July 3, 2009

Sleep-driving, sleep-shopping, and aggressive sleep-sex anyone? Just pop a pill.

Sleep. Most living creature do it. Some of us even look forward to it. If we were to go without sleep for 10 days we would die, which technically means we could last longer without food (banish the thought). But what happens if sleep becomes illusive? I once stayed awake for 48 hours when I was young and stupid. (I also tried fasting for a month around the time hunger strikes were de rigueur, and almost made it. Day 24, movie theatre popcorn got me.) I remember the incredible feeling of exhaustion around five or six in the morning of the second day. But once that passed an amazing sense of euphoria kept me going for about another six hours. It was delightful. I was giddy and light and vowed never to sleep again -- until I regained my mind and came crashing down to earth. Bed called me at 3AM on day three. Sleep, it seems, has a mind of its own. Try to stay awake and it will claim you. Try to force it and it will elude you.

I was mindlessly zoning out in front of the TV the other night when a commercial caught my attention. It was on an American channel and for a medication that we can't get in Canada (apparently it is approved for use, but not available for sale.) Ambien CR. What caught my attention wasn't the soothing music or the pretty woman tossing and turning, unable to sleep. It was the voice-over which, in a soothing tone (that alone could put me to sleep), was calmly selling the wonderful benefits of Ambien CR.

According to the "voice" Ambien CR is a prescription sleep-aide; the panacea for insomniacs everywhere. The commercial then showed the sleepless woman, after popping a pill, settle into a blissful sleep. Nothing could disturb her.

Not even the voice-over now reciting the list of possible side-effects:

Difficulty with coordination
Binge eating
Memory problems
Spinning sensation (vertigo)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) -- heartburn is the most common symptom
Heart palpitations
Muscle pain
Suicidal thoughts
More outgoing or aggressive behavior than normal
Strange behavior
Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there)
Agitation or restlessness
Slurred speech
Coordination problems
Vision changes

According to an article on CBC.ca, Ambien has some other unusual side effects. "When a cough was keeping Rosalind Cartwright, 84, up at night, she took a cough suppressant and Ambien. The Chicago resident does not remember what happened next, although there is a dent in her refrigerator that was not there before. While sleepwalking, she likely fell several times, fracturing her wrist, breaking three ribs, cracking her pelvis and a front tooth and scraping her elbow which was bleeding profusely when she awoke, she said. She also bruised her face and had internal bleeding on the right side of her head. Cartwright had to be hospitalized for a week."

"[Some people] who took Ambien...have driven while asleep, gone grocery shopping or had aggressive sex. They don't remember what they did when they wake up."

Now don't get me wrong. I know that insomnia is at the least, annoying and at the worst, debilitating. But I just can't help feel that in this case the cure is worse than the disease. Aggressive sex while asleep? I don't know about you, but I want to be awake for something like this?

I'm thinking a glass of warm milk instead.


Dan Johnson said...

Too funny...those side effects. Remember Olestra, that substitute fat? One of the side effects was anal leakage--mmm, anal leakage. I tried to go on a three day fast once and I caved with theatre popcorn as well...on the first night.

drollgirl said...

yeesh! some people swear that ambien is great. i am glad i don't normally have tooooooooooooo much insomnia. those side effects are bad news!

gh said...

Ah, the smell of popcorn is just too overwhelming. . .
I have thought about trying sleep pills, but try to do whatever I can not to take any medications.
Since I was a kid I never liked to sleep because somehow I felt it was a waste of my time when i could be doing something. I always had soemthing to do and was very driven to do them.
To this day, I always procrastinate going to sleep and when I try to lay down i seem to tense and full of energy to rest. I usually wake up feeling not fully rested, but the black coffee gets me back up once again.
It is definetlysomething that i have to work on. . .sleep is very important.
Great post

Sharon McPherson said...

What an interesting post - something we do, 'need to do', to stay alive and I take for granted. I hadn't given sleep much thought. I am lucky at the moment I am sleeping like a baby. Has not always been this way though. But popping pills and side affects are not for me.

I agree with you, aggressive sex I'd want to be awake for that, be awake for any sex in fact. And really, really good sex usually helps aid sleep anyhow. Better than popping any pill. :)

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving coments :)

Cheryl said...

Wow, the side effects of Ambien almost make alcohol a better option. I get insomnia every once in a while. Worst case, my 1st week at my 1st job out of college, 5 days without sleep. Don't know why I didn't keel over. I wasn't even a coffee drinker then. So I can see why, even with those side effects, a person would take Ambien anyway.

sallymandy said...

Good points. It's a hard thing to sort out, how to get enough sleep. I took prescription medication for a long time for insomnia, and did so kicking and screaming. I did not want to AT ALL. But as you pointed out, ten days is all we have. And some crazy psychosis can set in before that. So, sometimes these medications are needed. I don't know if I'd choose that one.

Thankfully, I no longer need help sleeping. I've thought many times though that I would really be in bad shape if I hadn't had help in the past.