Ambien is the brand name of a prescription drug containing the active ingredient Zolpidem. It is a type of sedative or sleeping pill and is often prescribed as a treatment for insomnia. Due to risks associated with long term use, in particular the risk of dependency, it is only used on a short term basis for no more than a few days or so. One of the advantages of this drug is that the effects are felt almost immediately so it must be taken on an empty stomach just before going to bed.
The kind of sleep problems that Ambien can be used for include difficulty in getting to sleep, waking up very early in the morning or waking up frequently during the night. Insomnia or sleeplessness can be a symptom of depression and anyone who has difficulty in sleeping over an extended period of time, should see their doctor.
Depression can affect anyone and although no one knows what actually causes depression, there are combinations of biological, genetic, and psychological factors that are implicated, for example, chemical imbalances in the brain, a history of depression in the family, and having a pessimistic outlook on life. Some groups of people also appear to be more at risk, such as the long term sick and unemployed, the socially isolated, those in prison, anyone battling with drug or alcohol addiction and those with an existing mental health problem. So how do you know if you are suffering from depression?
Symptoms of depression
Depression is indicated if the individual has feelings of sadness or low moods along with other symptoms of depression that have lasted for more than two weeks and which are severe enough to interrupt daily routines and activities.
Feeling tired and lethargic for most of the time
Persistent low moods and sadness, a feeling of despondency
Sleep disturbances, either inability to sleep or sleeping too much
A pessimistic outlook on life
Feeling anxious and nervous
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Frightening and irrational thoughts
Loss of pleasure in activities and lack of interest in sex
Avoidance of social contact and social situations
Loss of appetite or an increased appetite and associated weight loss or weight gain
Emotional outbursts for no apparent reason
Irritability, agitation, restlessness
If depression is accompanied by insomnia, a doctor may prescribe a sleeping pill such as Ambien for a few days in addition to prescribing antidepressants.
If you are prescribed Ambien, it is important to let your doctor know if you drink alcohol regularly, or are taking any other drugs, (illegal, prescribed or over the counter), as there is always the risk of drug interactions, which can result in unwanted side effects. Some drugs and substances that can interact with Ambien include:
St John’s Wort
Some pain killers
You should also tell your doctor if you have ever suffered from liver disease, breathing difficulties, sleep apnoea, if you are pregnant, trying to conceive or are currently breastfeeding. As with any medication there can be side effects and with Zolpidem the more common ones include diarrhoea, stomach aches, headaches, strange dreams and drowsiness during the day, however, if you experience any of the following side effects you should tell you doctor immediately:
Dizzy spells or fainting
Agitation or excitability
Other important points
Sometimes when taking Ambien, the individual can experience a type of memory loss where they basically cannot remember anything for the first few hours after taking the medication but because Ambien should always be taken at night and just before going to bed, it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.
After stopping Ambien, it is possible to have trouble sleeping but this should disappear after a couple of days.
Any sedative or sleeping pill, including Ambien, can affect mental alertness and some people will be affected more than others, so it is important not to attempt to drive or operate machinery until the individual effect on any particular person is known.
If you are suffering from insomnia, either as a result of an underlying depression or not, there are some things that you can do that might help you get a better night’s sleep. For example, taking regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet and cutting out caffeine and other stimulants. Learning relaxation and breathing techniques will help you to relax before going to bed and will also release some of the stresses and strains of the day. If you are anxious or depressed, then it might be that some form of psychotherapy is available, which can help you change the way you think about things so that your behaviour changes too and by alleviating the symptoms of anxiety or depression, sleeping patterns can improve too.