Who Needs Sleep: AKA, My Adventures with Ambien

I am sitting here at 1:57 in the morning central times. In 3 short minutes it will be 3 AM central time. This is not because we do not know that two comes after one in the whole counting thing but is in fact, the result of daylight savings time.

There are two daylight savings periods, spring forward which we are doing now and falling back which happens in November. You’re probably wondering why I’m explaining something that is going to be pretty obvious to most Americans, even those who do not participate in daylight savings time. I’m writing these details down for future generations of people who might be free of the burden of this event.

The clock just struck 3 AM so now you know how long it took me to type all of the previous words.

Daylight savings time isn’t so bad when you gain an hour. An extra hour of sleep or to get some work done is a pretty cool deal. It sucks when you lose an hour. But having said all of that, I must tell you that none of that is really the point of this post. The point of me talking about all of that before getting to the real point is that this is going to screw up my already screwed up sleep schedule.

I’ve written before about my messed up sleep schedule and how it can so easily be blown off course. I’ve had problems sleeping since I can remember. I don’t like to fall asleep to complete silence. Getting to sleep was also difficult at debate tournaments when my mind would go a mile a minute trying to construct what might happen during the next day’s rounds.
So yeah, the whole ‘Casey can’t sleep’ thing goes back as far as I can recall and I have a pretty good memory. There was one time in my life where I tried really hard to fix this thing once and for all.

I should say that these days my problem is not that I am unable to sleep. It is that I am unable to sleep consistently. I’ve mentioned Non 24 and how I’m reasonably sure I have it. However, it wasn’t so many years ago that the problem was in fact that I could not sleep. I would sleep maybe 3 hours in a 48 hour span of time, possibly longer. That is when I went in and got put on a sleeping pill.

I had tried to take over-the-counter sleeping medication before but never had any luck. Once I took one that had no impact at all as after I took it I spent the entire night awake. So I decided that if I was going to have any hope of sleeping normally I would need something stronger. So I was prescribed ambien. I suspect that a lot of people who have been prescribed ambien in the past know where this is headed.

My time on Ambien wasn’t so bad at first. It helped me sleep. I didn’t have any weird side effects but that didn’t last long. After awhile, I started to do stuff while under the influence of Ambien. It wasn’t anything major at first, sending some random Facebook messages and the like, not a big deal. Then the first side of trouble came.
Actually, the first sign of trouble might really have been the second sign. There was a time period early on where I really enjoyed going to sleep and being asleep. So what I would do was take a pill and go to sleep. Then when I’d wake up I would take care of Ginny and handle anything else that needed handling and then take another pill and go back to sleep.
The previously mentioned first sign of trouble which is now the one I’m going to talk about (confused yet?) was that I started to build up a tolerance for Ambien. One pill didn’t really put me to sleep anymore. So, I mentioned this to my doctor and it was now two pills that I took. Well, that worked…except that when I was sometimes under the influence of two, I would wake up and take two more so really I was taking 4.

I was put on Ambien in February of 2010 and in April of 2012 when I stayed with my cousin in Sioux Falls for a couple of months, I made her hide the bottle. She gave me my two pills every night but since I didn’t know where the bottle was (I had a general idea) I couldn’t easily get up, wander around and accidentally or unintentionally take more. So to recap, I am now taking two Ambien a night and I’m sometimes getting up and taking more. Bad times! I’m also still sending weird Facebook messages and sent a weird voicemail to Melissa once that is best left undiscussed.

There were other bad decisions made at the time. One of which and the one I am the least proud of involves the girl I had just started seeing then. One night in June 2012 I had taken my two pills and was getting ready for bed. She then called me and asked if she could drop by. If I were smart I would have said no because of the pills I had just taken. Spoiler alert, I wasn’t smart and said absolutely.
Well, she came over and all was fine for about 5 minutes. Then the pills took hold and one of the things that happened was my mental filter would shut off. It was kind of like a free window into my thought processes if you cought me at the right time I would say whatever I was thinking regardless of how smart or appropriate it might not have been to do so. So that was the night when she and I ended up having the discussion of when we might sleep together.
Now, I want to tell you that under normal circumstances that would never have happened. I, Casey John Calvin Trowbridge, do not believe in doing anything that might remotely be considered applying pressure to a woman to sleep with me. In fact, I go out of my way to ensure that there is no pressure whatsoever. Sure, this hasn’t really been a huge theme in my life but when the time had come I preferred and practically did everything I could to ensure that it was the woman’s decision and that she didn’t feel like I was pressuring her into something. So this Ambien fueled conversation was against my character type and is easily the worst (though not the most dangerous thing) I did while under the influence. Was it enough to get me to stop? No because again, I kind of enjoyed the ability to fall asleep. However, the breaking point was not far off.

The final straw came in July 2012. Now, I have no way of knowing if this happened earlier than July or not but that is when it got serious. I started to not remember doing certain things that I had very clearly done. I started to ask people if I had talked to them the previous day and what we had discussed. A staff member from the Guide Dog school where I got Ginny came to my apartment for a home interview and apparently I was coherent the whole time but I have no memory of it. I only know that I was coherent because my mom told me so when I asked her about it later. If she had not just happened to be there I would have no clue of what happened.
If you don’t know me very well at all then I should probably let you in on a little secret of mine. I have a pretty good memory. I don’t remember everything to ever happen to me like some people do but I remember quite a bit from an early age. So if I can’t remember if I even talked to a person the next day or what have you then there is a real problem. Blacking out on entire days was the last straw.

I went to the doctor in August for my 3 month checkup. I told him that I was having blackouts and that as a result I wanted off of the Ambien. He put me on a different drug which did not work at all. In fact, I only ever took it once because the first time I took it I suffered one of the side effects and it was quite painful. That was the last time I took any substance perscription or otherwise to help me sleep. Getting off ambien I didn’t have any withdrawl issues and wasn’t tempted to go online and see if I could get my hands on any and thank God for that. Eventually, my ability to sleep returned on its own even if my ability to fall asleep at the same time each evening has never come back. Go back to Non24 for my belief as to why that is still an issue for me.

I consider this to be the closest I have ever come and will ever get to a serious drug addiction. If I would ever need a sleeping pill again I would refuse Ambien just to ensure that there was no chance of that pattern repeating itself. A friend of mine was recently put on sleep medication and thanks to my stories and those of another mutual friend he declined Ambien.

Later on, I listened to an episode of Jim Ross‘s podcast and he told a story. He was somewhere and he got on a flight to go home. When the plane landed, he got in his car and drove home but had no memory of doing so. He then said that it was because of Ambien. He went on to say that he had been on it for some time and was later told that you really should only take the drug for a couple of months, it wasn’t meant to be taken for years. Whether that last part is true or not I cannot say but being able to function with no recall after the fact is something I totally understand.

So there you have it. Thanks to daylight savings robbing me of an hour of sleep I probably wasn’t going to get anyway (Yeah, I know that technically it wasn’t a robbery then but still) you have gotten that account of my Ambien abuse. Some parts of it were funny (the voicemail I sent Melissa was about bacon salt), some were embarrassing (see awkward conversation with girlfriend I had for about a month) and some were frightening (did July 23 2012 really happen or did they cancel it without telling me?).
Would I have any advice for someone if they were considering Ambien to help them sleep? Yes and here it is as plain as I can state it. If you take it, put the medicine somewhere that you cannot easily reach. And then only agree to take it for about 3 months. Finally, if there is any problem stop taking it immediately, do not wait until the perscription runs out. If I had taken my own advice in that last case, I might have a better memory of July 2012.
I certainly don’t consider Ambien to be an evil drug. It did help me for awhile, it didn’t become a problem until later. So I wouldn’t go so far as to tell someone to refuse it outright. I would just say to be very careful. The issues with Ambien are so common that it was actually parodied on a Simpsons episode where the name Napien was substituted although Lisa also specifically mentioned Ambien.

If there is one good thing about daylight savings and the fact I’m still awake here it is. This is my entry for March 13. I now do not need to think of something at the last minute and post it late Sunday night. Honestly, I’m glad I wrote this because I had been meaning to for awhile. I was very close to writing this one day when one of my friends told me about someone she knew who had just tried to commit suicide by taking a bunch of sleeping pills. I figured it could wait. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try and sleep…and yes, there will be no pills involved in that attempt.

Casey’s Song of the Day

This really has nothing to do with sleep. It is an illustration of how sometimes I can be really behind when it comes to music. I’ve obviously heard of ‘They Might be Giants’ but not really ever heard much of their music. A friend played this song for me on Saturday night and I crushed on it immediately.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go check out this new band I just heard of out of England. They’re called The Beatles I think, I wonder if they’ve accomplished much?

You know what, you’re getting a bonus song because I do have one in my library about the difficulties of sleeping. This actually reminded me of my own situation for quite some time.