- Question from Dale: Is Ambien too habit-forming to take nightly?
That's actually a very good question. Ambien (chemical name: zolpidem tartrate) is a sedative-hypnotic medication, so it makes us fall asleep more easily, and hopefully stay asleep. The problem with all of the sedative-hypnotic medications is that you can develop dependence on them.
Editor's Note: Sedative-hypnotics are medications that cause drowsiness, triggers the onset of sleep, and/or helps you sleep through the night.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. How long does it take to develop dependence?
It really depends on the person. The general recommendations are that people should not be given more than 2 weeks of Ambien at a time, unless they're being followed by a sleep physician, because of the issues with dependence. Usually a few weeks continuously (once a night). The other issue with some of the sedative-hypnotics is the issue of tolerance: after a period of time, the medication can stop working (although this isn't the case for all of the sedative-hypnotics). So you basically never want to use a sedative-hypnotic all by itself.
There are a number of approaches to insomnia. Sleep hygiene is one, which we were just discussing. Medications play a role, but have to be used judiciously. The third is something called cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is typically done by a psychologist. These are relaxation techniques, techniques to help you figure out what is contributing to your insomnia, self-awareness. That is a very useful adjunct for insomnia therapy. So with my patients, I usually use anywhere from 1 to 3 of these approaches at one time.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. Are these interventions covered by most insurance policies?
- Helena Schotland It depends on the insurance. My patients have had a lot of success having the cognitive-behavioral therapy covered by their insurance.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Sleep Well: Healthy Habits for Good Rest featured Helena Schotland, M.D. and moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about ways to improve your sleep.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in January 2007.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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