October 21, 2013

Ambien makes for strange bedfellow


By Jack Smith

I got lost at about 3:00 a.m. on Saturday, and I don't remember any of it.

It wasn't a relapse or anxiety that prompted me to get out of bed and wander around aimlessly. It was another foggy moment sponsored by Ambien.

We were staying at a friend's house out of town, and I took an Ambien to help me fall asleep. I've taken an Ambien most nights for probably 10 years for insomnia.

Like some football teams, I don't play well on the road when it comes to sleep. Been that way as long as I can remember.

Apparently, my poor sense of direction didn't help the matter either. My wife, startled by the empty warm spot in our bed, had to get up, find me and point me toward the bathroom. I'm told I ran into the sofa on the way back, but  I don't remember one bit of it.

The good news is  I didn't go in the closet. I actually did that once or twice in college, but I can't blame those episodes on  Ambien. Anheuser-Busch was likely the culprit.

Ambien really works,  but it's addictive and it makes me do whacky stuff. I do things like fix midnight meals that I don't remember eating—much less making—or write emails that have me scratching my head the following morning.

Another time, I was standing in the kitchen at 2 a.m. in my underwear making a ham sandwich and all kinds of noise. My wife emerged from the bedroom and asked a reasonable question. "What exactly are you doing?"

I apparently turned and looked at her, glassy eyed, and acted as if it were lunch time. "I'm making a sandwich," I shot back with an edge of defensiveness.

The damage report the following morning indicated I had smeared mustard and mayonnaise all over the counter and left the sandwich meat and condiments out. That generally doesn't go over well at our house.

The scary thing? I don't remember any of it.

Ambien makes me goofy, and the doctor said it probably prevents me from getting into REM sleep. That's not good for anyone with bipolar disorder.

As WebMD points out, bipolar can adversely impact good sleep, and lack of good sleep can exacerbate bipolar. It's a two-way street.

The good news is my team at The Menninger Clinic sent me for a sleep study. It showed I have sleep apnea. That's encouraging, really. It could explain why I have trouble getting to sleep and why I often feel fatigued even when I can fall asleep.

I'm currently trying to get a follow-up CPAP study done. My guess is I'll be sleeping with a mask soon.

My doctor said getting off Ambien and getting on a good sleep regimen once and for all could be"life changing." It could help me contain bipolar, lower my risk of other health problems and even elevate my mood.

That would be quite the mental health trifecta.

I'm hoping and praying for sweet dreams soon...and no more midnight sandwiches.


P.S. I apologize for those who had trouble accessing the blog earlier this morning. I apparently hit "publish" instead of "save" on an earlier draft of this post. It was real early, so let's blame that one on Ambien, too. Sweet dreams.