Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sleeping Pills/Ambien

Coincidentally, many years ago, Ambien hit the market right when I started doing a fair amount of international travel for business. I was stoked. Sleeping in significant time-zone offsets from my home time-zone was obviously a challenge, and I'd always have a packed schedule the next day, so "sleep" was imperative. I saw an ad on TV for Ambien, and set out to my doctor's office for a small prescription.

International travel was changed forever for me. I could force my body to "sleep" when everyone else was sleeping in whatever locale I was in, and I could force my body "awake" during the daytime with tons of coffee. It worked pretty darn well. Of course I was far from settled or in-balance, but it was close enough and I could perform 90%+ during these bursts of tired travel.

Eventually I started using Ambien at home when I had big work-stuff to do "the next day" and couldn't afford a bad night of sleep. I didn't use it much at home, but for a few years, I used it say five nights per month. Luckily I was able to restrict it mostly to sleeping on the other side of the ocean.

I haven't been "working" in an operational sense for a year-and-a-half or so. The daily responsibilities that come with colleagues and running a business have fallen away. My international travel therefore has been all "pleasure" related, without critical meetings taking place "tomorrow."

I recently set out on a trip to Asia with a fresh Ambien prescription fill. I planned on my usual routine of popping 10mgs for the long-leg flight overseas, jamming on coffee, then spending the first several nights popping 10mgs to force my body into sleep submission. However, I realized I didn't have anything crucial on the other end, so skipped the pill on the flight, and just let my mind/body regulate sleep for me. I kept coffee in the mix throughout the trip, but I made it through the entire trip without using the sleeping pills. I also made it through re-entry in my home time-zone without them. The prescription I had filled, never got used. I thought it was so cool that I could do a big trip like that without jamming my sleep with a drug.

I've probably slept 150-200 nights with Ambien (or some random derivative/knock-off of it that the pharmacy decided to swap out on me). 75% of the time I used 10mg amounts, but often I would split the pill and do 5mg just to tip me over. My sleep challenges were around falling asleep, not staying asleep. I'd often heard about Ambien causing people to have weird dreams or to behave oddly the next day, but to my knowledge I only ever had a few, small, odd, brief, episodes during all that time. I didn't restrict any behavior while on Ambien. I drove cars the morning after. I drank alcohol alongside it. My perception was that everything was always just fine. I would wake up with a very minor "Ambien hangover," as people call it, that I just attributed to my mind and body being out of sync, rather than some side-effect of the drug.

Anyway, while the environmental shift of "no work" has probably been the impetus for my parting ways with it (not a luxury we all have), I have to say it felt great to do this last trip without taking it. While I was of course tired, my daily activities permitted me to power through with coffee, and go to bed when I wanted to at night. I didn't have client/customer/prospect/business dinner/drinking meetings that took me into the wee hours of the night.

If I start doing international business travel again, I strongly suspect I'll use it again in that context. It only makes sense.

That said, on the whole, your mind and body will eventually find a way to rest and sleep; with or without it.

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