Wednesday, June 6, 2012

AMBIEN

Don't take it.

At the risk of sounding like a drug addict (which I'm not), I need to share my Ambien adventure.  Luckily, I haven't had an Ambien adventure like some people have had. 

For anyone who doesn't know, Ambien is a prescription sleeping medication that is considered a sedative-hypnotic. 

Some people have had horrendous side effects while on Ambien - including eating, cooking, driving... doing all sorts of things.... while essentially in a "sleep" hypnotic state and having no memory of it the following day. 

Someone I love who was prescribed Ambien after his divorce decided during the night that he was hungry for hashbrowns, got into his car and drove off - running into eleven parked vehicles before he "woke up" and realized something was wrong.  He drove home and called the police.  After making sure that he was not under the influence of alcohol or street drugs, he got off with eleven tickets. 

That scared me.  And I've heard even worse Ambien horror stories.

One of my doctors called in a prescription for Ambien the night he telephoned me to tell me that my uterine pathology report had come back positive for cancer.  That was two and half years ago.

I was told to take an Ambien on nights that I couldn't fall asleep.  Well, there is a problem with the hypothesis that Ambien helps on "nights you can't fall asleep".  After taking Ambien ONE night, I couldn't fall asleep again without it.  O.N.E.  N.I.G.H.T.

I've taken 10mg of Ambien every single night since the night my doctor prescribed it.  Except for two nights last summer while we were evacuated from Los Alamos because of the Las Conchas Fire.  I ran out of Ambien, went through all sorts of red tape in an attempt to get my prescription refilled in the town I evacuated to, but still had to do without it for two nights - one where I just laid in bed with my eyes wide open, the next where I tried to medicate myself by drinking copious amounts of wine.
That didn't work.

After my friend's hashbrown/parked cars experience, I decided I wanted to stop taking Ambien.  Also, to be honest... I was having little nighttime experiences that were scaring me - having to go back twenty pages from my "dog ear" in whatever novel I was reading because I couldn't remember what I read the night before, thinking I dreamed about writing an email to a friend in Lubbock and freaking out the next day when she responded, having late night phone conversations and not remembering them the following day until reminded by the person I was talking to.  (How many have I possibly had where the person didn't remind me the next day?  Oh my!) 

I talked to one of my doctors about getting off Ambien last Spring.  I knew I had to wait until school was out because I couldn't get to school on time under normal circumstances and it would be much worse if I didn't sleep at night.  My doctor told me that when I was ready, to spend one week alternating between 10mg and 5mg of Ambien, the next week alternating between 5mg and none, then stop taking it totally. 

Well, I'm really bad at following directions so I went down to 5mg for two nights and then last night, I didn't take any Ambien.

I didn't sleep good on the nights I only took 5mg because my body is used to 10mg.  Last night - it went way beyond "not sleeping good".  I laid awake in bed for hours, finally dozing off to awaken  drenched in sweat and freezing.  Repeatedly.  Yucky.  At 3:00am, I woke up scared.  That's the only way I know to describe it - just an intense feeling of free-floating anxiety.

So unfun.

And you know how I like fun.

Thankfully, I was able to stay in bed until 11:30 today.  I seemed to sleep better (and drier) after daylight.

It dawned on my during the night that I was experiencing drug withdrawal symptoms.  Just like a street drug addict in a detox center.  

I start teaching summer school on June 18th.  I've got to get past this point before then.  I have no idea how long it will take for the symptoms to go away or the best way to proceed.  I spent hours on the internet last night where there are all sorts of tales and all sorts of advice.

What seems right to me is to try to sleep tonight again with no Ambien.  If I can't, I'll take 5mg and alternate like the doctor told me to. 

It just seems to me that if I made it through one night without Ambien, I shouldn't go back to taking any.  I want to be able to sleep without any kind of sleep aid. 

This experience has given me more compassion for people with insomnia.  It's miserable to lay in bed all night with your body tired and your brain tired but your eyes open.  It's also given me more compassion for people detoxing from alcohol or drugs.  That's miserable, too.

And it's taught me how something as innocent as wanting to sleep the night you find out you have cancer can turn into something overpowering. 

Ambien.  Don't trust it.

Love,
Tired but awake Jenn

4 comments:

  1. Jen, I think you are amazing, and I am so super impressed by how amazingly great you are doing with your weight loss journey.

    Reading this made me want to cry. It made me want to both cry for you and cry with you. It sounds so amazingly frustrating.

    Pharmaceuticals are powerful beasts. Even "all-natural" herbs can wreak havoc upon a body and cause a variety of unintended side effects.

    That said, I have been wanting to forward you information on all this new and mind-bending, brain-twisting stuff I've been reading that has totally mind-boggled me, but at the same time influenced me so powerfully that I almost can't keep it in.

    Sleep issues are huge, and if you are not sleeping well, you are not well, period. I know that you are having great success with the diet you're on, but I'm wondering if you've ever heard of the "Paleo Diet", first, and second, whether you've ever heard of Dr. Jack Kruse (which some people call a quack, but many call brilliant).

    First, I've lost nearly 20 pounds in 6 weeks by switching to a Paleo Diet, which means basically you get to eat all the meat, eggs, vegetables, and high quality fats you want, but you eliminate all grains and dried legumes (including soy) from your diet. Some sugars are fine, and the recipes for grain-free sweets are astonishing! Secondly, Dr. Kruse advocates for a Paleo Diet, but also recommends some things like cold thermogenesis (meaning cold baths and showers for short), and special glasses in the evening that help people to regulate their circadian rhythms and which end up causing people to sleep better.

    I started the Paleo diet almost 7 weeks ago in conjunction with giving up a daily beer drinking habit. I'm astonished at the results and feel like if I say anything I'm going to sound like an infomercial. However, the results are so remarkable that I can't help but rave about them!

    Eliminating grains, especially wheat, resulted in an immediate (seriously, like within 3 days) change in the quality of my sleep. I sleep deep, dream well, and wake super rested. Even if I only get 5 hours of sleep.

    If nothing else, given the crazy side-effects of Ambien, and your presumed desire do whatever it takes to stop, I thought I would at least share Dr. Kruse's information (which, I will say, can be hard to read, but is so amazing, I ended up reading it over and over and over...). I've been doing the cold thermogenesis, plus the Paleo Diet, and I'm very, very interested in his special evening glasses.

    Good luck, and given all your recent successes, I know you can kick the Ambien crap, too.

    Peace.
    Kristi B.

    http://jackkruse.com/easy-start-guide/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Kristi! I'll look into it. I've heard about the Paleo Diet but not Dr.Kruse. My first thought when I read your comment was "NO BEANS"! For some reason, that seems difficult for me - even more difficult that the no grains. But I will read about it.
    The cold thermogenesis idea interests me. Is it like the idea of drinking ice water because our body works harder to deal with the cold? And the special evening glasses. Right now, I would love some evening glasses that would make me want to go to sleep.
    Thanks for sharing. I'll let you know what I think!
    Jenn

    ReplyDelete
  3. I thought that, too, about the beans. Another amazing book is Wheat Belly, written by cardiologist William Davis. http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/

    He states that certain legumes in small amounts (1/2 cup or less) are okay, but the basic premise behind losing the grains and the legumes is that both of them cause inflammation in the body, which leads to all sorts of hormonal complications associated with health and weight. For some reason, it's been pretty easy for me to not worry too much about the grains or the beans (although if I go to Tomasita's I'm eatin' them!), but the difficult thing is trying to stock my pantry for my family, the kids especially, so that they don't eat wheat for each meal and snacks, which leads to huge glycemic loads throughout the day. I'm still buying bread and beans for them, but trying to maintain a more diverse selection of non-grain snacks and meals, which can be very difficult for hungry, active kids!

    The orange-colored glasses are apparently available on Amazon for under $10, by Uvex, I think. The issue with light, from my basic understanding, is that because we modern humans use artificial light in the evenings, we are exposed to certain light waves, blue light, in particular, that impact our circadian rhythms negatively, and lead to an improper release of hormones in the hours before bed and during the night. It's pretty fascinating.

    Here's a link to one brand of the blue-light blocking glasses.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003OBZ64M/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i00

    ReplyDelete
  4. I thought that, too, about the beans. Another amazing book is Wheat Belly, written by cardiologist William Davis. http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/

    He states that certain legumes in small amounts (1/2 cup or less) are okay, but the basic premise behind losing the grains and the legumes is that both of them cause inflammation in the body, which leads to all sorts of hormonal complications associated with health and weight. For some reason, it's been pretty easy for me to not worry too much about the grains or the beans (although if I go to Tomasita's I'm eatin' them!), but the difficult thing is trying to stock my pantry for my family, the kids especially, so that they don't eat wheat for each meal and snacks, which leads to huge glycemic loads throughout the day. I'm still buying bread and beans for them, but trying to maintain a more diverse selection of non-grain snacks and meals, which can be very difficult for hungry, active kids!

    The orange-colored glasses are apparently available on Amazon for under $10, by Uvex, I think. The issue with light, from my basic understanding, is that because we modern humans use artificial light in the evenings, we are exposed to certain light waves, blue light, in particular, that impact our circadian rhythms negatively, and lead to an improper release of hormones in the hours before bed and during the night. It's pretty fascinating.

    Here's a link to one brand of the blue-light blocking glasses.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003OBZ64M/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i00

    ReplyDelete