May 5, 2008

The popular sleeping pill Ambien is a sedative and a hypnotic, causing relaxation and sleep. It affects chemicals in the brain that have become unbalanced, which results in insomnia. So Ambien sounds like a good solution, but how many people actually read all the little print that contains the warnings?

Ambien is not a good choice of sleep aid for anyone who drinks alcohol or has a history of addiction problems, even to cigarettes, because it’s so seriously addictive. It can become addictive in a very short time, even less than 10 days, and withdrawal symptoms, including rebound insomnia, can occur—the very thing you were trying to address in the first place.

It is frequently found in cases of driving under the influence, indicating abuse. It is also abused recreationally by those who force themselves to stay awake to experience vivid visuals and a mild euphoria and light-based hallucinations. Once a tolerance to the drug is reached, the sedation effect decreases and the euphoric side effects remain, along with increasing anxiety.

If mixed with alcohol or marijuana, the effects of Ambien effects are intensified. Nor is it a good choice if you’re dealing with depression. I urge people to try safer alternatives for sleep, like St. John’s wort, kava kava, or valerian, but not if you’re using Ambien, which reacts adversely with these popular sleep preparations as well as with many antidepressants and even with caffeine.

If we’re having trouble sleeping, it’s often because we’ve lost our connection to Mother Earth – so easy to do today in our fast-paced world of computers, artificial lighting, and freeway living. Before asking for a prescription, try getting more fresh air and sunshine (20 minutes a day of sun is a natural sleep aid) and exercise every day for a week to reconnect your body the natural world. Also consider drinking no caffeine after early morning, turning off the TV an hour before bedtime, and having the same sleep time every night. Nine times out of ten, this will address insomnia; if not, see a sleep expert. Menopause can also cause insomnia; if that’s the situation, see someone who can deal with the symptoms of menopause.