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Daughter Traumatized by Driving Zombie

Sleep-deprived driving can be dangerous, but some sleeping pills can also turn you into a driving zombie the next morning. What else can you do?

People who have trouble sleeping face a cruel dilemma. If they don’t get any sleep, they won’t function well the following day. For example, driving while sleep deprived can be nearly as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. However, taking medication to get to sleep could have the effect of turning you into a driving zombie the next morning. That is what this reader discovered.

Ambien Turns Dad into a Driving Zombie:

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.

Lowering the Dose of Ambien:

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.

What Are the Alternatives to Sleeping Pills?

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.

Could Sleeping Pills Lead to Dementia?

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.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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