We’ve all been there—you can’t sleep, and you’re left tossing and turning in your bed. You know that getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to take care of yourself, but you can’t seem to shut your eyes.
It’s debatable what’s leading to your restless nights. Is it the amount of time you spend looking at a computer screen? The amount of coffee you drank that day? Stress? Anxiety? All of these things can contribute to insomnia. And like many other Americans, you might turn to medication to help you get through the night.
One popular sleep aid is Ambien (zolpidem)—a sedative-hypnotic medication intended for short-term management of insomnia.1 An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4% of Americans use a prescription sleep aid.2,3
Ambien comes with its own set of risks. While the sleep-inducing effects of Ambien are highly desirable to millions of people, they may come at a cost.
Here’s a look at five possible side effects of Ambien you’ll want to consider before use.4,5
- Increases the chances of driving a car (sleep-driving): The FDA warns that after taking Ambien, you should not drive or engage in activities that require mental alertness. Many people take Ambien to help them sleep and the day after they wake up and drive to work. This is dangerous given that Ambien can impair a person’s ability to drive even after a full night’s sleep.
- Sleepwalking:It is not uncommon for people to do or say things that they normally wouldn’t while on Ambien. One of the more serious side effects of taking Ambien is getting out of bed and not being fully awake. People report doing activities they weren’t aware of at the time, such as making food, sleep eating, or talking on the phone.
- Having sex: Ambien lessens inhibitions and there are reports of people having “Ambien sex.” Although having sex may not sound like a scary fact, there are disturbing reports of Ambien being used as a date rape drug.
- It carries a risk for abuse: If you have to continually increase doses to get the desired sedative effects of Ambien, you may have developed a tolerance to the drug. Tolerance and the ensuing increased amounts of Ambien use can increase the risk of physical dependence, which means that you need Ambien in your system in order to feel and function “normally.”
Using Ambien for longer-than-recommended durations of time and, especially, misusing Ambien by taking more than prescribed can lead some people down a path of significant physiological dependence and addiction. If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, your doctor may not prescribe Ambien because the potential for abuse may be too high. According to a research study by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 43 percent of people who developed an Ambien addiction had a previous history of substance abuse.
- Withdrawal can be unpleasant: If you have developed a dependence on Ambien, you may experience uncomfortable or even dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, stomach cramps, lightheadedness, nervousness, and panic attacks.
Learn more about the dangers of snorting Ambien here.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019). MedlinePlus: Zolpidem. \
- American Sleep Association. (n.d.). Sleep and Sleep Disorder Statistics.
- Chong, Y., Fryar, C., Gu, Q. (2013). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Prescription Sleep Aid Use Among Adults: United States, 2005-2010.
- S. Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). Ambien Label.
- Madea, B., Mußhoff, F. (2009). Knock-Out Drugs: Their Prevalence, Modes of Action, and Means of Detection. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 106(20), 341–347.