Need Some Sleep? Popping An Ambien Might Be The Wrong Call. Here’s Why.

Need Some Sleep? Popping An Ambien Might Be The Wrong Call. Here’s Why.
March 29, 2021 welleum


Natural Alternatives May Help You Catch Some Z’s

Sleep In Eastern Medicine

Falling asleep–and then staying asleep–is no easy task. There’s lots of things that can make it hard for you to fall asleep, like drinking too much caffeine, stressing out about work, and too much screen time before bed. And if you’re having trouble falling asleep every night, turning to prescription drugs to help you nod off may seem like the only choice.

If your insomnia stops you from getting a good night’s rest, something needs to change. But is popping an Ambien the right move? Are there alternatives you should consider first?

What is Ambien?

Ambien is one of the most commonly prescribed sleeping medications. It’s part of a group of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics. It came out in the 1990’s and was supposed to be a safer replacement for benzodiazepine-based sleeping pills like Ativan. These days, Ambien, (the generic name is zolpidem) is prescribed to help adults 18 and up with short-term insomnia.

How Do You Take Ambien?

New Year's Resolutions In Eastern Medicine - SleepYou’re supposed to take Ambien right before you go to bed, because it’ll help you fall asleep and stay asleep. But be careful to only take Ambien if you have enough time for about 8 hours of sleep. If you take an Ambien and set an alarm for 5 hours later, you’ll still have the drug in your system when you wake up. You’re also supposed to take Ambien on an empty stomach, because it doesn’t work as well if you just ate dinner or a midnight snack. 

How much Ambien you’ll need to fall asleep will vary based on a few different things, like:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Weight
  • And other factors.

In general, women are prescribed smaller doses than men because it takes their bodies longer to digest the medicine.

How Does Ambien Work?

So how exactly does Ambien work to help you fall asleep?

For the science nerds out there, here’s a technical explanation. Ambien helps to activate a neurotransmitter in your brain known as GABA. The GABA chemical helps to slow down your brain activity along with your central nervous system.

Translation? Ambien helps your brain produce a chemical that helps your body and mind slow down enough to help you chill out enough to drift off to sleep–and stay there.

The Downsides of Ambien

Ambien Problems - Eastern Medicine For SleepSometimes, Ambien is the right choice for people dealing with short-term insomnia and just need to break the sleepless cycle. Ambien works within half an hour, so you won’t be counting sheep till the early hours of the morning anymore. However, there are quite a few downsides to this sleeping pill, which is why many Western medical practitioners hesitate to prescribe it to their patients. Here’s just a few of the downsides of Ambien and sleeping pills like it.

Long Term Impairment

One of the problems with Ambien is that it actually works too well. For some people, Ambien will stay in your system for longer than 7 hours, making you so sleepy that you might not be able to drive a car or use a kitchen knife safely. The FDA even had to issue a safety announcement about it in 2013.

Generally, women are more likely to deal with this problem, because their bodies take longer to process the drug. But anyone who expects to have to operate heavy machinery the next day should probably skip Ambien.

Sleep Walking (And Other Activities)

Have you heard of people having weird dreams or even sleepwalking when they take Ambien or other sleeping pills? Well, studies have shown that Ambien can have some pretty weird side effects, including cooking, eating, driving, and even having sex while asleep.

And weirdly enough, you may not even remember doing any of these things the next morning. This is especially likely if you drank alcohol before you took your sleeping pill for the night.

It Doesn’t Play Well With Others

Ambien vs Eastern Medicine For Sleep - pillsAmbien likes to be the star of the show, so it doesn’t mix well with many other medications. If you take any of these medicines, you shouldn’t take Ambien, as it can have dangerous side effects:

  • Anxiety meds
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Pain relievers
  • Allergy pills
  • Cold medicine

Seniors, Skip It

Experts on geriatrice medicine like the American Geriatric Society recommend senior citizens skip sleeping pills. Despite the fact that almost 40% of older adults take some sort of sleeping medication, senior citizens are more likely to suffer from side effects like extreme grogginess and impairment the day after taking Ambien. As we get older, we become more sensitive to depressants like the ones in sleeping medications–even O-T-C options

You Build A Tolerance

Ambien is really only supposed to be used as a short-term sleep aid, partially because you build a tolerance to it over time. Small doses become less effective, and your doctor will have to keep upping your prescription for you to get the same results. And the more Ambien you take, the groggier you’ll be the next day. It’s like a vicious cycle.

Unlikely (But Possible) Side Effects

Over the past few decades, Ambien has earned a reputation for hazing some bizarre side effects–even beyond sleepwalking and sleep driving. You might also end up noticing some strange symptoms, like

  • memory loss
  • personality/behavioural changes
  • depression
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • hallucinations 

Any Ambien Alternatives?

It’s really frustrating when you can’t fall asleep–especially if it keeps happening every night. When you don’t get enough rest, your physical and mental health suffers, so it’s important to do whatever you can to get some sleep. But sleeping pills like Ambien aren’t the safest or most effective long term treatment for insomnia, and some of the side effects are so extreme that it’s not really worth taking at all. 

But just because Western medicine comes up short with this one doesn’t mean all hope is lost! We’ve written a lot about Eastern medicine tips and tricks for getting more sleep, so make sure to check out these blogs:

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