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Ambien is the first in a new class of sleeping medicines. It is prescribed for the short-term treatment of insomnia.

Studies indicate that the stages of sleep approach normal in patients on Ambien, and there is a low incidence of next-day hangover.

Side Effects and Interactions

People on Ambien may experience daytime drowsiness, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or headache.

Other side effects reported include lethargy, weakness, drugged feelings, amnesia, dry mouth, constipation, allergy and sinusitis.

Because this medication is still quite new, some rare reactions may not yet have shown up. Be sure to report any symptoms to your physician promptly.

Relatively few studies have considered Ambien in combination with other medications.

Ambien interacts with alcohol, which should generally be avoided by everyone taking sleeping pills.

Antianxiety medicines like Xanax and other sleeping pills, such as Dalmane or Halcion, might magnify the effects of Ambien.

This sleeping pill can reduce peak blood levels of Tofranil (imipramine) by 20 percent and decrease alertness.

Increased impairment has also been reported when Thorazine is combined with Ambien.

Because of the animal research showing that lemon balm extract can potentiate barbiturate action, the herb should be used only with caution, if at all, in combination with Ambien.

Check with your doctor and pharmacist to make sure Ambien is safe in combination with any other drugs or herbs you take.

Special Precautions

Older people are more sensitive to Ambien and usually require a lower dose.

Insomnia often occurs as a result of physical or psychological illness. While Ambien can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and lengthen the time a person sleeps, it can’t help correct any underlying problems, which should be diagnosed and treated appropriately.

Although there is no evidence that Ambien produces physical dependence or addiction, anyone with a history of substance abuse should be monitored carefully while on this or any other sleeping pill.

Taking the Medicine

Ambien works very quickly. It should be taken on an empty stomach immediately before going to bed.

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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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