Ambien: Sleeping Pill FAQs

Medical Author: Benjamin C. Wedro, MD, FAAEM
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

Insomnia, the inability to sleep, is all too common in our society. Many people have transient sleep disturbances and treat them with over-the-counter medications, while others turn to their healthcare provider for prescription medications - and there are plenty of choices for medications. Each has its benefits and risks, indications, and side effects, and these medications are not interchangeable. More importantly, they aren't safe to use together.

Regardless of the mechanism of action of sleeping pills, they are all "downers." They depress brain function, and if too many are taken or if they are mixed with alcohol or other drugs, the breathing centers of the brain can be depressed to the point that the body stops breathing, and the person dies.

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