When you can’t fall asleep at night and lie there tossing and turning half the night, chances are you wake up groggy and grouchy. Most of us can agree that sleepless nights make for rough days.
For those who have chronic sleep disruptions, the thought of taking prescription sleep medication almost always crosses the mind. It’s not that people necessarily want to take sleep aids, but experience enough sleepless nights and you can become desperate for a good night’s sleep.
Sleep Medication Without Serious Side Effects
The trick is to find sleep medication that doesn’t have series side effects. Surely, you’ve heard a horror story or two of sleeping pill stories. Granted, most sleeping pills can cause grogginess upon awakening in the morning or daytime drowsiness. Ambien is one such prescription sleeping pill that is very popular and is not known for serious side effects.
Ambien’s introduction around 1990 seemed to be a godsend to those who struggled with insomnia. It was initially set as a short-term sleep aid that was less likely to become addicted to, as some of the other narcotic sedatives. However, with more than two decades under its belt, more serious side effects have now come to light.
Ambien Side Effects
Ambien certainly provides some relief from insomnia, but it also carries some side effects. Common side effects include:
- Slower breathing
- Stomach issues like nausea or vomiting
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty focusing
- Memory loss
- Decreased ability to feel emotions
- Suicidal thoughts
- Withdrawal symptoms
When you take Ambien as directed, it can help you fall asleep by calming your nervous system and brain. It decreases your respiratory system, but can also have some serious side effects on other systems in the body, such as the digestive and cardiovascular systems.
Harsher side effects of Ambien include:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Irregular heartbeat
- Cramping of muscles
- Allergic reactions that can lead to hives, swelling of the tongue, lips, face, and shortness of breath. In such cases, seek immediate medical help.
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How Ambien Affects Cognition
Many users of Ambien aren’t aware that it is a hypnotic medication. It acts on the central nervous system much like benzodiazepines, but was designed in a way that isn’t as addictive as benzos.
However, Ambien can affect the cognitive functions in various ways, including:
- Feeling emotionally blunt (not able to really feel your feelings)
- Trouble focusing
- Extreme sad feelings, depression
- Memory impairment
- Increased anxiety
The drug was created to help those who struggle with falling asleep get a good night’s sleep, but other effects have been noted. In fact, the FDA has issued warnings about the drug, stating that at higher doses it can cause what they call “next-morning impairment”. This means that some people who take Ambien can get up the next morning and be impaired cognitively. This may cause them to not be so great at things like operating machinery, driving a car, or talking to others. There have been plenty of people who got up in the morning after taking Ambien the night before and still felt so drowsy and cloudy that they had a tough time getting moving.
Taking Ambien When You Don’t Need It
There are those that abuse Ambien, taking it when they’re not struggling with sleep issues. These individuals can experience a host of adverse side effects of ambien, such as:
- Extreme sleepiness
- Inability to perform tasks
Why would people take Ambien if they’re not struggling with sleep issues? Because when the drug is taken at higher doses then prescription level, it can cause a sense of euphoria and boost energy levels. However, it’s also very dangerous to use the drug in higher doses and can sometimes cause the opposite effects, some of the dangers of ambien are extreme sleepiness and clumsiness. You’d be surprised at just how many Ambien users end up stumbling and falling, bruising and breaking bones.
Ambien Use And Driving
Some people take Ambien in higher doses and think they can still drive a car well. They can’t. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that those who take Ambien in higher doses can be impaired to drive up to about 16 hours after taking the drug. If they mix their pill taking with alcohol or other drugs, their chances of crashing a car of experiencing some other injury increases significantly.
The point is that people should never take Ambien other than the exact dosage prescribed by a medical doctor. Doing so increases the risk of injury, depression, suicidal thoughts, and cognitive deficits.
Can Ambien Cause a Blackout?
Some Ambien users report doing things that they don’t remember doing while sleeping. Some report that they took Ambien, went to sleep, and engaged in activities they didn’t remember when they woke up, including having sex, eating, and driving a car. This is called parasomnia, or Ambien blackouts, and can cause a person to do all sorts of things they won’t remember. Some things they do they certainly regret, like ordering things online or going a little cray-cray posting of Facebook.
Is Ambien Addictive?
When Ambien was created, it was supposed to be a sleep aid that wasn’t addictive like some of the other medications. Over time, experts have come to believe that Ambien is indeed addictive, as tolerance can be built, people can come to depend on it, and withdrawal symptoms can occur.
More and more people seem to become dependent on Ambien, thinking they must take it regularly in order to feel normal and go about their every day lives. Now, if people take the drug as prescribed by a doctor with the intention of only using it for a short amount of time, the risk of dependency decreases. Unfortunately, some people continue taking the drug long-term or start abusing the drug, increasing their chances of becoming addicted to it.
What Are Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms?
Some people experience pretty harsh withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking Ambien. Those that stop abruptly may experience the same types of symptoms as benzodiazepines, such as seizures. This indicates that the body can certainly become addicted to Ambien, and precaution must be used when coming off the drug.
Common Ambien withdrawal symptoms include:
- Inability to fall asleep
- Stomach ache or nausea
- Cramping muscles
Anti-Anxiety And Sleeping Medications
A major study conducted by researchers from the University of Warwick in England has found a connection between some anti-anxiety and sleeping drugs and the increased probability of early death. In the study published in the British journal, BMJ, over 34,000 participants were tracked over a period of seven and a half years. The study began after the individuals first took an anti-anxiety drug or a sleeping drug. The drugs that were prescribed most were those from the category of drugs known as benzodiazepines. These are drugs like Sonata, Ambien and Lunesta. Anti-anxiety drugs included Xanax and Valium.
The researchers also observed another group of people who did not take any form of anti-anxiety and sleeping drugs. The researchers factored in factors such as age, socioeconomic status, prescription medication, smoking habits and alcohol use. The deaths that occurred in the first year were excluded from the study. The study also included factors such as anxiety disorders, sleep disorders and psychiatric illness which could also predispose a person to death.
After adjusting for these factors, they found out that people who used the drugs developed more than double the risk for death. Individuals who took any of the drugs being studied had a higher risk of death than individuals who took other drugs or did not use any drug at all. There was a total of four more deaths for every 100 participants in the study than in individuals who did not take the drugs in the study or those who did not take any prescription drugs.
This proved that there was a considerably higher risk of death among individuals who took anxiolytic or hypnotic drugs. The lead researcher advised that drugs ought to be used cautiously. This was based on a variety of factors which suggested that the side effects of these drugs were considerable and harmful. He said that the over-reliance on these drugs should be minimized and that other options such as cognitive behavioral therapy should be sought.
Can Drug Rehabs Help Those Who Are Addicted?
Absolutely. For those who have become addicted to Ambien or any drug, attending an inpatient or outpatient drug rehab can help them get off the drug safely. First, a period of detox is necessary, where the person will most likely experience some withdrawal symptoms. Good news is that they will be surrounded by medical professionals who can monitor them around the clock.
Insomnia is a rising problem, as approximately a third of adults in the United States suffer from a sleeping problem. As a result, more and more people are seeking medical help as their lives are disrupted.
Should you find yourself addicted to sleeping pills, such as Ambien, make a decision to get the necessary help in order to get yourself off of them. There are more alternative and healthy ways that you can learn to reduce anxiety and sleep better. You may simply need a professional to direct and guide you in the right direction like the professionals at Chapters Capistrano.
Want more information about how Chapters Capistrano can help? Feel free to call 949-276-2886 and one of our addiction specialists will help get the information and help you need.
Chapters Capistrano strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.
Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.
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