drugs useful — they can help treat anxiety, boost relaxation, and increase sleepiness.1

Clonazepam (Klonopin) is one of the most frequently prescribed benzodiazepines for sleeping problems. However, it is not officially approved as an insomnia treatment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).2 While clonazepam may help some people rest easier, it is also important to understand how to use this medication safely.

What Is Clonazepam Prescribed For?

Clonazepam was primarily developed as an anti-seizure medication. It can be used to treat different kinds of epilepsy. It is also FDA-approved as a treatment for panic disorders (conditions that lead to panic attacks).4

In many cases, doctors prescribe clonazepam off-label — they give it to patients for other purposes that it’s not officially approved to treat. Clonazepam or Klonopin can also help treat:5

  • Mania (a state in which you feel extremely excitable, energetic, or irritable)
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Tardive dyskinesia (a condition that leads to repetitive, uncontrollable facial movements; it may occur as a side effect of different medications)
  • Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
  • Insomnia

Clonazepam for Insomnia

Several clinical trials have found that benzodiazepines can help people with insomnia get to sleep more quickly and stay asleep more easily. However, clonazepam hasn’t been as well-studied for insomnia as some other types of benzodiazepines.2

Some research has also found that when clonazepam is taken along with the antidepressant drug fluoxetine (Prozac), it may lead to better sleep and improved symptoms of depression in the short term.2

It is important to know that if you start taking clonazepam, it could make your insomnia worse for a few days before it gets better.5

The Side Effects of Clonazepam

When using this medication, you may notice:6

  • Tiredness
  • Increased saliva
  • Pain in your muscles or joints
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Abnormally high or low sex drive
  • Problems with balance or coordination
  • A feeling like you can’t think or remember as well as usual

Tell your doctor right away if you have more serious side effects like a rash, swelling in your mouth or face, shortness of breath, or hoarseness.6

Clonazepam’s Next-Day Effects

Some side effects of clonazepam continue the day after you take it, since clonazepam stays in your body for long periods of time.2 You may have a harder time staying awake, thinking clearly, remembering things, and performing tasks that require motor function motor function.7 This may impact your ability to drive, operate machinery, or function normally at school or work.5

Does Clonazepam Lead to Dependence?

You can become dependent on (addicted to) clonazepam. After you begin taking the drug, you may soon feel that your body needs clonazepam in order to function normally. Dependence can develop if you take the drug every day for at least two weeks.5

Research has found that nearly one out of five people who take benzodiazepines misuse them.1 This means that they took a higher dose than they should, used the drugs more often than recommended, or used someone else’s benzodiazepine prescription rather than getting the medications from a doctor.

Misusing clonazepam or taking it for long time periods can increase your chances of becoming dependent on it.5 Additionally, you may be more likely to misuse this medication if you have a history of heavy drinking or misusing other types of drugs.6

Other Clonazepam Safety Concerns

Always tell your doctor what other medications you are taking before starting clonazepam, since this drug can interact with other substances. In particular, it can be very dangerous to use clonazepam in combination with opioid medications, including painkillers like morphine or oxycodone and cough medications containing codeine.5

Avoid using clonazepam while drinking alcohol. This can increase clonazepam’s side effects and make the medication less effective. Mixing clonazepam with alcohol or drugs can also increase your risk of overdosing.5

Quitting using clonazepam all of a sudden can cause withdrawal symptoms like nausea, dizziness, shaking, feelings of irritability, a fast heart beat, or seizures. You should talk to your doctor before you stop taking clonazepam in order to minimize these effects.5

Alternatives to Clonazepam for Insomnia

Clonazepam is usually only recommended as an insomnia treatment after other therapies are ineffective. Doctors usually recommend first trying antidepressants as a sleep aid.7

Additionally, sleep experts often recommend against using sleep medications. Because these drugs don’t work long-term and often come with side effects and safety concerns, their benefits may not outweigh the risks.8

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a treatment plan that helps you learn more about healthy sleep. It may encourage you to improve your sleep hygiene (basic habits that can boost your sleep quality) or lessen your anxiety surrounding sleeping.8

To learn more about CBT-I and explore an at-home insomnia treatment option that doesn’t come with any side effects, fill out Dawn Health’s questionnaire today.

References

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, October 18). Research Suggests Benzodiazepine Use Is High While Use Disorder Rates Are Low. https://nida.nih.gov/news-events/science-highlight/research-suggests-benzodiazepine-use-high-while-use-disorder-rates-are-low (https://nida.nih.gov/news-events/science-highlight/research-suggests-benzodiazepine-use-high-while-use-disorder-rates-are-low)

  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, October 18). Research Suggests Benzodiazepine Use Is High While Use Disorder Rates Are Low. https://nida.nih.gov/news-events/science-highlight/research-suggests-benzodiazepine-use-high-while-use-disorder-rates-are-low (https://nida.nih.gov/news-events/science-highlight/research-suggests-benzodiazepine-use-high-while-use-disorder-rates-are-low)

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2013, October). Klonopin Tablets (Clonazepam). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2013/017533s053,020813s009lbl.pdf (https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2013/017533s053,020813s009lbl.pdf)

  4. Basit, H., & Kahwaji, C. I. (2022, June 7). Clonazepam. In StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556010/ (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556010/)

  5. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2021, September). Clonazepam (Klonopin). https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Clonazepam-(Klonopin) (https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Clonazepam-(Klonopin))

  6. MedlinePlus. (2021, May 15). Clonazepam. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682279.html (https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682279.html)

  7. Dokkedal-Silva, V., Berro, L. F., Galduróz, J., Tufik, S., & Andersen, M. L. (2019). Clonazepam: Indications, Side Effects, and Potential for Nonmedical Use. Harvard review of psychiatry, 27(5), 279–289. https://doi.org/10.1097/HRP.0000000000000227

  8. Mayo Clinic. (2016, September 28). Insomnia Treatment: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Instead of Sleeping Pills. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/in-depth/insomnia-treatment/art-20046677 (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/in-depth/insomnia-treatment/art-20046677)


Dr. Colleen Ehrnstrom's profile picture
Dr. Colleen Ehrnstrom, PhD

Dr. Colleen Ehrnstrom is a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialty practice in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Areas of expertise include insomnia and other sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression.

Dr. Ehrnstrom is not a medical provider and is not providing any recommendations regarding medications. Rather, she is sharing and reviewing the research as it relates to education when learning how best to treat insomnia.

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