Better Lock up the Pantry!

Is there anything worse than a rotten night of sleep? You know, the kind of night where you toss and turn, periodically glancing at the clock and pounding your pillow and thinking, “It’s three in the morning, and I haven’t slept a wink! How am I going to function at work tomorrow?” Unfortunately, most insomniacs obtain only snatches of fitful sleep until the wee hours of the morning when they finally fall into a deep restorative sleep several hours before the alarm clock jolts them awake!

Not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry’s solution to insomnia is a sleeping pill, of which Ambien (or zolpidem tartrate) is the most common. Fans of the drug insist it knocks them out quickly, yet it doesn’t cause a morning hangover.

So what’s the problem? Let me share the experience of two patients on Ambien:

Sandy was profoundly bipolar, and if she endured multiple nights of sleeplessness, she nosedived into a massive manic spell or profound depression. Thus, besides bipolar meds, her psychiatrist prescribed Ambien to keep her sleep cycle regulated. Her current meds worked great, and she had not required hospitalization in over five years.

One morning, however, her roommate stormed into her bedroom insisting that Sandy had eaten up her supersized bag of Doritos in the night. She waved the empty bag as her proof. Sandy insisted she had NOT eaten the Doritos. In fact, she was on a strict diet and had given up all junk food. The roommate was unconvinced. “Well, I didn’t eat them, and you’re the only other person in our apartment,” her roommate pointed out.

The “Dorito Dilemma” was solved one night when Sandy woke up and discovered an empty Dorito bag in her bed! Talk about incriminating! Turns out, under the influence of Ambien, when Sandy awoke to go to the bathroom, the drug put her in such a trance-like state that after she’d completed her bathroom business, she’d wandered to the kitchen and snatched up her roommate’s Doritos. And consumed the entire supersized bag. Worse, the drug’s amnesia effect  left her with no recollection whatsoever of her feeding frenzy. Had she not found the empty bag in her bed, she still wouldn’t believe it. No wonder she’d gained ten pounds despite following her Weight Watchers plan to the letter! “The worse part?” she bemoaned. “I consumed hundreds of calories of Doritos night after night and didn’t even get to enjoy them because I was half-asleep!"

The repercussions of Ambien were even more disastrous for another poor patient of mine named Rebecca. She had swallowed an Ambien then went back to writing e-mails; she figured she had a good half-hour before the medication kicked in, so she may as well get some correspondence done.

Only problem? Once the medicine kicked in, she did not stop composing her e-mails, and because she was doped up, the e-mails she wrote while under its influence were dreadful. For example, instead of politely declining her mother-in-law’s invitation to a lady’s brunch, she sent off a nasty note stating she couldn’t stand her mother-in-law, and she’d rather tour a nuclear dump than spend her Saturday afternoon with the critical old bat.

That went over well!

As did an e-mail she composed to a coworker under the influence of Ambien stating Rebecca resented all the texting and personal phone calls the woman made because Rebecca got stuck doing her work. The e-mail went on to say should get her lazy butt out of the chair and start pulling her weight around the office. Since the co-worker thought they were friends, the inflammatory e-mail wrecked havoc.

The most embarrassing e-mail was sent to her boss, whom she’d always secretly thought was handsome. While their relationship had always remained purely professional, her email to the boss stating he was a “hunk” and a “dreamboat” and that she’d often dreamed of “running her fingers through his hair,” did not go over well with her husband, her boss, or her boss’s wife! But once again, she had no recollection of even writing the e-mail! Ironically, in the end, Rebecca was fired for unprofessional conduct and the lazy co-worker kept hers! Rebecca's excuse that “the Ambien made me do it” sounded lame to her boss and didn’t change his decision to fire her. In fact, he told her it showed deplorable judgment to compose e-mails under the influence of Ambien! Swell!

So readers: if you take any kind of sleeping pill, for heaven’s sake, lock up your pantry and your computer before you go to bed!