Lunesta Side Effects – Sleepwalking & Memory Loss

Lunesta is a name-brand sleeping aid that has been prescribed more than 31 million times since its FDA approval in 2004. Lunesta is argued to be the most popular sleeping aid and is offered to patients who experience insomnia. Although Lunesta has helped patients sleep better, there are a number of serious side effects that can accompany taking Lunesta. Many Lunesta takers have claimed that they participated in activities that they cannot remember while they were under the influence of Lunesta. There are claims that they have been in dangerous situations or did things that they were unaware of.

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What Is Lunesta?

Lunesta is a sleep aid that is specifically used to treat sleeping disorders in patients. This drug is part of a class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics that essentially cause a calming effect within the patient’s brain. 

What Is Lunesta Used To Treat?

Lunesta is designed to treat insomnia in patients. This drug is designed to help patients fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and lessen how often they wake up during the night. The end goal is to get the patient on a better sleeping schedule. It’s typically limited to short treatment periods of 1-2 weeks or less. If insomnia continues, doctors look for other forms of treatment outside of Lunesta.

What Is Lunesta Made From?

The active ingredient in Lunesta is called eszopiclone. Eszopiclone is what is known as a selective GABA reuptake inhibitor. GABA receptors in the nervous system are responsible for partially responsible for regulating feelings of excitement and anxiety. Selective GABA reuptake inhibitors like eszopiclone bind to certain GABA receptor sites and partially block the function of GABA receptors, resulting in sedation. 

Selective GABA reuptake inhibitors like Lunesta are meant to be an improvement over older sedatives. Older GABA-inhibiting sedatives blocked more GABA receptor sites, theoretically leading to more side effects.

When Was Lunesta Approved by the FDA?

Lunesta was first approved on December 15, 2004, by the FDA and was created by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals. Currently, Lunesta is an uncontested sleep aid as there are no non-name-brand or generic versions of the medication available. 

Why Is Lunesta Under Scrutiny?

Medical professionals have been analyzing Lunesta’s trials as well as the effectiveness of Lunesta on their patients. Lunesta manufacturers claim that this drug is an effective sleep aid, but it has been shown in medical trials that Lunesta only increases a patient’s sleep time an average of 11-12 minutes more than a placebo. 

Additionally, many professionals feel that the dangers and potential side effects that accompany Lunesta were not represented in industry-sponsored trials. Industry-sponsored medical trials are paid for by the makers of a drug as opposed to trials hosted by independent entities such as academic or government institutions.

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that causes the patient to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or just affects the quality of the sleep. Insomnia happens independently of the perfect sleeping conditions, meaning that the time and the environment of the patient’s rest don’t matter. 

What Kinds of Insomnia Are There?

Insomnia can be a long or short-term disorder and is often caused by stress. Short-term insomnia can be treated through lifestyle changes, therapy, or other types of medication. For chronic insomnia, there may have to be an ongoing treatment plan that includes all the above-mentioned treatment options. Chronic insomnia can lead to memory and concentration problems as well as a risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.

What Causes Insomnia?

Insomnia can be a side effect or symptom of another condition or a medication used to treat another condition. Alternatively, insomnia can be the primary problem. It’s important to understand the underlying cause of the insomnia in order to properly treat it.

Common causes of insomnia include:

  • Stress
  • Trauma
  • Grief
  • Traveling
  • Jet lag
  • Work schedule
  • Irregular sleep schedule
  • Stimulating activities too close to bedtime
  • Uncomfortable sleeping environment
  • Eating too late in the evening
  • Heartburn
  • Medical condition
  • Medication
  • Mental illness
  • Sleep apnea
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine
  • Aging

Who Is More at Risk of Insomnia?

People who are older are typically at more risk of developing insomnia. This is because often, older people are those who are taking more medications, which could interfere with sleep. Sleep patterns, activity levels, and health may all change with age, which can also impact sleep. Age isn’t the only factor, however.

Other risk factors for insomnia include:

  • Having a physical health condition
  • Having a mental health condition
  • Being under a lot of stress
  • Not having a regular schedule
  • Being female

What Are the Symptoms of Insomnia?

The symptoms of insomnia can include:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Waking up too early
  • Waking up in the middle of the night
  • Tiredness during the day
  • Sleepiness during the day
  • Not feeling well-rested after sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Worrying about sleep
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficulty remembering things

What Complications Can Insomnia Cause?

Sleep is something the body needs in order to be completely healthy. It’s how the body recharges and it’s necessary for a wide range of systems and functions in the body to work properly.

Complications from insomnia can include:

  • Decreased work or school performance
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Slower reaction time
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Increased risk of substance abuse

What Are the Side Effects of Lunesta?

Lunesta side effects vary from person to person and many of these side effects are short-term. However, evidence suggests that taking Lunesta may result in an increased risk of both cancer and death. 

Short-term side effects of taking Lunesta include: 

  • Sleepwalking
  • Memory Loss
  • Possible Withdrawal Symptoms

What Is Sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking is a disorder that happens when an individual is in a deep sleep and can result in the person walking or performing other activities while still being mostly asleep. These other activities can be harmless such as opening cabinets, turning on/off lights, or talking. However, with these capabilities, individuals may be able to participate in more dangerous activities such as operating vehicles, eating food, or even participating in sexual activity without being fully aware. This can lead to additional injuries for the individual or others. 

What Causes Sleepwalking?

There is usually not one thing that causes sleepwalking, but a combination of many factors.

Some instances that may cause a patient to experience sleepwalking include: 

  • Stress
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Infection with a high temperature
  • Certain medications
  • Sleep apnea
  • Another sleep disorder
  • Migraine

What Are the Symptoms of Sleepwalking?

A sleepwalking episode can occur sporadically and an episode can last up to several minutes or longer.

Someone who is sleepwalking may: 

  • Get out of bed and walk
  • Have a glazed, glassy-eyed expression
  • Not communicate with others
  • Be disoriented after being awakened 
  • Have sleep terrors

A person who is sleepwalking can also: 

  • Do routine activities like getting dressed
  • Leave the house
  • Drive a car
  • Engage in unusual behavior
  • Engage in sexual activity without awareness
  • Get injured
  • Become violent immediately after waking

Who Is More at Risk of Sleepwalking?

Some factors that can make sleepwalking episodes more frequent or longer include: 

  • Stress
  • Fever
  • Alcohol
  • Another sleep disorder
  • Genetics
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Medications
  • Migraines
  • Head injuries
  • Brain swelling
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Stroke

What Complications Can Sleepwalking Cause?

A person who sleepwalks has the ability to possibly: 

  • Hurt themselves
  • Experience prolonged sleep disruption
  • Experience daytime sleepiness and possible behavior issues
  • Be embarrassed or experience problems with social relationships
  • Disturb others’ sleep
  • Injure someone else

What Is Memory Loss?

When an individual experiences sleepwalking, this can affect their memory, since the patient cannot recall what they did in their partial-sleep state. Memory loss can also occur independently of sleepwalking and is usually reported to be short-term memory loss. Patients who have taken Lunesta report the inability to store and retain new memories in the hours after taking Lunesta, which can be dangerous for themselves and others around them.

Memory loss is unusual forgetfulness and the inability of one to remember new events, recall memories from the past, or, in some cases, both. 

What Are the Symptoms of Memory Loss?

Memory loss symptoms usually encompass many statements or questions said by the patient to indicate their forgetfulness.

This can include things such as: 

  • Asking the same questions repeatedly
  • Forgetting common words when speaking
  • Mixing words up
  • Taking longer to complete familiar tasks
  • Misplacing items in inappropriate places
  • Getting lost while walking or driving
  • Having changes in mood or behavior for no apparent reason

What Are the Risk Factors Associated With Memory Loss?

Factors that can increase the risk of or effects of memory loss include: 

  • Air pollutants
  • Diabetes
  • Alcohol
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Cardiovascular risk factors
  • Head trauma 
  • Sleep disorder
  • Hypertension

What Treatments Are There for Memory Loss?

There is no definitive cure for memory loss, but there are treatments that many doctors and physicians recommend to help with memory loss.

Some medications that can temporarily improve memory loss symptoms are: 

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Memantine
  • Other medications

Other doctors prefer to use therapies to help with behavior problems that may be causing memory loss.

These therapies include: 

  • Occupational therapy
  • Changes to the patient’s environment
  • Simpler tasks  

How Does Lunesta Cause Cancer or Death?

A study released in February of 2012 found that cancer and death rates of sleeping pill consumers were higher than the cancer and death rates found among a population of people who don’t take sleeping pills. In the study, individuals who took sleeping pills as rarely as 18 times a year were more than 3.5 times more likely to suffer a premature death. Individuals who took 132 or more sleeping pills per year were more than 5 times more likely to suffer a premature death. 

Additionally, the same individuals who took 132 or more sleeping pills per year were 35% more likely to develop cancer during the study. The results of the study have led to great concern among sleeping pill takers and medical professionals about the long-term safety concerns associated with taking sleeping pills like Lunesta. Compared to patients who were not prescribed sleeping pills, those who were prescribed sleeping pills were more likely to be diagnosed with esophageal, kidney, prostate, liver, stomach, and pancreatic cancers. 

What Are Lunesta Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms occur when a patient who previously used Lunesta is taken off the drug either voluntarily or because their doctor stopped prescribing it. The body may develop a dependency on the drug and, as a result, the side effects can include renewed and stronger symptoms of insomnia. These stronger symptoms can often cause health problems for the patient. 

What Are the Issues With Lunesta?

There are a number of serious and unfavorable side effects associated with the consumption of Lunesta. There have been recorded cases of sleepwalking, memory loss, cancer, and even death associated with patients who have taken Lunesta. Additionally, those who stop taking Lunesta may experience intense withdrawal symptoms that could further damage their health. 

The cumulative number of side effects associated with Lunesta has led to a number of lawsuits by consumers who feel as though they were not adequately informed of the dangers associated with this medication.

Why Are There Lunesta Lawsuits?

A number of people have reported episodes of sleepwalking that have led individuals to engage in dangerous and erratic behavior while still being in a sleeping state. Some Lunesta takers have reported short-term memory loss in the hours immediately following their taking of Lunesta. This causes plaintiffs to not remember driving or performing other activities directly after taking the drug. 

What Are Plaintiffs Claiming About Lunesta?

Claims being made include the injuries that Lunesta has caused to individuals while they were in a sleepwalking state or experiencing memory loss. Additionally, plaintiffs also claim that the company providing Lunesta has failed to warn patients and medical professionals about the dangers of taking Lunesta. 

Are There Lunesta Lawsuit Settlements?

As of 2023, there are no recorded Lunesta lawsuit settlements in regard to the injuries of patients taking the drug. 

Are There Any Active Lunesta Lawsuits?

Claims are still being investigated, but as of 2023, there are no active class-action lawsuits against Lunesta. 

What Are the FDA’s Warnings About Lunesta?

The FDA has required manufacturers of Lunesta and other sleep aid drugs to include a boxed warning of the possible side effects of the drug. A boxed warning is the highest level warning the FDA gives and indicates that the drug should only be used if absolutely necessary. 

After reviewing many reported cases of serious injuries, the FDA’s boxed warning tells patients that they may experience unknown behavior during sleepwalking or a period of memory loss. These behaviors are often dangerous with many driving vehicles, wielding weapons, and performing sexual acts. 

Is Lunesta Still on the Market?

Despite the warnings, Lunesta is still on the market and can be taken as a tablet medication or administered via an IV. Additionally, other drug manufacturers have been pushing to create generic versions of Lunesta to put on the market as well.

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