Does Hydrocodone Make You Sleepy? Side Effects and Risks You Need To Know

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., M.S.

Last medically reviewed April 1, 2024

Does Hydrocodone Make You Sleepy

Key Points

  • Hydrocodone is an FDA-approved opioid drug to treat moderate to severe pain.
  • Hydrocodone can make you sleepy or drowsy and can cause respiratory depression that can be life-threatening.
  • Hydrocodone can disrupt sleep quality, potentially leading to non-restorative sleep that may contribute to the perception of higher levels of pain.
  • If you are prescribed hydrocodone, you should work closely with your medical provider to monitor for symptoms of addiction and withdrawal.

Does Hydrocodone Make You Sleepy?

One of hydrocodone’s side effects is that it causes you to feel sleepy and drowsy. However, it negatively impacts your sleep quality by disrupting your sleep architecture. This can have the negative side effect of making your pain feel worse. Unfortunately, for some, this results in an increase in the dosage of hydrocodone, which further exacerbates sleep problems. Hydrocodone side effects should be monitored closely by your medical provider.

What is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an opioid drug used to treat moderate to severe pain. Hydrocodone is often combined with acetaminophen to enhance its pain-relieving effects.  It is sold under multiple brands, commonly Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab, and Norco.

Hydrocodone falls under the drug classification of opiate analgesics, also known as narcotic analgesics. [1] It acts on the brain and nervous system to relieve pain that is severe enough to require an opioid analgesic.

Hydrocodone and Sleep

Hydrocodone disrupts sleep architecture, which is the different stages of your sleep cycle. [2] Rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) are the two main stages. Hydrocodone can affect your ability to enter REM sleep and the deep sleep stage of NREM sleep. While experiencing pain may prevent you from sleeping, taking hydrocodone can allow you to sleep, but this sleep may not be restful or restorative. A lack of restorative sleep worsens pain, which leads to most people increasing their opiate use, which worsens sleep and leads to experiencing even more pain.

Hydrocodone Side Effects

Hydrocodone and Sleep

Side effects of hydrocodone can range from mild to severe. They include: [3]

  • drowsiness
  • nausea, vomiting, and constipation or diarrhea
  • light-headedness, dizziness
  • headache
  • cold-like symptoms
  • Breathing difficulties
  • a slow heart rate, weak pulse, low blood pressure, or a fast heartbeat
  • pain or burning during urination
  • confusion, agitation, tremors, hallucinations
  • severe drowsiness, severe tiredness, or weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • fever, sweating, shivering
  • muscle stiffness, twitching, and loss of coordination.

Serious side effects require immediate medical attention

Hydrocodone and Overdose

It is possible to overdose on prescription opioid medications, including hydrocodone. Symptoms of overdose can include [4]

  • slow or shallow breathing
  • difficulty breathing
  • sleepiness
  • muscle weakness
  • cold, clammy skin
  • narrowed or widened pupils
  • slowed heartbeat
  • unable to respond or wake up
  • unusual snoring

In case of an overdose, naloxone can be administered.[5] This a rescue medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. If you or a loved one are prescribed hydrocodone, you should discuss with your healthcare provider about also having a prescription for naloxone (Narcan). It is particularly important to have naloxone available if you have small children or someone with a history of substance abuse living in your home.

If someone is experiencing an overdose, naloxone should be given immediately, and then call 911. If the person continues to have overdose symptoms or they return, a second dose of naloxone can be given. It can be administered every two to three minutes until symptoms are gone or emergency medical services have taken over treatment.

Hydrocodone and Addiction Warning Signs

The following are characteristics typical of having an addiction to hydrocodone or other drugs. Should you experience any one of these, it should be considered a warning sign that you may be at risk for experiencing an addiction or substance use disorderAddiction warning signs include [6]

  • Craving your next dose of hydrocodone.
  • Increasing the amount of hydrocodone you take.
  • Extending the duration you take hydrocodone beyond what was recommended.
  • Continuing to take hydrocodone even though it is interfering with your school, work, relationships, or social activities
  • You have a negative emotional response anytime someone tries to talk to you about your hydrocodone use.
  • You are unable to abstain from taking hydrocodone, or if you do, you feel sick and experience withdrawal symptoms, so you resume taking it.

Dangers of Hydrocodone and Sleep

Hydrocodone is a central nervous system depressant. This can lead to trouble breathing and extreme drowsiness, which can become life-threatening when combined.

Hydrocodone can cause sleep-related breathing problems, including sleep apnea and sleep-related hypoxemia. Sleep apnea occurs when you stop breathing for short periods while sleeping. Sleep hypoxemia occurs when you have low oxygen levels in your blood while sleeping. If you experience either of these, your healthcare provider may lower your dose or find an alternative pain medication that does not have these dangerous side effects.

If you have a history of breathing problems (such as asthma, COPD, or sleep apnea), discuss with your healthcare provider to assess the risks and benefits of hydrocodone.

Risks of Using Hydrocodone

Caution should be used when taking hydrocodone. Its numerous side effects, including drowsiness and impaired sleep quality, can affect your ability to complete daily tasks efficiently and safely. The risk for addiction and overdose is also high.

If you are taking hydrocodone as part of your pain management regime, you should be working closely with your healthcare provider regularly to reduce the potential risks of taking hydrocodone.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hydrocodone

What are hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms?

Do not stop taking hydrocodone medication without talking to your doctor first. Stopping hydrocodone abruptly can cause you to experience withdrawal symptoms. Your medical provider will most likely decrease your dose of hydrocodone slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms include:[7]

  • Restlessness
  • Teary eyes and runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Sweating and chills
  • Muscle pain, back or joint pain, weakness
  • Widened pupils
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Stomach cramps, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Fast breathing, racing heart rate
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

What should you do if you miss a dose of your hydrocodone?

If you accidentally forget to take your hydrocodone on time, you should skip the missed dose and resume your regular dosing schedule when it is time to take the next pill.[8] Do not take more than one dose of hydrocodone extended-release capsules in 12 hours or extended-release tablets in 24 hours. Taking more than one dose in the prescribed time frame may cause you to experience overdose symptoms or build up a tolerance that increases your likelihood of having an addiction to hydrocodone.

Is hydrocodone addictive?

Hydrocodone is classified as a Schedule II drug as it has a high risk for physical and psychological dependence.[9] It has a high potential for misuse and abuse. As a Schedule II drug, it has the most restrictive regulations when compared to other prescription medications, one example being refills are not allowed. Therefore, hydrocodone is considered highly addictive. This is one reason why, although it is FDA-approved to treat moderate to severe pain, it is only recommended when other pain medications have been unsuccessful in managing the pain.

Hydrocodone’s relaxing, calming, and euphoric effects are what cause people to misuse it and lead to addiction and substance use disorder. The more one misuses hydrocodone, the more at risk they are for overdose and experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Are there alternatives to hydrocodone for pain management?

You may decide you do not want to take hydrocodone due to its habit-forming risk, high potential for overdose, or other health reasons. Pain management alternatives you can discuss with your healthcare provider include non-opioid medications, injections, physical therapy, transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation, behavioral therapy, and lifestyle management such as diet and exercise.[10]

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[2] Moore, J. T., & Kelz, M. B. (2009). Opiates, sleep, and pain: the adenosinergic link. Anesthesiology, 111(6), 1175–1176. Retrieved from

[3] (2023). Hydrocodone. Retrieved from

[6,9] Preuss, C.V., Kalava, A., King, K.C. (2023) Prescription of Controlled Substances: Benefits and Risks. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved from

[10] Dey, S., Vrooman, B.M.(2023) Alternatives to Opioids for Managing Pain. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved from