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Ambien & Anxiety

by
author image Fabian Fernandez, Ph.D.
Based in Miami, Fabian Fernandez has been writing science- and health-related articles since 2004. His work has appeared in several prestigious academic magazines including "Nature" and ”Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." Fernandez received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellowship in 2003, and a Research Service Award from the NIH in 2007. He holds a Ph.D. in neurosciences from Stanford University.
Ambien & Anxiety
Insomnia is a common side-effect of anxiety disorders. Photo Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

For many people who suffer from mental-health disorders—especially those who experience anxiety—insomnia often goes hand-in-hand with a diagnosis. One of the most commonly prescribed medications for sleep disorders is Ambien (zolpidem is the generic term for it), a fast-acting drug in the class known as nonbenzodiazepines. Though it may seem like the holy grail for sufferers of anxiety-driven sleepless nights, Ambien generally does not get to the root of insomnia and may actually lead to more anxiety after patients stop taking it.

Mental Health and Insomnia

According to the Harvard Medical Health Letter, between 50 and 80 percent of those being treated for other mental-health problems also suffer from insomnia, which is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep without difficulty. Those who have been diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety are particularly susceptible to sleep problems.

About Ambien

According to the National Institutes of Health, Ambien (zolpidem) is a sedative-hypnotic medication, a class of drugs that quiets activity in the brain, leading to sleep. There are many forms in which Ambien can be prescribed and taken: It may be dispensed in tablet form; in a controlled-release form (Ambien CR); a quick-dissolving tablet placed under the tongue (Edluar, Intermezzo); or as an oral spray (Zolpmist).

About Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural reaction to stressful situations—it's a part of the body's "fight-or-flight" response—but it can be a problem if it continues after stressful situations are through. If it lasts longer than six months, anxiety may become a disorder. According to the National Institutes for Mental Health, there are a wide range of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social phobia (or social anxiety disorder). Medical professionals believe that anxiety disorders are caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and traumatic experiences. Anxiety is quite common, and about 40 million American adults (about 18 percent) experience clinical anxiety in an average year. Women are 60 percent more likely to have anxiety disorders.

Ambien Treatment for Anxiety

For many sufferers of anxiety disorders, their outsized senses of fear and dread continue into the night, resulting in occasional or chronic sleeplessness. Medication is often needed to treat both the anxiety and insomnia, and some antidepressants help to treat the dual disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be quite helpful for these problems, especially in the long term. For some, sleep aids may be prescribed. Ambien is commonly used, and it is helpful in relaxing and calming patients with anxiety. However, the medication has a high risk of dependency and when it is stopped, many patients have rebound insomnia and anxiety. The National Institutes of Health recommend that Ambien should only be prescribed for two weeks or less.

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