For years, I have battled insomnia. I strongly believe—and I’ve read studies that confirm this—that this is a genetic trait, much in the way kids inherit blue eyes or blond hair from their parents. In my case, I believe I take after my Mom, who I watched suffer with sleeplessness for years.
So although I can’t honestly blame all of my current problems with sleeplessness on my hysterectomy, I can tell you that having the surgery hasn’t helped me at all with this condition. If anything, it got even worse—primarily because of the drugs I was prescribed to help make it better.
Actually, when I was younger, a train could go through my bedroom and I wouldn’t even budge. I slept like the proverbial baby, and all was well. Around 35, this all began to change, and I began to wake up like clockwork (no pun intended) every morning around 2 a.m.
As it turns out, there is a scientific reason for this phenomenon—most of us undergo a change in our body chemistry right around that time. Our glucose levels tend to drop around then, causing some of us to wake up.
But while most people awaken briefly and then drift off again, I usually ended up staring at the clock, watching the digital readout change from 2:01 to 2:02 to 2:03, until I thought I was going crazy. I tried everything from counting sheep to meditating and counting slowly to myself—nothing worked.
Eventually, I would go back to sleep, but by this time it was close to 6 or 7 a.m., which meant I had to get up to take care of my family and go to work. I felt like I was walking around in a fog most of the time.
Desperate for sleep, I finally went to my doctor, and he prescribed a sleep medication. Although it helped at first, I ended up needing to take more and more of it to get results. After trying several other medications, he prescribed Ambien. That is when things began to get really scary.
At first, Ambien seemed to be the answer to my prayers. I could fall asleep quickly and stay that way for 5 to 6 hours. I would wake up feeling rested, and I felt really good.
But after awhile, just like before, I had to increase my dosage to get the same effect. Shortly thereafter, I began doing something I had never done before—I began sleepwalking. But this was more than just your generic “get up and walk around the house” sleepwalking. This was sleepwalking with a bizarre twist.
Specifically, I seemed to do things that I had thought about right as I drifted off to sleep. I found this out the hard way after I dozed off one night, thinking that I needed to dye my eyelashes.
The next morning, I couldn’t even open my eyes. I hurried to the mirror and was horrified to see black dye caked all over my eyes, hands, and vanity. Sometime during the night, I got up and obviously tried to dye my eyelashes. Worst of all, I had no memory of it at all.
To say I was freaked out was an understatement. Suppose I had drifted off to sleep thinking about how I needed to chop up some onions for tomorrow’s dinner? (If I ever cooked, that is). Or that I needed to go out and take a nice long walk around the neighborhood? I could have easily ended up cutting myself or wandering around the streets of Phoenix. It still makes me shudder to think about it.
Although it didn’t happen to me, I’ve also read several stories about people who get up during the night to eat while on Ambien, and have no recollection about it the next morning. These folks will get up in the morning, go into the kitchen and wonder why there are empty chip and cookie bags all over the counters. Then they probably also wonder why they are not that hungry for their Special K that morning!
I’ve also heard about people who drive in their sleep while taking this drug, and right on the list of side effects for Ambien (the basic list, not the long list I was given), it also mentions that some folks will even have sex without remembering it—can you even imagine?
Have you ever taken Ambien? If so, did you have any of these symptoms, and/or anything I didn’t mention? I’m very interested to read about others’ experiences with this drug, so please feel free to drop me a line and tell me your story.
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