Trouble Sleeping? You’re Not Alone
Plenty of people have trouble getting to sleep at night. And there are plenty of reasons for that.
- Some folks have lots of worries—about their jobs, their kids, the persistently glowing “check engine” light in the car.
- Some folks have various kinds of discomfort—restless leg syndrome, chronic pain, a partner who incessantly snores.
- Some folks have some bad habits before bed—too much screen time, too much caffeine, too many scary movies late at night.
Any and all of those things (and many other things besides) can lead to insomnia, a sleep disorder that around 25 percent of Americans deal with to one degree or another each year. To put that in perspective, if four people live in your house, it would be reasonable to suspect one of them might have issues with insomnia.
If the person with insomnia is you, there are plenty of things you can try in order to find relief. First and foremost, you will want to establish a regular bedtime and a regular time for waking. Consistency in these areas can be truly helpful. So can making sure your sleep space is cool, comfortable, and uncluttered—and reserved for sleeping. And you can develop a wind-down routine to help you relax so that sleep comes more naturally. That routine might involve, say, writing in your journal, sipping some herbal tea (make sure it is free of caffeine), and listening to some relaxing music.
But if nothing seems to be helping, your physician may prescribe Ambien (the generic name is zolpidem), a drug that helps those with chronic insomnia get some much needed rest. The drug, which is taken within an hour of when a person intends to turn in, is intended for short-term use and is generally prescribed in very small doses. You could think of it as a way to nudge the stuck gears of your sleep cycle artificially for just a bit before moving toward more natural approaches to falling and staying asleep.
Unfortunately, however, not everyone uses Ambien exactly as it is prescribed. Because Ambien can bring on a kind of hypnotic high—whether taken alone in higher doses or in combination with other drugs—some people who take it find themselves developing a substance use disorder.
Avoiding the Dangerous Allure of Ambien
We have mentioned the high that Ambien users experience—particularly those individuals who use it in ways other than their doctor approved. That euphoric feeling can be enough to keep someone using the drug even when they know better. But of course the high does not last forever, and it must be pursued in ever-increasing doses over time. This behavior can lead to severe problems, including the risk of overdosing and the development of a substance use disorder (including physical dependence on the drug).
Attempting to get off Ambien comes with its own set of challenges and risks. Withdrawal symptoms—which tend to start within 48 hours of the last dose and may last for weeks on end—can include:
- Insomnia (sadly ironic given that the drug’s intended use is as a sleep aid) and fatigue
- Intense cravings for the drug
- Mood swings including agitation, irritability, sadness, and nervousness
- Stomach discomfort or cramps as well as nausea and/or vomiting
- Tremors or delirium
- Increased heart or breathing rate, sweating, flushing, and/or panic attacks
- Convulsions or seizures in severe cases as a result of the sudden increase in brain activity once the drug is no longer artificially slowing down brain function
Because of these dangers, a person addicted to Ambien should taper off the amount they ingest rather than quitting suddenly. Ideally, this period of detoxification would take place in a medically supervised environment and be followed by treatment in either an inpatient or outpatient program. That program may include any of a number of different therapeutic approaches, including (but certainly not limited to) cognitive behavioral therapy.
We Can Help You Put a Substance Use Disorder to Rest
At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we understand that you may have been prescribed Ambien in the hope that it would solve one problem only to discover it has caused a new problem of its own. We will listen to you so that we have a full understanding of your situation—including your troubles with insomnia and the ensuing difficulties with Ambien. We have the expertise to help you get sober and to address the underlying causes of the original sleep issues. If those underlying issues include a mental health disorder like depression or anxiety, we are prepared to help you find treatment and coping strategies that do not put your hard-won sobriety at risk.