Medicine Information

Ambien Sleep Medication And Insomnia: What Is Insomnia And How Can Ambien Help?


What's Insomnia?

Identifying insomnia is a little like the old joke about art: you know it when you're having it. For people with insomnia, though, it's no laughing matter. Having reduced or interrupted sleep is as bad for your physical and mental health as getting the wrong, or not enough, food.

People suffering insomnia may experience difficulties falling asleep, waking too early, or sleeping in small bursts throughout the night. Worse yet, someone with sleep difficulties wakes up and doesn't feel rested, may have trouble focusing, and worry about their sleep problem to the point where they can't sleep for worrying.

What Can I Do?

Like any other health problem, a combination of medication and new behavior can make a big difference. Behavior changes sleep specialists recommend including exercising regularly early in the day, reducing caffeine consumption, and making sure there's no TV in the bedroom.

A medication can help reinforce these changes by allowing you to get unbroken, healthy sleep. One medication many physicians recommend is Ambien.

I Don't Want To Take Sleeping Pills!

Over the years, "sleeping pills" have gotten some pretty bad publicity. Many 50's movie thrillers involved villains sneaking sleeping pills into the unsuspecting hero's drink. Famous people (like the poet Sylvia Plath) attempted suicide with sleeping pills. It's no wonder that you might feel reluctant to take a pill to help you sleep!

But modern drugs that help with sleep are much safer and gentler than the drugs of the past. Ambien works with a chemical in your brain called GABA. GABA helps calm the activity of certain brain cells, allowing you to sleep. Because the drug has a gentle effect on GABA, you won't wake up in the morning feeling like a zombie - you'll be refreshed and ready for a new day.

The Doctor's Office

You don't need to visit a sleep specialist to get a prescription for Ambien, though you will need to speak with a physician. Talk with your doctor about your current sleep pattern (keeping a sleep diary before your appointment can be useful) as well as the medications you are currently taking.

If Ambien seems like a good match for you, your doctor will probably prescribe it for 7 to 10 days. In rare cases, she may extend the time you use it.

A week of Ambien can help break the cycle of sleeplessness, letting you recover your natural, healthy sleep pattern. Very, very few people (1-2% of people taking Ambien) experience very mild side effects (diarrhea, drowsiness, or dizziness). You should work with your doctor to prescribe you the lowest effective dose for you, since you don't need the nighttime drowsiness to linger when you've got a big meeting with your boss the next day!

Why Can't I Just Stay On Ambien Since It's The Best Sleep I've Gotten In Years?

One of the few problems with Ambien is that it can become habit-forming (addictive) if used for several weeks. In fact, if your doctor prescribes it for two weeks or more, do not go "cold turkey" and stop the medication all at once; instead talk with her about creating a plan to taper off your dosage gently until you're ready to stop.

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