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Taking ‘Z-drugs’ to help you sleep? FDA says be careful


Taking prescription medicines known as “Z-drugs” for insomnia may lead to complex sleep behaviors, overdose, injury and – in rare cases – death, the Food and Drug Administration cautions in a recent alert.

Medications including eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar and Zolpimist) “work by slowing activity in the brain,” the FDA says. “Used properly, they can help you sleep. Quality sleep can have a positive impact on physical and mental health.”

But the treatments also come with risks. The FDA has received reports of Z-drugs causing complex sleep behaviors such as sleepwalking, sleep driving, sleep cooking or taking medicines when not fully awake. These effects may lead to incidents such as unintentional overdose, falls, burns, wandering outdoors and self-inflicted gunshot wounds, the agency says.

If you’re prescribed Z-drugs, talk with your health care provider about the benefits and risks, the FDA says. Other tips:

  • Follow dosage instructions.
  • Read the patient Medication Guide when your prescription is filled and before starting the medicine. Talk with a health care professional if you have questions.
  • Stop taking the medication and contact your health care provider if it triggers a complex sleep behavior.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before or while taking these medicines.
  • Be aware that insomnia medication may impair your ability to drive and perform activities that require alertness the morning after use.

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