Sleep disorders such as insomnia can make you sit up all through a night. It is an acute condition if it is experienced over an intensively short span of time. On the other hand, insomnia is termed as a chronic condition if you have difficulties to sleep for over 3 nights of a week. Doctors attribute many reasons for such sleep related problems; key among them is stressful living conditions, disturbances in the surrounding environment, intake of a few types of medications, consumption of caffeine, etc. In some instances, mental conditions such as depression, phobia and psychosis can also give you sleepless nights. Sedative hypnotic drugs are prescribed as part of treatment to cure sleep disorders. Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic medication used over a shorter term. If your medication plan includes intake of ambien, you are advised to know about its side effects prior to starting the plan.

The generic name of ambien is zolpidem. This drug is widely prescribed for the treatment of sleep related problems like insomnia. The key function of this medication is to calm the brain and to make you have a sound sleep. Ambien forms part of a family of medicines called sedative hypnotic drugs. It is taken orally, once every day – before your bedtime. This drug is known for its fast action; hence, you are advised to consume the pill soon after you are at your bed. Ensure that this drug is not consumed soon after or along with your night meal; such practices can only lessen the therapeutic effects of ambien.

Medication plan involving the intake of ambien depends on your bodyweight, age, gender, other drugs currently taken as well as your clinical condition. Dosages may also be altered based on how your body responds to the initial doses. It is strongly recommended not to take this pill often or enhance its strength without taking the consent of your medical team. A few people may take this pill longer than the prescribed duration; such practices can only lead to several adverse reactions or side effects. So, always ensure that the maximum allowed dose of this medication is never more than 10 mg each day.

Side effects of ambien

The most common side effects of taking ambien are feeling dizzy or drowsy. It is likely that you may remain sleepy all through daytime. Your physician needs to be informed about such side effects without delay. It can be corrected by altering (i.e., reducing) the strength of your dose. People who have started taking ambien may also have difficulties to sleep for the first few days. This is a common side effect, and is attributed to rebounding of insomnia. You may be able to sleep well after 2 or 3 days. However, if your sleeping troubles persist, you need to talk to your treating doctor immediately.

It is important to take ambien only when you have sleeping time of at least 6 to 7 hours after taking a pill. If you have to wake-up in less than say, 6 or 7 hours, it is likely to trigger loss of coordination, memory lapses, etc. A sudden discontinuation of ambien can result in a few withdrawal symptoms. The common discomforts of sudden withdrawal are cramping of abdominal muscles, tremors, being in a nervous state, vomiting, nausea, etc. It is for these reasons, you doctor may lessen the strength of this drug gradually. People who took ambien for a longer term or in higher strengths are more vulnerable to these signs of withdrawal. There are reasons why the drug is never prescribed for long or at its strengthened dosage forms. Some people may turn addicted to this drug; especially, those who have a clinical history of substance abuse. Also, if you have consumed this pill for a longer duration, its efficacy may drop markedly. It is highly recommended to tell your treating physician if sleeping problems persist.

Other serious side effects associated with the intake of ambien are mental conditions (such as suicidal instincts, being in a confused state of mind, anxiety, aggressive behavior, depression, hallucination, etc.), loss of memory, mood shifts, etc. Ambien is unlikely to trigger acute allergic reactions. But, if your witness allergic conditions like itchiness, inflammation of oral organs, rashes on skin, respiratory problems, feeling dizzy, etc., you need to consult your treating doctor promptly.

Administration of ambien to younger adults, children, women or elderly people

If you are administering ambien to younger adults or children, you need to exercise added levels of caution; younger people can develop acute side effects like drowsiness, being sleepy, dizziness, falling, etc. In elders also, ambien can trigger a few serious side effects such as confusion, lack of coordination, feeling excessively drowsy, frequent spells of dizziness, falls, etc. Hence, elderly people are prescribed with only lower doses; a regularly administered strength of 10 mg can often lead to acute side effects such as dizziness, feeling drowsy, etc. among older people. Women may discharge the drug’s residue at a slower rate than men; owing to this, the strength recommended to women is far lesser than men.

Prior to undergoing to surgery or a dental procedure (involving anesthesia)

Those planning to undergo a surgery need to tell their surgical team about their intake of ambien. This is because of the likely risks of excessive levels of sedation. As ambien can make you dizzy, it can interact with anesthetic medications and can take you to a deeper level of unconsciousness. Hence, it is necessary that your surgeon and anesthetist need to be aware of your current medication plan. The same precaution holds good for dental procedures also. Some dental interventions are performed with local or general anesthesia; ambien can work with these drugs and may to aggravate the sedation levels.

In case of pregnant women, this drug is administered only if its dosage is essential. As it can trigger excessive levels of dizziness, respiratory problems as well as signs associated with withdrawal, it is never used at advanced stages of pregnancy – especially, in the last trimester. Talk to your physician as well as pharmacist before starting to take ambien. Mothers who consumed ambien a few weeks prior to delivery have reported a few side effects in their newly born babies. Similarly, women who are nursing their babies must not breastfeed infants soon after intake of ambien. Your doctor may tell you to use a breast-pump to discharge breastmilk; feeding your infant can resume only after 24 hours of such discharge of breastmilk. It is very important to discuss with your physician about minimizing the side effects – both for women who are nursing as well as for their infants.

Interactions with co-administered drugs and likely side effects

Ambien – as mentioned – can trigger dizziness and can make your feel drowsy. So, you need to be cautious about co-administration of drugs that can result in drowsiness. Such drugs include opioid based cough or pain killing drugs, anxiety-reducing or sleep inducing medications (such as lorazepam, alprazolam, etc.) and muscle relaxing drugs like cyclobenzaprine, carisoprodol, etc. Ambien is also known to interact adversely with drugs taken to treat sleepiness (during daytime) such as sodium oxybate. Some people have experienced side effects like respiratory problems (including gasping for breath, wheezing, etc.) upon co-administering ambien with drugs causing drowsiness. As a precautionary measure, it is a good practice to read all the instructions printed on the label to know if any of the ingredients can cause dizziness.

Overdose of ambien and likely side effects

If you have taken an overdose of this drug, it may cause a few adverse reactions and side effects. Serious side effects include feeling extremely sleepy, difficulties to breath or fainting. Upon experiencing any of these adverse conditions, you are advised to call 911 or a poison control center as promptly as possible. If you are living in Canada, you can reach out to Health Canada or a poison control center located in your province.

Prior medical conditions and possible side effects of ambien

You are advised to share your medical history with your physician prior to taking ambien. Inform your medical team if you have had renal disorders, mood shifts such as depression, hepatic conditions like cirrhosis of liver or hepatitis (internal swelling), prior episodes of substance abuse, respiratory conditions such as sleep apnea or COPD, somnambulating spells (sleep walking), etc. Also, if you have experienced blurring of eyesight or spells of dizziness, your doctor needs to be aware of such conditions.

In general, you are advised to stop taking alcohol or other intoxicating substances like cannabis (marijuana); these substances can only make you more drowsy and sleepy. Your doctor will tell you to give a minimum interval of 9 hours (i.e., after the intake of ambien), before you engage in activities like driving, operating heavy machinery, etc. It is possible that you may experience falls, as the effects of ambien may last for a few hours after a dose. So, stay away from doing activities needing high level of mental alertness for at last 9 to 10 hours from the time of intake of ambien.

It is important to note that your physician has prescribed this drug as its benefits outweigh the risks involved. Also, remember the abovementioned discomforts do not constitute a complete list. It is possible that newer signs of discomforts may also be triggered. In such instances, call your treating doctor for needful medical attention. If the side effects are serious or acute in nature, call 911 without delay or reach out to a poison control center as soon as possible. You can also get in touch with the emergency helpline numbers of the food and drug administration (FDA) in the US. Residents of Canada can contact a nearest poison control center – located in their province, an emergency basis.

In sum, ambien belongs to a genre of drugs called sedative hypnotic medications. As it is known for its quick action, it is recommended to take it during your bedtime. Never take this drug along with your night meal. Common side effects of consuming ambien include feeling dizzy, drowsy and also having difficulties to sleep – especially during the start of your medication plan. These effects may disappear after a few days. But, if sleeping troubles last for long, you are advised to consult your treating physician without delay.


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