Q. A few years ago I started taking Ambien for a sleep disorder. One day I drove my seven-year-old daughter to school in the morning after taking Ambien the night before. Luckily the school was only a half mile from my house. I didn’t truly wake up until I was sitting in my car in the garage after returning home.
I found out later that I had repeatedly driven into the curb. One of my tires was flat as a result. My daughter was so traumatized by the incident that she wouldn’t let me drive her to school again.
I think this drug is dangerous. I got even more than a full night’s sleep but I still turned into a dangerous driving zombie in the morning.
A. The FDA has received more than 700 reports of impaired ability or road traffic accidents from people who had taken zolpidem (Ambien). As a result, the agency has recommended lower doses to avoid just the sort of risky situation you experienced. Here’s a link to the agency announcement.
If you would like to know more about the pros and cons of popular sleeping pills plus practical alternatives, you may want to listen to our interview with two of the country’s leading sleep experts. Show #878, Solving the Sleep Dilemma, can be found at PeoplesPharmacy.com.
New research suggests that older people who rely on sleeping pills may be at greater risk for developing dementia (BMJ, online, Sept. 27, 2012). This, added to the risk of morning hangover, makes such drugs less desirable for getting a good night’s sleep.