Friday, 2 April 2021

The Blackout That Wasn’t.

 Picture a perfectly normal evening, supper, a bit of telly, a book. No alcohol. Bed at a normal hour, between 11 and 12, lights out and snuggle in. By 1.30 am I knew I wasn’t going to get to sleep without help so I got up and found a couple of sleeping pills. “Best go for a pee”, I thought then, "otherwise I might have to get up again before long".

That was my last conscious thought.

Next morning I woke up normally, got up, went downstairs, and proceeded with what I do regularly every morning before going back upstairs to make my bed.

“That’s funny,” I thought, "crumbs in the bed?”

a) I don’t eat in bed, and

b) when would I have eaten what I don’t eat in bed?

My eye caught the bedside table, where I saw a tin of stale crackers and an empty sherry glass. Eh? How did they get there? 

There have been occasions when I’d go downstairs during a sleepless night and have exactly that, some crackers and a small glass of sherry.  But downstairs in the warm kitchen, not upstairs in bed.

NOT upstairs in bed. So when did they get there? And how?

Answer came there none, no matter how hard I tried to recall the events of the previous night. Nothing, an absolute blank. Not even a partial recollection. A complete blackout.

For the next few days I puzzled and puzzled, even going so far as thinking of a TIA (mildish transient stroke) or some such. I didn’t seem to have any further symptoms apart from being just a touch worried. Lately I have been having lots of headaches, a bit of pain here and there, more and longer lasting bouts of depression than I like. But nothing I am not used to.

I decided to consult my GP, by phone. Initially, all consultations are currently by phone. My GP heard me out, asked a few additional questions and came up with an instant diagnosis. 

"It’s the sleeping pills”, he said. “ you took two when you normally take only one. Besides, these particular ones (Zopiclone), nasty things they are. I personally don’t like to prescribe them”.  He hadn’t, it was another practice doctor. “Don’t worry,” he added, “there is no cause for alarm, I don’t even need to see you. Had I taken two sleeping pills I might have lost a few hours myself.”

I am glad he was so certain, I had indeed been worried for several days, feeling uneasy. But doesn’t that beg all sorts of questions? 

Why prescribe dangerous medication? I might have fallen down the stairs during my nightly wanderings. An episode like that is frightening, how can he be so certain that nothing more untoward had happened? How do I find out that he is right, take another two pills some other night and see (or rather not see) what happens?

Any ideas?



39 comments:

  1. Zopiclone and the one I take (Ambien) are both well-known for causing those kinds of sleep walking/black out episodes. I only take a 1/2 tablet of their lowest dose and have never had that problem but my doctor says they don't like to use sleep meds for senior citizens. I've tried the presumed safer over-the-counter drugs but they just don't work for me.

    I've really careful, though. I'll set the 1/2 pill in a tiny dish by my bathroom sink before before going to bed. And if I get up to take it because I can't sleep, I'll see it in the dish. If it's NOT there I know I already took it therefore I don't grab the bottle and end up double dosing myself by accident.

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  2. Misadventures gives an excellent piece of advice.
    It doesn't do to rely on memory alone once a certain age is reached.
    I've noticed I can forget the last thing I did.
    Like applying deodorant!
    Now I pick it up from the left side of my sink, use it, then leave it on the right side.
    Then I put it back once dressed.
    Seems to work!

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  3. Hi Friko - well I'm so glad the doc worked out what happened ... and MoW above confirms the challenge though and a way of still taking it - hopefully without disastrous results. I'm glad you plucked up courage to see if you could get some clarification - and as you say ... thankfully all well.

    Stay well and have a peaceful Easter - sounds like a hunkering down one - typical cold snap in April ... all the best - Hilary

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  4. well, for one thing, don't ever take two again. and were it me, I wouldn't take even one of those again. but then I'm pill adverse (she says as she has to take three prescribed meds a day) but I also refuse three others the doc has suggested (blood pressure, cholesterol, osteoporosis). I have nights when I'm awake for several hours at a time. I just read or play solitaire til I'm sleepy again. I'm glad the doc had an explanation.

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  5. Please don't try to find out by taking even more pills, who knows what harm might befall you. The GP knew the answer to your question straightaway.

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  6. Our doctor told us that he is very skeptical of prescribing sleeping pills. After he had some serious issues with his own health, he was prescribed Ambien. He discovered a new weed whacker in his truck. He wondered where it came from? Asked his twin, who sometimes borrows his truck. Twin said he knew nothing about it. Investigating showed that the doc had driven to Home Depot, purchased the tool, and left it in the truck. Scary business! He had absolutely no memory of it. He said the funny thing to him was that he hadn’t done his own yard work for decades. That story is enough to frighten anyone. To think that pills can make something like that even possible.

    I am always so happy to find that you have posted. Hope you have plenty of good weather so you can garden, get tired, and sleep without pills!

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  7. I have never taken a sleeping pill, that sounds like a very dangerous blackout. Thank goodness you did not go for a drive. People have done that. My dear friend is 83 and by mistake took 2 Ambien in the morning, thinking it was another pill. She passed out in a chair and her niece could not wake her and called an ambulance. I am happy to hear you got good advice from your doctor and all is well with you now. Have a blessed Easter.

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  8. I am so glad that the solution to your mystery was found so quickly. Crumbs in the bed are a very minor adverse reaction too.
    I suspect one tablet (and that rarely) would be my limit.

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  9. The only other thing that could have happened that comes to my mind is a mysterious night visitor. Otherwise the solution seems right ... if you have to take the medication at all , take one pill not two.

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  10. I thought it was the sleeping pills immediately. Yours and the one Jean takes are known to cause sleep walking and in some scary incidents, sleep driving. Try Jean's method to make sure you don't overdose. Also try 1/2 like Jean does. Don't take a chance and listen to your doctor.

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  11. Probably better you don't take two, Friko. If I get up and wander in the night, and find something strange in my bed the next morning, I want it to have a pulse!

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  12. For about the million-ith time in my life I give thanks that I am a sound sleeper. I found out years ago when I had a painful injury that interrupted my sleep that sleeping pills and I don't get along. That would have been a very worrying experience. Lucky you mentioned it to the doctor or you would still be puzzled.

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  13. When Dr Google becomes helpful but never gospel.

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  14. As soon as you started your account, I wondered right away if you'd taken Ambien. It's known for these puzzling episodes. I don't take anything for sleeping. Maybe chamomile tea. I wouldn't risk another episode like that, though.

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  15. I used to take sleeping pills and I slept like I hadn't in many years. I loved them but then I started to hear and read more about them so I threw them away. Every now and then, I wish I had them back, but I resist. At this point in life, I don't need anything more messing with my brain.

    I am so glad that you got an answer to your sleep walk and you were very fortunate that nothing happened except cracker crumbs in your bed. Good thing that you did not spill the sherry. That would have been awful!

    I hope tomorrow is a beautiful spring day for you.

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  16. A frightening experience. You've received lots of advice. I don't like taking medication, unless it's absolutely necessary.

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  17. My health provider here in California used to prescribe 10 mg. doses of Ambien (Zolpidem) until a few years ago when they cut the dose in half and warned everyone not to take even that on a regular basis, because of such stories as you and others tell here.

    Nowadays if I end up short on sleep and am groggy, I just take a nap. In the past I was not a good napper, so I was surprised to find that napping works for me in this new era.

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  18. Dear Friko, it all sounds a bit scary, and I don‘t think I would ever dare to take one of those pills again. But then, I have never taken a sleeping pill in my life and am certainly not qualified to give advice on the subject. Not quite seriously, I suggest you set up a camera in your bedroom and activate it when you take a pill, so that it monitors your movements during the night.
    Anyway, good job nothing bad happened to you, you did not fall down the stairs or walk the village roads in your nightie!

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  19. Daer Friko,
    I wish you and your son an Easter filled with joy and hope.
    I never use sleeping pills, although sometimes I also get insomnia. I prefer to go for a walk before going to bed or on frosty days I open the window wider to keep it cooler in the bedroom.
    Hugs!

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  20. After we moved my mother from Iowa to live with her sister in Kansas City, one of the first things that had to happen was finding a new doctor. When that was accomplished, the first thing the doctor did was look at her list of medications, and one of the first drugs she took off the list was Ambien. Once the drug list was cleaned up, there were no more memory lapses, and no more falling. She'd had a physician who always was prescribing, but never stopping, a drug.

    I'd say you had an entirely normal, if unwelcome, response to Ambien, and you're fine. Do a few of the things that are recommended for good sleep, like plenty of fresh air during the day, and a bit of a regular schedule, and I suspect you'll do well.

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    Replies
    1. It wasn't Ambien she took, it was Zopiclone, which is not the same thing, as I have just been reading, but they are similar. Zopiclone is even termed "hypnotic" on one information page. I found a study comparing the two. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11471853/

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  21. My doctor warned me about Ambien but I wish I could still take it. It’s another sleepless night while I am writing this. My mom took sleeping pills for 20 years and never had a problem.

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  22. My doctor approved over the counter Benadryl (for cold symptoms) which makes older people drowsy. Works for me. I sleep deeper and less restless. But that had to be scary finding crumbs in bed.

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  23. I have heard many scary tales of people doing things on various sleeping pills that they have no memeory of...even driving, wandering about outside, purchasing things online or in person, cooking, eating...you never know what you might do and could even get hurt. Like you said, what if you fell down the stairs. Sounds like the longer people take them the worse they can get with the black out activity. Please don't take them.

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  24. Gosh, Friko. That was disconcerting. From everyone else’s thoughtful comments, I’m inclined to agree that your doctor gave the most likely explanation of what happened, and I’d concur that it would be wise in future to only take your tablet directly before retiring to your bedroom for the night. It also seems to be a particularly potent drug, so perhaps refrain from taking 2 at once.

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  25. I had never heard of that drug, so when I googled it, well it’s not legally sold in the US (where I am) for being highly addictive.
    I sleep usually fairly well, but my go to is one Xanax and sometimes with one ibuprofen...it works for me.

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  26. I don't see Tylenol PM mentioned by anyone. It works for me with no side effects.

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  27. I'd find that concerning but the explanation seems credible, so on the basis that it's best to stick to the simplest cause I'd accept it and move on... But I'd not take any more of those pills! Sleep well...

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  28. I'm delighted that it turns out you are okay. I have long since stopped scoring the medical profession. Too depressing. I take what they offer with gratitude, and watch out for myself prudently. But I keep that invisible to them, poor overworked dears.

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  29. That seems a credible explanation given that there are no other factors, and you are not the only person from whom I've heard frightening accounts. Perhaps your GP could suggest another medication?

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  30. Well, that's as creepy as all get out, and I'd be completely freaked. Especially with the complications that could come from walking in your sleep. You sort of hate to lock yourself in. Yes, all the words on not taking this again are good. And I echo them all. I hope you can get another med if you need it from your doc or an over the counter, like tylenol PM. The best part if this is that you are safe and OK. Whew....

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  31. I am a sleep walker and talker...so I am not the person to ask! :) My nephew is a night time eater in his sleep:)

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  32. All pills are 'dangerous' that they could cause side effects and sometimes nasty ones. All medication can do this. It is hoped the patient and physician weigh the risks/benefits of something, go 'low and slow' and stop if there are side effects or it doesn't work. Also, first consider if non-Rx interventions may work first - they often do - if the patient is willing to do them.

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  33. That's scary. And concerning. I'd avoid the double dose, forsure.

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  34. I find a couple of ibuprofen will help me sleep if I have not not got to sleep by 2am. Usually I will have a cup of milky cocoa and listen to a podcast with a very smooth calm voice to do the trick.

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  35. Dear Friko – I think I know you felt upset until the reason got clear. I wonder why the doctor who prescribed didn’t explain it. Now you must be careful about the dose of the pill.

    I’m so happy that you enjoyed cherry blossoms on my blog and learned how my corner of the world was like in their blooming season. Hope you also admired your large cherry tree with flowers. Take care.

    Yoko

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  36. A friend of mine was a VA nurse. Years ago she and her doc took an Ambien to see whether they could recommend it to their patients. The doc slept all night. My friend slept for 24 hours and when she woke up she found that she had completely trashed her house.

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  37. Ambien is notorious for causing sleep eating, among other things. I found chocolate milk splashed in my sink one morning and discovered I'd made myself a bowl of cocoa krispies cereal in my sleep.

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  38. Your experience would certainly be worrisome so glad you talked with your doctor. My husband took Ambien. He never had any serious issues of which I was aware but I've since wondered about some things for which I'll never have an answer. I've never taken any sleeping pills. Dr. suggested Melatonin, very small dosage, but no one here seems to mention them. I purchased a bottle but have never taken any though my sleep schedule has been topsy turvy. I'm trying to right my schedule which, as you can see by the time I'm writing this, is out of kilter since I tend to be a night owl. Hope to get my sleep straightened out and you resolve your issues, too.

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