Caution on Ambien and sedative sleep aide usage

60 million prescription sleep aides are prescribed in the United States. Ambien is the #1 prescribed hypnotic. And new physician research recommends greater caution for doctors and patients when considering these sleep aides as a first response to sleepiness and insomnia complaints.

The Dangers of Ambien, Lunesta, and Sleep Aides

Anecdotal reports implicate this powerful hypnotic drug in a range of dangerous side-effects, including parasomnia-like behaviors such as sleep walking or sleep eating, driving while sleeping, inappropriate sexual behavior, and more commonly, sedative sleep aides contribute to fragmentation of the sleep architecture and reduction of restorative sleep quality. There are even recent news reports of homicides and violent crimes committed whose suspects blame Ambien as the cause. Recently on television, Dr. Mehmet Oz examined the dangerous side-effects in his July 16 episode of The Dr. Oz Show.

One group at particular risk for Ambien side-effects are the elderly. Given the alarming rise of automobile accidents and fractures from falls, the American Geriatrics Society last year included sedative-hypnotic medications on its "Choose Wisely." Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is cautioning physicians on prescription of sedating narcotics to senior citizens, attributing 90,000 annual emergency room visits due to sedative usage.

Related: Poor Sleep and Weight Loss

Included in the risk of car crashes or falls from heavy sedation, sleep aides like Ambien often mask the symptom rather than addressing the underlying cause. Patients who are excessively tired or sleepy or have difficulty sleeping may have sleep-disordered breathing like sleep apnea. Sedating narcotics and hypnotics further fragment the sleep architecture, reduce or worsen restorative sleep, and thus exacerbate the underlying sleep deprivation. In patients with mild upper airway resistance syndrome, sedatives can even worsen the snoring or sleep apnea by reducing the brain and body's threshold for arousal to close the collapsing airway.

Sedative Sleep Aide Warnings

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services FDA Consumer Health Information: Side Effects of Sleep Drugs is a helpful guide in understanding how sleep hygiene and lifestyle choices can reduce insomnia symptoms without the need for hypnotic medications.

It is concerning that common indications of an underlying sleep problem reflexively generate a prescription rather than a baseline test to evaluate and quantify the problem before determining appropriate treatment. Living longer years or growing older doesn't have to automatically mean sleep loss, tiredness, or fatigue.

Why it Matters to Get Sleep Testing

Sleep is the fundamental basis of well-being and a long life, and restorative sleep deficiency and resulting sleep deprivation may be the root cause for a patient's sleep-related and daytime dysfunction problems. Simple, painless sleep disorder testing is covered by most insurance plans (including Medicare). The first step to improving the quality of one's happiness, energy, and life is with an in-lab sleep study to evaluate and quantify sleep quality at the Austin sleep lab SleepSomatics. Or, for patients who are unable or afraid of sleeping in a modern, spa-inspired sleep suite in a credentialed sleep center like SleepSomatics, other out-of-center sleep apnea testing options include SleepSomatics take-home sleep apnea test.

Concerned you aren't getting enough sleep? If you or someone you care about snores or is tired and fatigued during the day, sleep-disordered breathing (and sleep apnea) may be a serious risk. Get your sleep tested today by SleepSomatics, a professionally credentialed and accredited sleep test center located in Austin since 1999. Call 512.323.9253.

For more information, read this article's sources:

Herald Media: Ambien not defense in murder case

JAMA Psychiatry: Emergency Department Visits by Adults for Psychiatric Medication Adverse Events

The Journal of the American Medical Association: Insomnia

The Journal News: Man accused of strangling girlfriend blames Ambien

The New York Times: More on Sleeping Pills and Older Adults

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Side Effects of Sleep Drugs

This blog's thumbnail image credit goes to 13ABC.


SleepSomatics Diagnostic Center is a credentialed and accredited sleep center serving Austin and Central Texas since 1999. We provide sleep diagnostic and therapy services including In-Lab Sleep Study, Take-Home Sleep Test, and Sleep Therapy. We gladly accept most insurances and provide you with a written quote of any costs. Questions? Get answers. Let's talk. Call us. We're ready when you are. Call SleepSomatics at (512) 323-9253.