You are going through a rough time and it’s affecting your ability to sleep. Your doctor has suggested a sleeping pill and has prescribed Ambien. But taking that pill may be worse than missing a good night’s sleep.
Psychologists at the University of California at Riverside have found that Ambien increases your brain’s ability to store and consolidate memories. However, it only works for negative memories.
Your brain converts short-term memories into long-term memories during stage 2 sleep. It does this during bursts of brain activity called sleep spindles. Ambien increases the sleep spindles during stage 2 sleep. Other sleep medications, like Xyrem, decrease spindle activity at this stage.
Dr. Sara Mednick and her team provided 28 study participants with two different sleep aids: Ambien (zolpidem) and Xyrem (sodium oxybate). The participants viewed a series of one-second images designed to provoke a response before taking supervised naps. Images were sorted into five categories:
- Positive (kitten)
- Strong positive (roller coaster)
- Neutral (tree)
- Negative (people around a grave)
- Strong negative (a snake about to strike)
When they woke-up, the participants were asked to recall the images they were shown.
When participants took Ambien, they showed an increased ability to remember negative images, especially those designed to trigger a strong negative response. When participants took Xyrem, there was no change in the ability to recall negative images. The study was published June 14, 2013, in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
What does this mean? Converting short-term memories to long-term memories is a natural part of the sleep cycle. If we have a natural tendency to better recall negative emotions, improving memory will improve the ability to remember the negative. If the negatives of your everyday life aren’t so bad, it may not be a big deal. In that case, taking Ambien might mean that you forever recall the scary scenes in the movie you watched before going to bed. But if you have an anxiety disorder or PTSD, it could be a big deal. In that case, Ambien may be worsening your symptoms by improving your memory of things you don’t want to remember.
Bad memories aren’t the only side-effect of Ambien. Ambien has been linked to hallucinations and behaviors such as sleep walking, sleep driving, and sleep eating. Ambien sleep driving has been linked to more than 700 car accidents. Iowans who are injured by the effects of Ambien have a right to seek compensation. To learn more, contact the Des Moines pharmaceutical injury attorneys at Hupy and Abraham. Call 888-807-2752 to schedule a free consultation.