Approximately 40 – 60 million Americans (figures vary) suffer from insomnia, ranging from being unable to sleep properly a couple of nights a week to chronic insomnia that has an impact on the quality of their lives. In 2016 Americans spent around $41 billion on trying to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep aids and remedies are finding a growing market in the US but also alternative methods like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. By 2020, approximately $52 billion will be spent by the country’s insomniacs.
Insomnia is a growing problem, fulled by our stressful lifestyles. Addiction to electronic gadgetry that doesn’t allow us to switch off, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, all are contributory factors.
There are other causes for insomnia. Sinus allergies, hyperthyroidism, asthma, psychological disorders, and conditions like sleep apnea are some of them. Shift workers suffer a disruption of their sleep cycles; in the long term this can create sleep disorders.
Ambien is a popular sleep medication, in use since 1993. It is a brand name for Zolpidem. It belongs to a class of drugs known as sedative hypnotics and is now widely used across the US by people who wish to get a good night’s sleep.
While Ambien does offer a short term solution for the treatment of insomnia, it is not recommended for long term use.
Ambien is not an efficient sleep medication. It also has a range of what are quite worrying side effects. Users are cautioned against taking Ambien unless they are sure they have time to get 7-8 hours of sleep. If they wake up earlier than the prescribed period, they may suffer grogginess and forgetfulness and find it difficult to stay alert while driving or operating machinery. Other side effects are loss of coordination, diarrhea, constipation, sore throat, dizziness and blurred or double vision, dry mouth, headaches and muscle pain.
More worrying is the fact that once the body gets used to the drug, it is required in larger doses. Patients using Ambien can very quickly become addicted to it, without noticing. Those with a history of alcohol or drug addiction are particularly vulnerable.
<h3>What are the Withdrawal symptoms ?</h3>
Withdrawal symptoms such as bouts of sweating, shaking, nausea and vomiting and stomach cramps have been noticed for long term users of Ambien. Doctors recommend a slow reduction in dosage for people wishing to stop using Ambien.
Ambien can trigger bouts of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, mood swings and behavior changes, such as aggression. Patients may also hallucinate while under the influence of the drug. Some suffer allergic reactions such as itching and the swelling of airways in the nasal passages, or swelling of the tongue and throat.
The more extreme side effect of Ambien is strange behavior while under the influence of the drug. This includes sleep walking, sleep eating, sleep shopping or sleep driving; all of which endanger both the users and the people around. While it is claimed that these behaviors are a rare side-effect, enough instances have been recorded to raise concerns about the use of Ambien.
Ambien has triggered actions and behavior that are, simply speaking, bizarre. A noted case in point is Patrick Kennedy’s late night accident in 2006, Kennedy told officers arriving at the scene that he was on his way to a vote and was running late. He said he’d taken Ambien, and claimed to have no recollection of what happened that night. One year later, Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. This was later found to be another Ambien related incident.
In 2011 Lindsey Schweigert took one Ambien pill and went to bed. When she awoke she was in police custody, with no idea of how she got there. She had been involved in an accident, and failed a sobriety test. It took Lindsey weeks to piece together what happened. Under the influence of Ambien she’d showered, gotten dressed and got in her car with her dog. She was driving to a nearby restaurant when she ran into another car. These were people who were fortunate, since nobody injured or killed. There have been other instances of sleep driving, where people have been involved in accidents while sleep driving that have cost lives. After this, she started Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
There have been cases of people using Ambien who molested children after taking the drug. They claimed to have no memory of the offences.
What studies show ?
Studies show that Ambien use was the cause of thousands of visits to hospitals’ emergency departments across the US, with several cases requiring intensive care.
Some users take Ambien to enhance sexual performance, since the drug lowers inhibitions. Ambien has been used as an alternative to the date rape drug. There has been at least one recorded case of ‘sleep rape,’ where the rapist had no memory of the crime.
Perhaps the most dangerous result of taking sleep medication is that it has an adverse on the user’s physical, mental and emotional health. Medical studies have shown that sleep medication is a contributory factor in the development of cancer and heart disease, as well as triggering psychological problems.
While in some cases the use of Ambien and other sleep medications is necessary and can alleviate the problems related to sleep disorders, their widespread use has opened up a Pandora’s box of other issues. Too many people have become addicted to Ambien. Many people’s lives have been adversely affected by the side effects of using sleeping pills. Perhaps the time has come for us to develop an alternative approach to dealing with the problem of insomnia.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ?
CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia is one of the popular alternatives to sleep medication. CBT-I uses a combination of different techniques to train people in how to fall asleep naturally. These combine stimulus control therapy, relaxation techniques, light therapy, sleep restriction and remaining passively awake. Patients visit their clinic every week, and maintain sleep diaries that monitor their sleep on a daily basis. They are encouraged to cut down on excessive use of alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, all of which inhibit sleep.