What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
I had just started doing Weight Watchers, and had been on a roll, losing almost two pounds in two weeks. Since consistency is key, I knew as long as I kept doing what I had been doing, I could ride this wave all the way to five pounds by the end of the month.
That was, until, I took a 10 mg tablet of Ambien.
I have a prescription for Ambien, and usually take 5 mg. But I was visiting my parents in Ohio, and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to adjust from California time. I thought, what’s the harm in a little extra sleep insurance? So I doubled up on the Ambien, knowing that, when I was first prescribed it, the label said, “If the 5 mg dose is not effective, the dose can be increased to 10mg.”
Ambien is classified as a “sedative-hypnotic” drug. As such, it’s imperative that you take it immediately before bed. The best way to take Ambien is to do all of your nighttime rituals first, then actually get into bed with the Ambien tablet and glass of water on your night table. You curl up in bed, take the pill, close your eyes, and wait to drift off to dreamland.
I took the 10 mg dose after brushing my teeth intending to go straight to bed. But I started unpacking, poking around my childhood bedroom, and doing everything except going to bed.
I woke up the next morning after having dreamed of lemon cookies like those yummy new Fruit Newton kind. I dreamt of Toll House chocolate chips, and those really good Slim Fast bars that taste like Butterfingers.
As I brushed my teeth, still remembering the taste of the cookies, I thought, What an intense dream. I could still see flashes of blueberry flaked cereal and taste the nuts in the Honey Flax Almond Kashi bars. In the shower, I couldn’t stop thinking about this extended dream -– in it, I had unwrapped fancy chocolates and devoured every single one of the bon bons in the box.
All dressed and ready for the day, I went downstairs and that’s when I saw it: a menagerie of packaged food products, open and strewn about the kitchen floor! There were foil and clear plastic wrappers scattered in and around the trash can, and dirty bowls and plates in the sink.
Dreams? Those weren’t dreams at all. I had actually eaten every single thing in the dream in real life. My stellar Weight Watchers week was ruined. I sleep-ate on Ambien and I had the stomach ache to prove it.
If you take Ambien and miss the “window” for falling asleep, you run the risk of Ambi-texting, Ambi-binging, Ambi-dialing, and Ambi-ing any other activity (including sex). Kind of scary.
This was actually my second Ambien incident. The first happened last year, when I took it a couple of times on a trial basis. There’s a reason I decided not to continue at that time, and it has to do with freaky, nonsense texts I woke up in the morning to find I had written. If you have a friend who is on Ambien (or you have been on it yourself) you may have a few texts that look like this:
Ambien-Taker: Hi herroo 8391 &*&*(#$ horw jorsgtan svi88210?
Your Non-Ambien Taking Friend: WTF? Are you okay?
Ambien-Taker: Harshowiuuff! I 830sjioj rowd! Plied qooo r.
Your Non-Ambien Taking Friend: Are you taking Ambien again?
There's no response because the Ambien taker has now passed out and is enjoying a six to eight hour sleep.
Earlier this year the FDA released an alert recommending that the dosage for women be lowered from 10mg of Ambien to 5 mg, primarily citing morning-after mental impairment as a danger.
Included in the Ambien monograph are warnings that Ambien can cause “abnormal thinking or behavioral changes” and “some of these changes include decreased inhibition (e.g., aggressiveness and extroversion that seem out of character), bizarre behavior, agitation and depersonalization. Visual and auditory hallucinations have been reported…Other complex behaviors (e.g., preparing and eating food, making phone calls, or having sex) have been reported in patients who are not fully awake after taking a sedative-hypnotic. As with 'sleep-driving', patients usually do not remember these events. Amnesia, anxiety and other neuro-psychiatric symptoms may also occur.”
Despite all of its weird drawbacks and alarming side effects, one thing can be said: The stuff makes you sleep. So I’m giving it another go, purely on the smaller dosage. Hopefully I won’t be too Ambien-high in the morning to drive to my Weight Watchers meeting. That said, if the sleep-eating occurs again and sabotages my weight loss efforts, it will be Goodnight, Ambien. Hello warm milk (90 calories and two WW points) and counting sheep (free)!
It seems like an awful lot to risk for a good night’s sleep. But then, if you’ve ever dealt with insomnia, it can be a price worth paying.