By Emily Woodbury
We RVers spend a lot of time driving. We’ve, sadly, gotten good at “distracted driving” – settling arguments with our kids as they scream in the back seat, telling our dog to quit barking at a passing truck, ignoring a ringing cell phone when you just know it could be something IMPORTANT!
Anyone who drives knows all about this. But I’ll bet you have never heard of something a whole lot more dangerous. I’m talking about sleep driving! Driving while asleep? Yeah, right. Not possible. Well, don’t laugh! It’s no joke. It happens, and usually to people taking Ambien, a sedative prescribed to combat insomnia.
Sleep driving is like sleepwalking, only instead of getting up and taking a trip to the fridge in the middle of the night, people, or “Ambien Zombies,” as they’re called, drive their vehicles while asleep with absolutely no memory of doing so.
Ambien is part of a group of drugs called “sedative-hypnotics” which were designed not to be addictive or not to leave users feeling groggy the next morning – something that most previous sleeping pills had done. The FDA warns that anyone taking any sleep medications, or “sedative-hypnotics” (mainly Ambien and Lunesta), may be at risk for sleep driving. “After taking Ambien, you may get up out of bed while not being fully awake and do an activity that you do not know you are doing,” one label warms. “The next morning, you may not remember that you did anything during the night. Reported activities include: driving a car (“sleep-driving”), making and eating food, talking on the phone, having sex, sleep-walking.” YIKES!
IN 2011, Lindsey Schweigert took an Ambien before going to bed. Hours later, she woke up in custody, charged with a DUI, and had no idea how she got there. The story went like this: Schweigert woke up, bathed, took her dog outside and then climbed in her car. She began driving to a local restaurant and crashed into another vehicle shortly after that. Schweigert is one of many who have suffered DUI consequences due to sleep driving while on Ambien.
In 2008, actor Jack Nicholson told a photographer, “I took Ambien once. I fell asleep and almost drove off a cliff 50 yards from my house.” Actor Steve Martin also commented that he had woken up one morning to find out he had won $1,000 in an online poker match. He had no recollection of playing poker due to an Ambien-induced stupor. Go, Steve!
Even though Ambien bottles warn of these dangers, no official studies have been done or research conducted on the subject (let’s get on that, folks!).
So, needless to say, if you take Ambien, well, maybe double lock yourself in your bedroom tonight. We don’t want your traveling partner waking up in your RV bed, while you’re sound asleep in the driver’s seat, zooming down the highway, at 3:30 a.m. No thanks.