What are the effects of benzodiazepines on our sleeping pattern?

Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam, and oxazepam are medications used for anxiety and sleep problems. In the recreational circuit, benzodiazepines are sometimes used to soften the effects of stimulants and to be able to fall asleep after using stimulants. However, what are the effects of benzodiazepines on our sleep patterns? And what about the combination of benzodiazepines and stimulants?

Pay attention! In this article we are talking about benzodiazepines, that is, the medication, not to be confused with Benzo Fury (5-APB / 6-APB).

What do benzos do to our sleep cycles?

Benzodiazepines increase deep slow wave sleep and decrease REM sleep. Although benzos can help with falling asleep, the quality of sleep will be lower. REM sleep is important in processing emotional memories and remembering this has consequences for our biological clock. So you may wonder whether taking a benzodiazepine makes more sense than letting your body find it on its own. You can make up for sleep deprivation to a certain extent, but substances such as benzodiazepines really disrupt your sleep pattern.

What are the risks?

The use of benzodiazepines is not without risk. Benzos generally have a calming effect. In some cases, however, benzos can have a stimulant effect. This is called a paradoxical reaction and can be accompanied by angry outbursts, fear and panic. This is rare and different for everyone, but it is good to know how you personally react to benzodiazepines before you decide to take them. In addition, the use of benzodiazepines is addictive. A tolerance is quickly built up and you can become dependent both mentally and physically. In addition, there is also the chance of a rebound effect; when the benzodiazepine is finished, it may be that the pre-existing complaints, such as anxiety symptoms, come back more strongly.

How do benzos work in the brain?

Benzodiazepines bind to GABA-A receptors and enhance the action of GABA receptors. As a result, the firing of neurotransmitters involved in anxiety and arousal is slowed down, fewer stimuli are perceived and benzodiazepines thus have a calming effect. GABA has the ability to inhibit the central nervous system and the activation of the GABA-A receptors promotes sleep. It is therefore not surprising that benzos are often used to sleep after using stimulants. But what are the consequences of this?

Benzos after using stimulants

Stimulants can in some cases cause an anxious, restless or panicky feeling. Benzodiazepines are sometimes used to soften the effects of stimulants. Research shows that this combination has already several times caused panic to turn into aggression, because the benzodiazepine provides a reduced behavioral inhibition; we can then hold back less well and panic takes over.

In addition, research into the combination of speed and benzos shows that these drugs together cause more damage than when taken separately. This was tested in driving simulation tasks, which focused on focusing attention and directing your body; apparently it’s a lot harder when the combination is used than when the drugs are taken separately. This is not surprising, since the combination of speed and benzos creates a certain arousal (excitement), but at the same time benzos also cause attention problems. The result is therefore misleading: you feel cheerful and sharp, but in reality you are less sharp and you make more mistakes. Since the drugs are still in the blood for a while, this interaction can still be present the next day.

The debate about the physical effects of downers and stimulants is still going on and opinions among experts are divided. However, there are studies that have shown that the combination may cause problems with blood flow to the heart. Speed ​​is known to increase the risk of heart problems. When benzos are also added to this, there is a chance that the damage caused is increased.

Benzodiazepines therefore interfere with your sleep rhythm, which disrupts the biological clock. In addition, there are serious risks associated with the use of benzodiazepines, and it does us no good, especially in combination with speed. Avoid having to fight drugs with drugs. Try to schedule your use and sleep so that you don’t need sleeping aids such as benzodiazepines at the end of the night.

By: Lizet Wilken

In collaboration with: Gerard Alderliefste, Layla Deibert, Teun van der Velde and Sarsani Schenk.


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