Everyone can use a restful night of sleep, that is irrefutable. But at what cost? Here I will recount some experiences that both myself and others have had as a direct consequence of using sleep aids such as Ambien and Lunesta. Then I will share with you some relevant information about nootropics that can outperform these drugs without their particular negative side effects.
I used to work as a tool salesman in Brooklyn, New York. As a Long Islander, this meant getting up at four thirty in the morning to beat the traffic and find parking places along congested city streets lined with cars in need of repair. Ordinarily, I would finish my route at around 3 PM and head back to the Island, a drive that normally took anywhere between thirty five minutes to an hour. After arriving home at around four, I would drive another forty five minutes to my then-girlfriend’s house and hang out for awhile before starting my second job (freelance writing).
Generally, I wouldn’t fall asleep until midnight or later which meant that I would get approximately four and a half to five hours of sleep. It was an unhealthy period in my life and a potentially dangerous one since I was operating a motor vehicle for an extended period of time while severely sleep deprived.
After a time, I began to have trouble falling asleep at all, at which point my girlfriend offered me Lunesta, a sleep aid she had been prescribed after she gave birth to her son. The doctor had given it to her after the baby kept her up crying with colic. She suggested I take one before lying down for the night.
Sure enough, the drug worked and I fell asleep with ease. The following morning, I found it difficult to peel myself off the mattress. My joints felt weak and I had trouble opening my eyes. My eyelids felt heavy and my face felt strange. Nevertheless, I forced myself to get up and carried out my usual morning routine—going to the bathroom, shaving, getting dressed and loading up the cargo van with work inventory.
As I warmed up the truck, I felt my knees beginning to buckle. I knew I wasn’t prepared to man a vehicle and asked my boss if he would take over driving duties for the day. Something was definitely wrong, of that much I was sure.
Within ten minutes of reaching the parkway, I was out! I don’t remember falling asleep, I only remember my boss screaming at me to wake up more than an hour and a half later once we’d reached the first stop on our tool route. But here’s the thing, my eyelids opened just enough to see where we were and then they slammed shut all over again.
Nearly twenty minutes later, my boss returned to the work van, hollering anew, and reprimanding me for having passed out while I was supposed to be sitting in the driver’s seat, watching for cops who would ticket me for being double-parked on a one-way city street.
I could write all this off as a coincidence or blame it on the few beers my girlfriend and I had enjoyed the night before, but the following night I took Lunesta again and the day that followed that night started off with the same set of circumstances. Long story short? Lunesta can be a dangerously sedative substance and one I would strongly caution our readers against using.
A few years ago, I witnessed the repercussions of taking Ambien, a similar drug. My brother, a long-time junkie with a history of heroin and cocaine abuse, had been on the Methadone program for a number of years. At one point in his medical history, a doctor prescribed him Ambien, oddly enough because of the pain associated with his kidney disorder (suffering from highly calcified kidney stones).
After the first night he took what he claimed was only two Ambien, we found him in the bottom of our garage. He had been living in the loft above said garage. His knees were bloodied and we could see piles of what looked like cotton candy and aluminum foil all around him. Gazing over at the walls, we could see that all of the long strips of pink insulation that had padded the walls had been torn down.
When I asked him what the hell he had done, my brother claimed he had been searching for the light switch, an unlikely scenario given that the downstairs light panel was by the door to the outside of the garage and the staircase he would have had to blindly walk down was on the far side of the garage. The entire situation was baffling given that there were card tables and work out equipment blocking my brother’s path to the insulation on the walls.
All signs pointed to him thrashing around like a madman as a result of taking the Ambien. But no one could prove it as we hadn’t been present when my brother had made his way down the stairs.
Here’s where my theory about the above-mentioned situation was validated; nearly five years later the subject of Ambien came up in casual conversation with my wife. She proceeded to regale me with the story of her former boyfriend’s grandmother, a hard partying old broad who had gleefully guzzled bottles of vodka with him and his pothead friends.
One day, ole granny went to the doctor with a chest cold and found out that she had end stage cancer. Rather than cry about it or grieve her situation in any way, gam-gam simply said, “Awright, can I get some Ambien ’cause I’ve been havin’ some trouble getting’ to bed.”
Grandma had heard about Ambien from a commercial on TV, much in the way that I had first heard about Lunesta from watching that glowing butterfly flutter around the screen on my own boob tube. The doctor complied and granny had her sleeping pills.
The first (and only) night she took Ambien, my wife’s ex-boyfriend and his siblings found her covered in blood in the foyer, ranting and raving about aliens. They ran up to her second-story bedroom to see what she might have taken to end up in such a state and were jargoggled by what they saw—her personal effects were strewn all about, books ripped in half, bed linens coiled and twisted in piles all about and the faucet in the bathroom on full blast and unattended.
The following morning they found her on the living room couch, unresponsive, not breathing. Dead.
There are several accounts of adverse effects to these drugs all over the Internet. One poster on Erowid said that he had heard Lunesta causes amnesia; this makes sense since my brother had no memory of subsequent events that occurred while he was on Ambien, situations as nonsensical as moving china around in the middle of the night for no apparent reason and saying, “I’m looking for my tooth brush” repeatedly.
The aforesaid Erowid reviewer noted that the drug raises body temperature. This is potentially deleterious to recreational users given that an overdose would be similar to an MDMA or Ecstasy overdose, presumably ending in hypertension or even tachycardia.
In point of fact, tachycardia has been reported as a side effect of Lunesta usage among the medical community. So far, there have been more than 150 cases of Lunesta-related tachycardia recorded.
Erowid reviewers have reported adverse effects of Ambien as well, mentioning dry mouth and hallucinations, among others. And that is to say nothing of the barrage of bad crazy stories littering Reddit. One such post carried the following title: “Last Night, I Really F@*#ed Up. Took an Ambien and Didn’t Go To Bed Immediately. I Ended Up Shaving My Balls and Snapchatting it to Half of the People on my Friends List With the Caption, ‘Smooothest balls in AMurica tha US.’” [SIC]
Some have reported a near-immediate tolerance to the drug while others have been so freaked out by the effects of the drug that they swore it off at once. One user recalled hazy next day recollections of having woken up in the middle of the night and urinating on his laptop.
The evidence is clear, mainstream prescription medications can have dire, detrimental effects on users. But it is important to understand that there are powerful all-natural alternatives to these extreme substances. Phenibut, Picamilon, Valerian Root, Melatonin, Aniracetam and many other nootropic supplements are very effective at offering a heightened state of relaxation and all of the above can induce a restful sleep. With these you receive a bonus courtesy of their cognitive ability to improve memory, focus, lucidity, performance and more.
There are also specially-formulated herbal blends that are explicitly manufactured to perform as sleep aids such as SLEEPX, Olly Restful Sleep Gummy Supplements, Vita Life’s Tranquil Formula 60, etc.
Shop around and find the supplement that sends you off into blissful slumber. Good night, sleep tight and emancipate your mind.