Website Review:

At my annual physical a month or so back, I noted an increase in insomnia as I got older so, following the direction of TV advertisers, I asked my doctor about Ambien. He said it might be helpful for short-term relief of my problem, so he wrote me a prescription to cover me for the next year.

The drug I actually mentioned is the only Ambien currently being advertised, a controlled-release formulation called Ambien CR. The patent held by pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Aventis on the original drug expired in 2007, requiring them to develop a slight variation that not only gets you to sleep but keeps you there. (You’d think they’d have thought of that the first time, so you obviously know very little about Big Pharma.) When this patent expires, I look forward to a chocolate-covered Ambien or perhaps a honey-infused Ambien tea.

My doctor implied the Ambien CR was basically a marketing ploy that had failed to yield any free trips to Bermuda, so I’d be just as well off taking a generic, the less evocatively named zolpidem tartrate. He wrote me the prescription and I’ve been a happy though somewhat groggy user ever since. However, I wanted to learn more about this medicine, so I’ve chosen for my weekly Website Review.

The home page of this website features a quintet of smiling, well-rested folks standing around the edges of a giant Ambien pill. The pill rotates, allowing each individual to hold up a placard summarizing their particular sleep issue which you can click on to hear more of their stories. The tablet would have to measure about ten feet wide by two feet thick to hold all these people, so the fine print helpfully informs us that this is “not actual pill size.” On the other side of the graphic, we’re also told that these are “not actual patients”. Yet still we’re asked to believe that this is an actual sleep aid. I wasn’t fooled by this shameless ruse, so I read a few of the individual stories to make sure I’m getting the facts.

“Anita,” who is “45,” describes her fictional self as a morning person who started to dread her daily wake-up. She lacked energy and her stress levels at work were “off the charts,” so with a little nagging from her illusory friends she got a pretend prescription from her imaginary doctor. “What a much-needed difference,” the copywriter making up her story says. “Now I’m the early riser again, the pancake-maker, the family alarm clock.”

Another phantom sleeper who I could relate to was 55-year-old “John,” who would be precisely in my demographic if he weren’t actually 30 years younger and probably female. “I believe that if you have a nagging problem, you fix it,” said John. “I went to my doctor and he recommended Ambien CR, and it helps me fall asleep and stay asleep. So now I’m ready for my next challenge. Mountain biking, anyone?”

Thanks, John, but I’ll pass on the biking, even though I’m sure we could be best friends forever if you actually existed. I want to be careful about undertaking any risky physical activity, because if you know anything at all about Ambien from the popular media it’s that there’s this phenomenon called “amnesia for the event” in their side-effect warnings. Apparently, there are many reported cases of this so-called “automatism” where people who thought they were enjoying a restful, Ambien-induced slumber were in reality driving cars, walking around outside their home, conversing with family members or even running for Congress.

“Sleepwalking … as well as behaviors such as being more outgoing or aggressive than normal, confusion, agitation, and hallucinations have been reported,” reads the safety information at the bottom of every page on this website. “In rare cases, sleep aids may cause swelling of your tongue.”

I haven’t measured my tongue lately, but I do think I may have experienced some of this strange behavior. After taking a pill the other night, I “awoke” to find myself spilling a glass of Pepsi all over my chest while talking to my parents on the phone. On another occasion, I fell out of an airplane while wearing nothing but my underwear, landing on top of my high-school girlfriend who then gave me a math test that I hadn’t studied for. Dream or reality – who really knows?

In addition to the blatant promotion of an artificial solution to sleep problems, there’s quite a bit of helpful data about insomnia at this site. They describe the two different kinds of insomnia – the primary kind and the scary-sounding “co-morbid” variety. The primary one is commonly experienced by over half of all adults, due to everyday factors like stress, aging, over-eating, jet lag, shift work, etc. The co-morbid kind is accompanied by other issues, such as cancer, heart disease, lung malfunction, pain, depression and drug abuse. You also might have sleep apnea, where your sleeping proficiency is just fine but your failure to breathe could be a problem, or narcolepsy, where you nod off at inappropriate times during the day, such as while working or swallowing. They’re not trying to worry you into sleeplessness; they just want you to be informed.

To offer a complete picture of all the options available to you, they also have a list of other possible sleep assistance, including the melatonin receptor agonists, the benzodiazepines and the non-benzodiazepines. (For the record, Ambien is a short-acting non-benzodiazepine hypnotic that potentiates gamma-aminobutyric acid.) It’s apparently also possible to improve your nightly rejuvenation by doing things like avoiding caffeine, watching your diet, exercising regularly and having a large, comfortable bed, though it’s probably best to discuss these options with your doctor before beginning any change in your routine.

Finally, I’ll mention an option for sleep inducement located in the games section of this website. Nobody counts sheep anymore in this digital age, except the occasional OCD-afflicted shepherd. Instead, you can play an online competition wherein a cartoon rooster pops up at various locations around a bedroom and you throw pillows at the bird by clicking on him. “Show your rooster who’s boss and give him the beak down he deserves,” reads the instructions. “Peck-a-boo!” Discounting the disturbing idea of trying to sleep while a cock peeks at you from your closet, then from your window, then from behind your dresser, I can really only think of one good reason for having your laptop in bed with you and it has nothing (well, very little) to do with targeting poultry.

To wrap this review up, I thought I’d offer a first-person assessment on the affects of the drug being used as prescribed. As I’m writing this, it’s 8 p.m. on Thursday night. I’m pulling the orange transparent prescription container out of my medicine cabinet, unscrewing the lid, shaking a single dose into my palm and … and …

And I want to assure you that if you elect me to the U.S. Senate, I will serve the interests of all the voters, and I promise not to show up at the Capitol in my underwear.

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7 Responses to “Website Review:”

  1. urban lounge online Says:

    Makes ya wonder are they trying to keep us drugged up???

  2. abhishek Says:

    Quite unusual side effects 😀

  3. Rocky Humbert Says:

    Excellent post! What’s particularly amazing is your depiction of the website contents is true!!

  4. Era Says:

    Great post. I’m surprised that reading their website didn’t put you to sleep!

  5. doggonedmysteries Says:

    I’m an insomniac I have been one since I was a child–at least that was what everyone has told me over the years. Guess what? I’m not, I’m a night owl I’m not a lark.

    Glad you stopped by my blog–thought I’d return the favor.

  6. Romey Says:

    OCD- affflicted shepard……….LMAO!!!

  7. planetross Says:

    Thinking about insomnia keeps me up at night: thinking about outsomnia is much more unproductive … and makes me sleepy.

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