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August 17, 2011 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Help me kick the Ambien habit.

I've been taking 10mg of Ambien every night for the last 4 1/2 months and for health reasons I need to stop taking it completely by the middle of next week. I've cut down to 5mg over the last week and had very restless sleep last night. I know there will be an adjustment period and I can't take anything OTC to help with that. I'm familiar with the usual suggestions - having a bedtime routine, going to bed at the same time every night, calm music, soothing bath, etc. I don't drink much caffeine and I try to exercise two to three times each week, usually in the late afternoon. I've been trying to get up earlier in the day so I'll be more tired at night but so far that's not working for me. At this point I feel as though I'm addicted to it as I've had a hard time making myself go from 10mg to 5mg, telling myself each night that I'll starting taking 5mg the following night. I'm worried that after a few nights of bad sleep on 5mg I'll be more tempted to go back to 10mg. Any suggestions you have would be appreciated.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
6-9mg of Melatonin (it comes in 3mg pills) combined with 5mg of Ambien should work as well as the 10mg of ambien. It's non-addictive and doesn't actually induce sleep.
posted by griphus at 7:46 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by griphus at 7:47 PM on August 17, 2011

Insomnia is one of those things that has no easy long-term answer. I know it sucks to keep hearing boring suggestions like "practice good sleep hygiene" and "set a bedtime routine and stick to it."

But as someone who suffered from insomnia for about 20 years before I finally beat it about 10 years ago... it's the only real answer. They are "the usual suggestions" because they really do work. It's the "diet and exercise" of answers; boring, but true.

Short term, try not to get upset about sleeping poorly. Embrace a bad night's sleep. Just go with it. If you're restless, get up and do something else. As long as you're getting at least a few hours of sleep a night, you'll be able to survive and function. It may not be pleasant, but it's not the worst thing in the world.
posted by ErikaB at 7:58 PM on August 17, 2011

You can probably expect to have some poor nights' sleep for a few nights. Your body is used to getting that Ambien and will need some time to compensate for it not being there. I'd second ErikaB in saying to try to stay patient and remember it will pass, and that being sleepy for a day or two sucks but won't kill you.

A dose of Tylenol PM is enough to get me drowsy and relaxed, which might help. Try relaxation breathing exercises (google: breathing retraining). I almost always fall asleep before I finish the whole thing. It will keep your mind occupied, help you from getting worked up about not being asleep yet, and help slow down your body too.

I've been there, insomnia is no fun, but if you're stubborn you can get off those meds and maybe get a good nights sleep too.
posted by gilsonal at 8:03 PM on August 17, 2011

I like to listen to this guys apps on my iphone when I struggle to sleep. It doesn't work always but about 70% of the time I am snoozing before he finishes.
posted by momochan at 8:03 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

A dose of Tylenol PM...

If you're going this route, just get generic Benadryl (diphenhydramine.) It's the active ingredient in Tylenol PM, and you won't be needlessly dosing yourself with acetaminophen, which you really shouldn't be eating unless you need it.
posted by griphus at 8:06 PM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Cut out the caffeine altogether, or at the very least don't allow any after noon.
posted by TheCavorter at 8:16 PM on August 17, 2011

Eat carbs or protein before bed? (Try one then the other.) It will manipulate your adrenals, among other things. IANAD.
posted by zeek321 at 8:24 PM on August 17, 2011

I take magnesium and a couple of hawthorn berry capsules. Cuddle up with a good book and some low light. Only 1 cup of coffee in the a.m. and do my exercise before noon.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:34 PM on August 17, 2011

You might be wired at night from the wrong kind of food. Since going low-carb my sleep has improved a lot. Try drastically reducing the sugars, alcohols and starches that you eat.
posted by conrad53 at 10:42 PM on August 17, 2011

Valerian root tea before bed has helped me, it doesn't taste very nice so I add honey.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:14 AM on August 18, 2011

Adding a Valerian Root tablet to my Melatonin dose has helped me to stay asleep longer.
posted by j03 at 1:05 AM on August 18, 2011

They also have Valerian root capsules / extract, which doesn't taste as bad as tea. Not sure if it helps, though.

My IANAD theory is that insomnia is mostly related to the stress of having to be up at a certain hour. If you can, take a few days off of work to find your natural sleep schedule. Stay awake until you are tired. Then sleep 8 hours. Then do it again. You should eventually settle on a rhythm that may or may not be suitable for a 9-5 workday. Once you know where you stand, then you can decide how to deal with it. Perhaps a noon-8 workday is better (I do this).

One last thing: a cold bath makes me feel very very good when I get into my bed, summer or winter. It need not be icy, but you should be cold. "The Four Hour Body" seems to agree with me, although I'm not sure that book is meant to be anything other than entertainment.

YMMV, but remember, your body and a "normal" life may not be compatible. You may have to compromise on "life" (no late nights out drinking), or your body (drugs). But the more data you have, the easier it is to decide.
posted by jrockway at 1:10 AM on August 18, 2011

How much are you exercising? I've noticed that when I get in at least 45 minutes of reasonably intense cardio per day - jogging, swimming, cycling, etc - i have a much easier time falling and staying asleep at night.
posted by narcotizingdysfunction at 2:07 AM on August 18, 2011

When I am anxious about not sleeping and how tired I will be in the morning, I remind myself that even by lying down I am resting. It's not as good as sleep, but I am getting some rest. It helps.
posted by teraspawn at 3:39 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

I believe that the studies into exercise and sleep indicate that exercising in the morning promotes better sleep.
posted by OmieWise at 5:10 AM on August 18, 2011

Call the prescribing physician and ask for advice.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:41 AM on August 18, 2011

I also like using Valerian root. I don't know whether it'll help you kick the ambien -- I feel for you, I've been there myself -- but it does seem to help when all other things (sleep hygiene-wise) are equal.

Whatever you do, taper off the ambien -- don't try to quit it cold turkey. I tried that and regretted it.
posted by blucevalo at 6:17 AM on August 18, 2011

Here's a write-up of a recent study on sleep and the timing of exercise (as OmieWise mentioned).
posted by aka burlap at 6:17 AM on August 18, 2011

I've found that valerian supplements and a magnesium supplement helped me a lot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:48 AM on August 18, 2011

Been there. I had some miserable, virtually sleepless nights -- maybe 3 or 4 -- but my body eventually figured out how to sleep without it. Nowadays I take valerian and passion flower. That combination works great for me. IDK, though, if it would have been helpful at the time.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:37 AM on August 18, 2011

My doctor had me take Melatonin when I was having sleeping troubles (2-5 mg, half an hour before bed). This is all-natural and it would basically knock me out despite being a substance naturally produced in the body. After taking this steadily for a few months, I stopped taking it because I didn't need it. It's shifted my sleeping pattern and I fall asleep earlier than I'd like, now, actually. But make sure that, if you can, you get one that dissolves under your tongue. This kind is more effective because it reaches your bloodstream faster.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:12 PM on August 20, 2011

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