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The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills

The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills

Watch out for scary side effects!

Allie Firestone | DivineCaroline

September 27, 2010

By now, most of us have heard of the “Ambien defense.” A certain scandalous professional golfer used to text his mistresses requesting the sleep aid, and other people have reported performing a multitude of crazy actions under the veil of slumber that this drug and other, similar sleeping pills induce—ranging from binge eating to dangerous driving to uncharacteristic sexual encounters and scary hallucinations.

We’ve all seen enough commercials to know that prescription meds can come with a bevy of side effects, but these drugs take things to a whole new level with strange, barely remembered behavior occurring in people of all ages and backgrounds.

Ambien (generic name zolpidem) is a prescription sedative-hypnotic meant to temporarily treat insomnia. The drug decreases sleep latency, or the time it takes someone to fall asleep, and increases the amount of sleep the user gets in a given night. The official literature reads that patients shouldn’t take such sleeping aids for longer than ten days without the close monitoring of a doctor; however, as prescription-drug addiction continues to rise, it’s obvious that many people aren’t following this advice—and their late-night binge eating is just the beginning of the fallout.

Sleep Eating

Nothing derails a diet like a late-night meal after a few too many drinks. Pop a sleeping pill, though, and that feast just might escalate to an entirely new level: many users wake up unaware that they’ve spent the previous night making and consuming large amounts of food. Ambien-induced food experiences are by far the most common of those shared in support groups.

One woman reports polishing off an entire three-layer cake in bed after popping her pill and falling asleep. She woke up confused and surrounded by crumbs, wondering which of her children left food near her bed. Her husband had to retell the experience to her because she had no memory of it.


Another woman’s family members described a strange food episode to her: She woke up in the middle of the night and filled a bowl with a tub of butter, ham, cheese, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, and milk, and rubbed it across her kitchen counters and cupboards. She then poured soda into her reclining chairs.

Another describes her father-in-law’s sleep-induced binge-eating habit. One night, he trashed the entire kitchen while downing a whole cake and multiple boxes of cereal. When she brought it up to him the next morning, his response was: “Please tell me I had on clothes.” No memory whatsoever.

Next: Sleep Driving →

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