It’s way past your bedtime, you have an important meeting the following morning and it seems impossible to fall asleep. Sound familiar? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that approximately 50 to 70 million adults in the United States suffer from sleep deprivation or a sleeping disorder. What’s more alarming is that close to 38 million of these adults take a sleep aid. It’s no surprise that many Americans seek relief from the help of the doctor to combat sleepless nights.
Lack of good quality sleep can greatly impact your ability to concentrate, make decisions, operate a motor vehicle or other machinery and much more. It’s no secret that sleep deprivation is serious and comes with many negative consequences. It can lead to poor job performance, tardiness, relationship issues and a slew of other undesirable outcomes. Sleep deprivation is a known punishment used on prisoners. Why? It’s painful, making it extremely effective.
In the early 1990’s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Ambien (zolpidem) to treat sleeping problems (primarily insomnia) in adults (Salamon, 2011). It comes in two forms; the immediate release tablet designed to help a person fall asleep when first going to bed and Ambien CR, which both helps with falling asleep as well as staying asleep. This drug belongs to a class known as sedative-hypnotics and produces a calming effect. It was introduced as alternative to benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan) and triazolam (Halcion) since its effects leave the body sooner, reducing potential side effects such as drowsiness (Sinha, 2018). Unfortunately, as more evidence comes to light, it appears that the effects of Ambien has similar undesirable side effects, making doctors question its safety.
Ambien is designed to be prescribed for a shorter duration of time; usually one to two weeks. It was never intended to be used over a prolonged period time. However, it is not uncommon for patients who experience immediate relief from insomnia when taking Ambien to request to continue taking the medication. What’s the risk of taking a medication that appears to be giving those who are suffering relief? Many risks. Many patients report severe side effects of Ambien and some even develop a dependency for the medication.
Salamon, S. (2011, December) Ask the doctor: Is it okay to keep on taking Ambien for my sleeping problems? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/is-it-okay-to-keep-on-taking-ambien-for-my-sleeping-problems Sinha, S. (2018, December 16) What is Ambien? Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/ambien.html