With so much focus on the potential negative effects of sleep aids such as Ambien in the news recently, we turn to a sleep expert to weed out the rumors and get to the truth. Calvin Gardner, Director of the Mission Sleep Center, helps us clear things up.
“Ambien has been a solid sleep aid for a number of years,” said Gardner. “The health goal is to maintain proper sleep architecture throughout the night, and a quality sleep aid such as Ambien can be an instrumental part of that clinical plan. Healthcare professionals have used sleep aids very successfully to help many people achieve desired sleep goals.”
While there are potential side effects with just about any prescription medication, some “extreme” side effects of sleep aids are incredibly rare, and usually enhanced by other factors such as sleep deprivation or poor timing when taking the drug.
“Some of these uncommon side effects could possibly be confusion,” said Gardner. “Even less common are anxiety or paranoia. But many of the negative side effects associated with sleep aids occur when patients allow themselves too little time to sleep after taking the drug.”
It’s also important to remember not to drive or operate any machinery after taking a sleep aid. “These drugs can cause impairment,” said Gardner. “Any activity after taking a sleep aid creates serious risk for injury.”
Gardner also noted that it’s incredibly important to follow your doctor’s orders for the prescription, as well as consult with your pharmacist upon filling the prescription. Other important considerations are to make sure your doctor knows all of your regular drug use to avoid any negative drug interactions, and to avoid alcohol use when taking sleep aids. “Additionally, alcohol has negative impact on your sleep architecture in general,” added Gardner. “It disrupts the overall flow of sleep throughout the night.”
So getting regular sleep and being ready for your Z’s is critical when you’ve been prescribed a sleep aid. “The biggest thing is to ensure you’re at home and you’re preparing for bed,” said Gardner. “That’s really key. The impact of a sleep aid can occur in a very short amount of time.”
Calvin Gardner, RPSGT, RST, is the Director of Neuroscience, Clinical Neurophysiology and Mission Sleep Center.