Ambien is a prescription sleep medication used to treat insomnia or difficulty in staying or falling asleep. According to the manufacturer, patients taking Ambien can experience a range of common to serious effects; in rare instances, sexual side effects of the drug also occur.
Purpose of Medication
Ambien is approved as a sedative for short-term use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A physician may increase a patient's dosage of the drug if insomnia persists after 7 to 10 days; in addition, the possibility of an underlying physiological or psychological illness may also be considered as a cause of the sleep disorder.
Stop taking Ambien if serious allergic reactions occur, such as respiratory difficulties, rashes or hives and any swelling of the face, throat or mouth. These symptoms indicate anaphylactic shock, which is potentially life threatening. Seek immediate medical attention if any of these allergy signs are present.
Common Side Effects
Ambien side effects may include slight dizziness, headache, dry mouth and gastrointestinal upset (GI upset) such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms are usually short-lived.
Serious Side Effects
Immediate medical intervention is required if chest pain, heart palpitations, worsening or new depression, thoughts of suicide, hallucinations, memory loss, anxiety, unusual tiredness and mental or mood changes occur. Each of these effects can be life threatening on their own and are particularly serious in combination due to Ambien's sedative and hypnotic properties.
Sleep Behavioral Side Effects
Patients using Ambien may exhibit odd or risky behaviors during sleep that are not remembered upon waking. Some patients have cooked and eaten meals, made telephone calls, driven cars and performed sexual acts while sleeping (sexsomnia).
Patients with sexsomnia become more aggressive and less inhibited while taking Ambien. If someone makes you aware of any activities that you have participated in, and you have no remembrance of them, report these and all sleep and behavior changes to your physician.
Ambien is available in as an extended release tablet, Ambien CR. The cautions apply to both drugs; however, as the effects of the Ambien CR are longer lasting than Ambien, pay particular attention to the following:
- According to Sanofi Aventis, makers of Ambien, “When you first start taking Ambien..., until you know whether the medicine will still have some carryover effect in you the next day, use extreme care while doing anything that requires complete alertness, such as driving a car, operating machinery or piloting an aircraft.”
Never drink alcohol while taking Ambien. Alcohol can potentiate the side effects of the medication.
Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make certain there will be no adverse reactions with any medications you are currently taking.
Take the medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
If taking Ambien daily, for more than one or two weeks, do not stop taking the medication without talking with your physician. Ambien was designed for short-term use; withdrawal symptoms may occur if Ambien is stopped abruptly.
Consult your health care provider if you are concerned about the side effects of Ambien or Ambien CR.