Need to sleep, would prefer to wake up
January 26, 2013 1:16 PM   Subscribe

It's 'Is this a stupid idea?' time! Is it a stupid idea to take an ambien at night (~ midnight) if I have had a few drinks in the early evening (~ 7pm)?

I need to shift my sleep schedule tonight and guarantee a full night's sleep, so I plan on taking an ambien at midnight, seven hours before I need to wake up.

There is also a social event I'm obligated to attend this evening, which will run from 6pm to about 8pm. It will take place in a bar, and everyone will be drinking. I'd like to have one or two beers at the event, but I don't want to die.

I take ambien occasionally for insomnia, and in the past I've been extremely careful never to take it on a day I've had alcohol. However, I was wondering whether the four hour gap between my last drink tonight and the time I take the pill will be sufficient to avoid any scary CNS depression scenario. I would not drink more than two pints of beer at the event, and would definitely stop at 8pm.

Obviously, the easiest response would be for me just to teetotal tonight. I'm OK with that option, but I'd prefer to join my friends in a couple of drinks if it's a safe thing to do.

I feel silly asking this question, but the information I've found via google has been vague and/or contradictory. I know that no one here is my doctor or pharmacist. Thank you!
posted by scarylarry to Science & Nature (12 answers total)
IANAD but have taken ambien immediately after having a couple of drinks on several occasions...did not harm me, YMMV.
posted by tristeza at 1:21 PM on January 26, 2013

Best answer: Taking an overdose of zolpidem or taking alcohol or other CNS depressants with zolpidem may lead to breathing problems and unconsciousness. Some signs of an overdose are severe drowsiness, severe nausea or vomiting, staggering, and troubled breathing.

Don't take the risk. Here's the link from Mayo Clinic.
posted by discopolo at 1:22 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, what might cause breathing problems in one person may not do it for someone else. I wouldn't take the chance. Just don't take the Ambien.
posted by discopolo at 1:25 PM on January 26, 2013

Best answer: Follow the charts.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:30 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I did this last night with no ill side effects, but if it's going to give you anxiety, then don't do it. Maybe get some melatonin to help you fall asleep instead.
posted by too bad you're not me at 1:39 PM on January 26, 2013

Best answer: One or two beers? Ambien hours later? I have taken 'z-class' medications for most of my adult life and would not even think about an interaction there. Yes, bad idea to get liquored up and take a sleeping pill, but what you are contemplating is very far removed from that.
posted by kmennie at 1:44 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also, you can call up a retail pharmacist wherever you filled your scrip and ask. But don't rely on anecdotes.
posted by discopolo at 1:49 PM on January 26, 2013

I would not be concerned with the two beers, but I would definitely be concerned about first swallowing an Ambien only 7 hours before I need to awaken and be clearheaded! I find that 8 hours is the absolute minimum I should take Ambien before needing to be awake and coherent; 9 is better as you need time for the pill to be absorbed and take effect, and also time for it to wear off upon awakening. I'd take the Ambien at 10:30 if I were you. And maybe have the second beer a bit earlier to tie in with that.
posted by RRgal at 2:21 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: What is your dose of Ambien? How does it typically affect you? Do you ever notice a lack of clarity in your memory between the time you take it and the time you fall asleep?

I take a very low dose of a very fast acting sleeping pill (not Ambien, but a benzo with a short half life) and I make sure to put space between my social drinks and bedtime to avoid danger. If you experience any iffy symptoms normally, it is probably best to be more careful.

If you do not have any issues, maybe have a lesser drink (a beer or half a glass of wine) and leave a couple of hours before you take your pill. Of course IANAD; best to ask yours.
posted by pearl228 at 2:22 PM on January 26, 2013

I would just not drink alcohol if it isn't necessary. Just because you are at a bar doesn't mean you have to drink.

I'd be surprised if one or two drinks a few hours before would kill you, but I've never taken Ambien and am not a doctor. Probably best to call your doctor or a pharmacist and ask.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:59 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers, everyone! Using oceanjesse's chart, I've determined that I'd need about 3.5 hours to bring my BAC to zero. Therefore, it's probably completely safe to follow my proposed plan.

I take 10mg of Ambien, and have been up and running as little as four hours after taking it in the past (I think I metabolize it pretty quickly, and it's also a relatively low dose of a drug with a short half-life). So I think I'd be fine taking it 7 hours before waking up.

However, I think it's smarter just not to risk it. My anxiety about this might even make it harder to sleep. I'll play it by ear tonight. If I end up having a couple of beers, I'll take melatonin or benadryl instead of ambien. If I teetotal, I'll take the ambien.

Thanks again for the help with my silly question!
posted by scarylarry at 3:10 PM on January 26, 2013

Best answer: The z-drugs do not have the same degree of risk with regards to respiratory depression as the benzodiazepines. Even if they did, the risk would primary be one that emerges in overdose situations. If I was counseling you as a patient, I would absolutely advise you to avoid mixing zolpidem and alcohol. But absent potential liability, my honest answer would be that, while it's probably best to avoid, it's unlikely to be dangerous as long as the alcohol is in moderation and you are otherwise healthy.

Outside of health concerns, there's a different reason why you may want to avoid it. Alcohol and zolpidem act synergistically on the CNS, and may potentially inhibit each others metabolism. In other words, the effects of both will be enhanced, and may end up lasting longer as well. So mixing the two is more likely to result in you feeling groggy the next day. Other effects, like loss of coordination and inhibition, are also going to be enhanced, so there's a greater chance that accidents or risky behavior may occur. Just something to keep in mind.
posted by dephlogisticated at 4:49 PM on January 26, 2013

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