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Ambien Sleep Medication And Insomnia: What Is Insomnia And How Can Ambien Help?


By Ian Mason

Whatís Insomnia?

Identifying insomnia is a little like the old joke about art: you know it when youíre having it. For people with insomnia, though, itís no laughing matter. Having reduced or interrupted sleep is as bad for your physical and mental health as getting the wrong, or not enough, food.

People suffering insomnia may experience difficulties falling asleep, waking too early, or sleeping in small bursts throughout the night. Worse yet, someone with sleep difficulties wakes up and doesnít feel rested, may have trouble focusing, and worry about their sleep problem to the point where they canít sleep for worrying.

What Can I Do?

Like any other health problem, a combination of medication and new behavior can make a big difference. Behavior changes sleep specialists recommend including exercising regularly early in the day, reducing caffeine consumption, and making sure thereís no TV in the bedroom.

A medication can help reinforce these changes by allowing you to get unbroken, healthy sleep. One medication many physicians recommend is Ambien.

I Donít Want To Take Sleeping Pills!

Over the years, ďsleeping pillsĒ have gotten some pretty bad publicity. Many 50ís movie thrillers involved villains sneaking sleeping pills into the unsuspecting heroís drink. Famous people (like the poet Sylvia Plath) attempted suicide with sleeping pills. Itís no wonder that you might feel reluctant to take a pill to help you sleep!

But modern drugs that help with sleep are much safer and gentler than the drugs of the past. Ambien works with a chemical in your brain called GABA. GABA helps calm the activity of certain brain cells, allowing you to sleep. Because the drug has a gentle effect on GABA, you wonít wake up in the morning feeling like a zombie - youíll be refreshed and ready for a new day.

The Doctorís Office

You donít need to visit a sleep specialist to get a prescription for Ambien, though you will need to speak with a physician. Talk with your doctor about your current sleep pattern (keeping a sleep diary before your appointment can be useful) as well as the medications you are currently taking.

If Ambien seems like a good match for you, your doctor will probably prescribe it for 7 to 10 days. In rare cases, she may extend the time you use it.

A week of Ambien can help break the cycle of sleeplessness, letting you recover your natural, healthy sleep pattern. Very, very few people (1-2% of people taking Ambien) experience very mild side effects (diarrhea, drowsiness, or dizziness). You should work with your doctor to prescribe you the lowest effective dose for you, since you donít need the nighttime drowsiness to linger when youíve got a big meeting with your boss the next day!

Why Canít I Just Stay On Ambien Since Itís The Best Sleep Iíve Gotten In Years?

One of the few problems with Ambien is that it can become habit-forming (addictive) if used for several weeks. In fact, if your doctor prescribes it for two weeks or more, do not go ďcold turkeyĒ and stop the medication all at once; instead talk with her about creating a plan to taper off your dosage gently until youíre ready to stop.


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