Ambien, or zolpidem tartrate, is a prescription drug approved for the short-term treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders. The sedative-hypnotic effects of Ambien help individuals fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night, says Drugs.com. While it does a good job of correcting the underlying chemical imbalance that interferes with normal sleep cycles, Ambien does have serious side effects.
Ambien can cause an array of abnormal behaviors and thinking, notes Rx List. These may include decreased inhibitions that cause individuals to act more aggressively and extroverted than usual, agitation, depersonalization, bizarre behavior and visual and/or auditory hallucinations. People with visual hallucinations may see patterns, objects, lights or even people who aren’t really in the environment. The most common auditory hallucination is hearing voices when no one is around, according to Medline Plus. People with auditory hallucinations may also hear nonexistent music, footsteps or doors banging.
The imaginary voices heard during an auditory hallucinations may direct individuals to carry out unsafe activities that can harm themselves or others, states Medline Plus. During their hallucinations, people may become nervous, frightened or paranoid.
People who take Ambien have carried out complex behaviors like preparing and eating meals, walking around the house or outdoors, engaging in sexual intercourse and even driving a vehicle before they’ve awakened. When those behaviors are coupled with visual or auditory hallucinations, there’s increased danger.
People who drink alcohol or take prescription drugs like antidepressant medicines, seizure medications, other sleeping pills, sedatives, tranquilizers or drugs to treat anxiety are more likely to develop side effects like hallucinations. Those individuals may need a lower dose of Ambien as well as close monitoring for adverse effects, says PubMed Health.
It’s best to take Ambien right before bedtime and plan on staying in bed for at least seven hours to reduce the risk of unwanted side effects. Take only the prescribed dose; never take extra Ambien tablets to fall asleep quicker or stay awake longer. Report any visual or auditory hallucinations immediately to the prescribing physician, recommends PubMed Health.