“The sleeping pill Ambien seems to unlock a primitive desire to eat in some patients, according to emerging medical case studies that describe how the drug’s users sometimes sleepwalk into their kitchens, claw through their refrigerators like animals and consume calories ranging into the thousands.” Dr. Mark Mahowald, Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis
Although this is somewhat old news, it is important to be reminded of this side effect of ambien. The findings that a sleep-related eating disorder is one of the unusual side effects showing up with the widespread use of Ambien was substantiated by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who have made similar findings.
Stephanie Saul, author of an article titled “Study Links Ambien Use to Unconscious Food Forays, noted observed that the study of ambien was first examined in 2006. Yet, millions continue to take ambien and other sleeping drugs, even when natural solutions are available. Spurred in part by consumer advertising, more than 26 million prescriptions for Ambien were dispensed in this country in just one year.
Stephanie Saul noted that’s “most of the people who use Ambien say the drug puts them to sleep, and they wake up without incident. But several providers and a number of patients say that sleep-eating is one of a variety of unusual reactions to the drug. The reactions range from fairly benign sleepwalking episodes to hallucinations, violent outbursts and, most troubling of all, driving while asleep. This subject was explored in an article in The New York Times.
The Food and Drug Administration responded to a Times reporter’s query that it would “monitor” the drug’s safety record. Nothing has changed since 2006.
Dr. Carlos H. Schenck, a sleep disorders expert in Minneapolis and the lead researcher on the 2006 study, estimates that thousands of Ambien users in the United States experience sleep-related eating disorders while taking the drug.
Over the years, we have treated clients in our hormone and weight loss programs who take sleeping pills and/or anti-depressants. It has been our experience that multiple side effects can occur including weight gain and sugar and carbohydrate (bad carbs) cravings. Sadly, many of their concerns can be safely addressed with natural proteins like 5HTP, Kavinace, Magnesium, and even Epsom Salt baths. Many sleep issues are hormonal related.
The millions spent by the big Pharma companies would make their anti-depressant drugs and their “sleeping” drugs sound like the magic answer to everyone’s sleep and life issues. The ads do list – in a rapid fire voice – all of the dangers, including suicide, anxiety, etc. However, they do this while showing pleasant, peaceful people in a euphoric state.
The drug’s growth into a product worth $2.2 billion in annual sales in the United States has been fueled partly by consumer advertising. Sanofi-Aventis spent $130 million to advertise the product in 2005, more than double the $61 million it spent in 2004, according to figures released by TNS Media Intelligence. It continues to grow in sales and advertising.
Some examples of the effect of ambient on certain clients include the following:
- A woman in Salinas, Calif., whose case is to be included in the Minnesota study, said she would awaken to find candy bar wrappers next to her bed and Popsicle sticks on the floor near the refrigerator. She blamed her husband and sons before finally believing their claims that she was eating at night, unaware.
Worried that she would choke, “my son was so afraid at night, he’d come sit by the bed and watch me,” said the woman, Brenda Pobre, 54. Despite seeing several providers, Ms. Pobre did not link Ambien to her nocturnal eating until after she gained 100 pounds.
- Among sleep-eaters, the desire for food can be tremendously powerful. One woman in the Minneapolis area whom Dr. Schenck treated, Judie Evans, said she began taking Ambien while recovering from back surgery. At the time, she was in a full body cast and needed assistance to get out of bed.During this time, Ms. Evans, who is 59 and lives alone, began to notice that food was missing from her refrigerator. She accused two nursing aides who were caring for her of stealing food. It was not until her son came to spend several nights that Ms. Evans said she realized that despite the body cast, she was getting up to eat while she was asleep. “During the day, I couldn’t even make it to the bathroom by myself,” Ms. Evans said.
The first night her son was there, he found her standing in the kitchen, body cast and all, frying bacon and eggs. The next night he found her eating a sandwich, Ms. Evans said, and sent her back to bed. Later that same night, her son arose to find her standing in the kitchen again. “I had turned the oven on,” she recalled. “I store pots and pans in the oven and I had turned it to 500 degrees.”
Ms. Evans said her problems ended when Dr. Schenck diagnosed Ambien-induced sleep-related eating disorder.
IF YOU ARE TAKING ANY PRESCRIPTION DRUGS, CONSIDER THEIR EFFECT ON YOUR WEIGHT AND YOUR HEALTH.
By NBH, Education Director of NBH Lifetime Health Weight Loss Centers