Sleepwalking and Ambien

Ambien, also known as Zolpidem is a hypnotic medication that works on the GABA receptors located inside the brain. Due to this action, doctors typically prescribe this drug for the treatment of short term insomnia.

However, using Ambien can also cause a wide variety of sleep related disorders. These include but are not always limited to sleep-driving, sleep related eating, and somnambulism.

What is Ambien?

Ambien is classified as a sedative-hypnotic medication. This means that it will work by slowing down the activity inside your brain and the central nervous system. Through this action, it will allow you to sleep peacefully. This is also the main reason why doctors widely prescribe this medication for the treatment of insomnia and other sleep related disorders.

However, studies have now reported that this drug is linked with behavioral sleep disorders. This is particularly true if you use it in combination with alcohol and other mind altering and intoxicating substances or if you take it in any way other than that your doctor prescribed.

Some of the effects of Ambien and sleepwalking include but are not limited to sleep driving, engaging in sexual activity during your sleep, sleep eating, and sleepwalking. Although this is rare, some of these side effects might also occur if you take Ambien exactly as your doctor advised and you are not under the influence of other drugs or alcohol.

Researchers have been trying to find out if Ambien activity is the logical explanation for the particular changes that occur when people use this medication. This is because sleepwalking while on Ambien could lead to the following potential forensic implications:

  • Sleep related violence
  • Sexual assault
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • DUI

Ambien is one of the imidazopyridine medications that doctors typically indicated for the treatment of short term insomnia. When this happens, they will usually start you on a dose that could range from 5 mg to 10 mg that you have to take every day.

Although Ambien is considered to be a non-benzodiazepine, it still acts as one of the benzodiazepine receptor agonists available for the treatment of insomnia. In particular, it works by attaching itself to the GABA - gamma-amino butyric acid - receptors located in the brain. By so doing, it can effectively affect activity in the chloride channel operated by ligands.

GABA, on the other hand, is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter located within the central nervous system. GABA receptors modulate the sensitivity of this system to benzodiazepines such as Ambien.

When you take this medication, it will bind itself to the synaptic GABA receptors. This is because Ambien was developed as a medication that had a structure that is distinctly different from other benzodiazepines.

This means that it only works on certain central benzodiazepine receptors. By so doing, it results in some hypnotic properties but without the adverse myo-relaxant and anticonvulsant properties of other benzodiazepines.

Understanding Sleep Walking

Sleep walking is also known as somnambulism. If you have this disorder, you will struggling with para-somnia that consists of various complex behaviors that will typically be initiated when you are aroused from any slow wave sleep. In many cases, this condition can cause you to start walking while experiencing impaired judgment and an altered state of consciousness.

According to research studies, Ambien use can be accompanied by a wide variety of side effects. Sleep walking is one such side effect that you should be aware of - even though it is quite rare.

In 2005, the NIH - the National Institutes of Health - reported that Ambien was effective in the treatment of chronic insomnia. This is because it is a hypnotic medication and it comes with limited risk.

However, other post-marketing studies of this medication have reported several incidents of sleep walking. This is why it is important to understand the relationship between Ambien and sleep walking before you start using this medication.

Ambien Effects

One of the potential explanations of the nocturnal events that are induced by the use of drugs like Ambien is that when you are aroused from sleep, you might engage in nocturnal activity - such as driving, eating, and walking - and not recall the episode after you go back to sleep. This is because of the amnestic properties of Ambien that are mediated by the sedation that this medication causes.

Another possible explanation is that arousal occurs after slow wave sleep and the parasomnia that occurs during electroencephalographically verifiable sleep. Although you might not remember the events that occurred when you were on this medication, you might be still be cognitively functional as well as retain your innate ability to continue speaking but in short phrases.

Other studies report that more than 10 percent of all adults in the United States are affected by the condition of sleepwalking. Although the incidence of sleepwalking that results from Ambien use is relatively low, it is still possible that there might be other cases of unexplained sleepwalking that could be secondary to this medication - especially given the fact that it is used so much in the country.

Apart from sleep driving parasomnia, SRED, and sleepwalking, Ambien has also been reported to produce a wide variety of other beneficial effects. These include but are not limited to improvements in:

  • Akinesia
  • Blepharospasm
  • Bradykinesia
  • Broca's aphasia after a stroke
  • Catatonia of schizoaffective disorders
  • Dementia with apraxia
  • Dystonia for patients struggling with Parkinson's disease
  • Parkinsonism in progressive Supranuclear palsy
  • Post-anoxic minimally conscious states
  • Post-anoxic spasticity
  • Post-levodopa dyskinesias for patients with Parkinson's disease
  • Quadriparesis of the central pontine myelinolysis
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia
  • Vertical saccadic eye movements

Most of the effects of Ambien will be noted about 30 minutes after you ingest this medication - especially if you are talking the non-extended release formula of Ambien. These effects could last for anywhere between 2 and 4 hours.

The effects of Ambien might also be mediated as a result of the anti-anxiety effects that it produces, its activity on GABA receptor sites, and its benzo receptor agonist properties - or any combination of these three properties.

For instances, if you are anxious and you have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, the symptoms of this condition will worsen. When you take Ambien, you might experience some improvement. However, this drug will only produce improvement that is secondary to the anxiolytic effects that it delivers through its action on the GABA receptors located in the limbic system.

On the other hand, if you have been diagnosed with restless legs syndrome, catatonia, and blepharospasm and you get a prescription for Ambien, you might notice some improvement in these conditions. This is because of the benzo receptor agonist effects of this medication.

However, it is still important to remember that Ambien is also indicated for the treatment of parasomnias such as sleepwalking. This is even though some studies have reported that this drug also induces this condition in subpopulations that are susceptible to it.

Research studies have also reported that sleepwalking is one of the rare side effects that occur when you use sedative-hypnotics such as Ambien. In the mass media, there have also been reports of people who sleep walk, prepare meals, wander around the house, and drive cars after using this medication. The good news is that sleepwalking and the other unusual behaviors that occur during sleep as a result of taking Ambien are rare incidents - although they do happen.

Essentially, Ambien is classified as a sedative-hypnotic medication that is a non-benzodiazepine. It works by attaching itself to the GABAA receptors - the main inhibitory receptors located inside your brain.

This means that Ambien acts in the same way as popular benzodiazepine medications like Ativan (Lorazepam) and Klonopin (clonazepam), among many others. When clinical trials were performed on this medication, researchers discovered that less than 1 percent of the patients who were taking it developed withdrawal some 48 hours after they stopped using it.

Ambien is also unlike benzodiazepines in the sense that it comes with less frequent accounts of dependence, abuse, tolerance, and addiction. This means that you have a lowered risk of becoming addicted to Ambien when you receive a prescription for it.

If visit a doctor complaining of insomnia, you might receive a prescription for this medication. Using it could help you fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and enjoy better quality of sleep. This means that Ambien is effective as any other benzodiazepine in terms of its actions on sleep but it comes with fewer adverse side effects like addiction.

However, taking Ambien could also present some adverse effects. These include but are not always limited to:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Grogginess
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Memory loss
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Worsening depression

On rare occasions, using Ambien could also result in some complex sleep and partially awake behaviors - also known as parasomnias - that might include:

  • Eating food
  • Having sex
  • Making food
  • Sleep driving
  • Sleepwalking

However, these incidents are quite rare and you should not worry about Ambien and sleepwalking. In fact, a recent study reported that only about 7 people out of a total of 1972 patients - or about 0.3 percent - experienced sleepwalking after using this medication. Another study indicated that only 1 out of 96 patients (about 1 percent) experienced this adverse side effect.

To conclude, researchers have come up with a theory that the sleepwalking effects of Ambien are linked to the fact that the medication works to lengthen the 3rd and 4 stages of sleep.


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