Addicted to Ambien: How I Came Back to Life After Spending 10 Years in a Zombie-Like State
Learn the risks of conventional sleep aids, and discover resources for overcoming insomnia and other sleep issues with proven natural remedies that helped me in my journey from pill popper to holistic sleep coach and breast cancer survivor.
Houston, we have a problem: We can’t sleep and we’re addicted to sleeping pills.
Over 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems. What’s more concerning is chronic sleep problems contribute to other, often worse problems, ranging from injuries to mental illness to chronic disease. Poor sleep even worsens conditions like obesity and depression.
As a whole, we are sick and tired. And if we weren’t so tired, maybe we wouldn’t be so sick. And those of us who are sick and tired of being sick and tired – a staggering 9 million Americans – have taken to the use of habit-forming sleep aids to help with relentless insomnia.
But are they a magic pill or a nightmare? After 10 years of Ambien dependence, I’d wager to say they are – literally and figuratively – the latter.
Risks of Sleep Aids
Common sleep aids such as Ambien may help you drift into sleep faster, but at what cost? Not only are many conventional sedatives habit-forming, but that good night’s sleep might bring with it some horrendous side effects you weren’t dreaming of, like impaired driving (even the following day), sleepwalking, amnesia, and accidental injuries. With prolonged use, you quickly build up a tolerance which means you might still experience bothersome side effects without the benefits – arguably not the best trade-off.
So if scary side effects like decreased awareness, hallucinations, changes in behavior, memory problems, sleepwalking, sleep eating (and cooking), and even sleep driving aren’t your jam, don’t worry: I have more promising approaches to facilitating relaxation and rest that won’t have you zooming through an entire box of Girl Scout cookies in an Ambien blackout.
My Story: Sleeping Pill Popper to Sleep Coach
I never had an issue sleeping until a seismic personal crisis derailed my life in my mid-thirties. As a successful pharma rep, I did not have the luxury of “sleeping in” when a bout of insomnia stole an entire night from me. Desperate for sleep, that’s when I got my hands on a wildly popular physician-prescribed sleep aid. After all, in the pharma world when all your friends are doctors, scoring some of these “magic” pills was easier than taking candy from a baby.
But this “dream” medication turned into a nightmare over the next decade. I didn’t realize that sleeping pills cause sedation – not sleep – and the difference between the two is stark.
Every morning, I woke up groggy and didn’t feel alert until lunchtime. And there were too many mornings to count where I walked into the kitchen to find an empty box of cookies I didn’t remember eating (thanks, Ambien blackout #127).
It’s a miracle I never got behind the wheel in these fugue states.
In 2014, my now-husband delivered an unpleasant truth wrapped in love that rocked me to my core: Once I popped my nightly sleeping pill, I became a zombie. It was in that moment I realized that not only would this medication affect my relationship with the love of my life, but it greatly diminished my quality of life, and I knew I had to make a change.
I successfully weaned myself off of the pills, but my relationship with sleep had only just begun.
How to Improve Sleep Naturally and Safely: 3 Natural Sleep Aids
The further we as a society have drifted from nature, the worse we feel, and the more our health has suffered. Nature truly does know best and was my saving grace as I sought a safer sleep approach.
Many of the ingredients in natural supplements that improve sleep also improve other health problems! Here are a few tried-and-true go-to’s that may ease your transition to sleep and prevent all those late-night glares at the alarm clock. These natural solutions can even work synergistically with each other to promote overall health and wellness (not quite the case with my Ambien and Girl Scout cookies).
- Magnesium. This motherlode of minerals doesn’t just boast better sleep – it could help to reduce anxiety, depression, inflammation, and so much more. Magnesium Breakthrough by BiOptimizers was instrumental in helping me achieve higher quality sleep again.
- Melatonin. Too much screen time and not enough sunlight can mean your circadian rhythm – or your body’s internal clock that regulates when you feel sleepy – is out of whack. Taking a melatonin supplement 1-2 hours before bedtime can help realign your circadian rhythm. But be mindful of the source and dosage variability, and look for a USP label to ensure quality.
- L-Theanine. By boosting GABA, an important calming neurotransmitter that tells your body it’s time to shut down for rest, L-Theanine is a powerful promoter of R&R and can facilitate deeper, undisturbed sleep.
While there are well over 4 natural sleep remedies, I have found these to be the most promising from a safety and efficacy standpoint. While individual results may vary, you can’t go wrong opting for natural support, and in fact, will reap a bounty of benefits that pharmaceuticals just can’t provide.
Download My Free Better Bedroom Checklist
If you are ready to create your own sleep sanctuary and overcome the “sleep stealers” that are keeping you from feeling your best, contact me today for a free discovery call. And if you want to fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and feel more rested when you wake up, download my free Better Bedroom Checklist!
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