Ambien Side Effects

Ambien is a prescription medication used to treat insomnia. People who take Ambien may experience side effects such as memory loss and episodes of sleepwalking or perform activities like driving that they later forget.

Sleeping Pill Image

Ambien is a sleeping aid which is manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis, a French Pharmaceutical company. It is among the most prescribed sleeping pills in the US, where it has been available since 1992. When consumed orally, Ambien promotes sleepiness. The onset of sleepiness after consuming Ambien is usually quite rapid. In part, this has lead the drug manufacturer to emphasize that Ambien should be taken directly before going to bed. The effects of the medication are intended to last between two and three hours. However, many individuals have reported that the medication takes a longer time than this to process. Additionally, Ambien side effects have led to a number of lawsuits against the makers of Ambien.

Ambien Side Effects

Ambien side effects can range from mild to severe. Some of the side effects associated with this drug are made worse by consumption of alcohol or mixing sleep medications. Thus it is highly recommended that individuals abstain from alcohol and the use of other sleep aids while taking Ambien.

Memory Loss

Ambien has been linked with causing anterograde amnesia. Anterograde amnesia is the opposite of retrograde amnesia, perhaps a more familiar form of memory loss. While retrograde amnesia causes an inability to remember past events, anterograde amnesia creates an inability to remember future events. Anterograde amnesia prevents the brain from successfully logging events as they happen, as opposed to obscuring past events which have already been chronicled.

Although the exact reasons behind Ambien side effects associated with memory loss are unclear, there are some theories behind why this may take place. In order to increase sleepiness, Ambien binds to GABA receptor sites. The hippocampus region of the brain has a great deal of GABA receptor sites. The hippocampus region is also greatly responsible in the process of memory retention. Theories at present suggest that something in the interaction between Ambien’s effect on the GABA sites in the hippocampus and the hippocampus’ responsibilities in memory retention lead to memory loss. Memory loss associated with Ambien has often been found most likely to occur in the hours directly following Ambien consumption.


Somnambulism is a term used to describe sleepwalking. Somnambulists, or sleepwalkers, engage in sometimes complex physical tasks while remaining in a sleeping state. Ambien side effects like sleep walking can potentially be very dangerous, both to the sleepwalker and others. There are reported cases of people cooking meals, driving cars and even committing thefts following consumption of Ambien.

According to a 2006 estimate, there were more claims of sleepwalking associated with Ambien than with all other sleeping aids combined. Although the scientific explanations connecting Ambien and sleepwalking are not set in stone, many people who sleepwalk while taking Ambien find that the sleepwalking goes away once they discontinue usage.

Ambien seems to sometimes cause a state of partial arousal. In a state of partial arousal, those who take Ambien may be partially awakened by outside stimulus but are unable to fully awaken due to the drug’s sedative effects. As a result, sleepwalking may occur.

Increased Risk of Cancer or Death

According to a scientific study released in 2012, taking Ambien may be linked with an increased risk of death. Additionally, Ambien side effects may include a higher likelihood of developing cancer. This study looked at 10,529 individuals who were taking sleeping pills. Many of these people were taking Ambien. The study compared the mortality rate of these sleeping pill consumers to a control group of 23,676 people who were not taking any sleeping pills.

The study found that those who consumed as little as 18 sleeping pills a year were 3.6 times more likely to suffer death. Additionally, the group of people who consumed the largest amount of sleeping pills was 35 percent more likely to develop cancer over the course of the study. This research, as well as other sometimes severe Ambien side effects, has led to a number of personal injury lawsuits.

Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA. 

View Sources


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  • Falkenburg, KAi. “FDA Takes Action on Ambien; Concedes Women at Greater Risk.” Forbes. Forbes, 10 1 2013. Web. 11 May 2013.
  • Ogbru, Omudhome. “Ambien Side Effects Center.” RX List. RX List, 14 12 2011. Web. 11 May 2013.