One of the worst things about traveling for me is jet lag. I have a very strong body clock and I have a hard time adjusting to time differences. When I used to do a lot of international travel with work, I knew I needed to do something to make it easier. I spoke with a doctor and he recommend I try Ambien CR, a prescription sleep medicine, to help me sleep. Taking ambien for jet lag definitely helped, but it did also cause some issues.
Note: I am not a medical expert and this post is not based on medical research or meant to be medical advice. I am not suggesting that you take Ambien for jet lag or don’t take it. You should consult your doctor to make sure the decision is right for you. I just wanted to share my experience and opinions.
When I travel I normally don’t have issues falling asleep, however, I would wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep. So I took Ambien CR, which releases medicine to your body over about an eight hour period, to help you stay asleep. (You could also just take Ambien, which helps you get to sleep but does not continue to release medicine throughout the night.)
The label instructs you to not drink alcohol and also to make sure you can devote at least eight hours to sleep before you take it. I tried my best to make sure I followed those guidelines. It is prescription, so not something you should take lightly.
The ambien would begin working fast. Literally, a few minutes after I would swallow the pill my eyelids would feel so heavy it would be difficult for me to keep them open. Then, I would sleep so deeply for a solid 7-8 hours. I would wake up feeling really refreshed because I had slept so well.
It was not all good though. Ambien did affect my mind and of course I didn’t realize it at the time. The best example of how it affected me was when I was in Australia. The taxi picked us up at the hotel and we put our bags (with computers in them) in the back and headed to the office. Well, when we arrived at the office I totally forgot that my computer was in the trunk and went to the office without it. I quickly I realized I had forgotten it, but the taxi had already left.
I called our hotel, the Westin Sydney, and they were so helpful. They went through the security tape, got the taxi information, and contacted the taxi company. I was so grateful and lucky to get my computer back. If this had happened somewhere else, it probably would have been lost forever!
There was another time when I only put eyeliner on one eye. That was awkward. I am not sure how I didn’t notice it until after I left the hotel. Again, that is not like me.
I have also read that some people taking ambien have had issues with sleep eating disorder, where they eat during the night and don’t even remember it. I have heard horror stories about gaining weight from sleep eating, where no one could figure out where the weight gain came from. Luckily, as far as I know, I have not any sleep eating issues.
One other danger I should point out, is that prescription sleep medicine should not be taken on the plane. You may think this is the best way to get quality sleep on a flight, but the problem is you really should be getting up at least every four hours to stretch. If you were to sleep a solid eight hours on a plane, you could risk Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). It is a very serious condition that can be life threatening. In simple terms, DVT is a blood clot (usually in your leg) that could travel to your lungs.
Finally, I should point out that I don’t think the Ambien really fixed my issue with jetlag. Yes I would sleep well when I took the Ambien, but I didn’t want to take it every night. So usually my first night without Ambien would be rough, typically waking up around 4am and not being able to go back to sleep. I felt like taking ambien for jet lag just postponed the issue
Sleep is important and I understand that sometimes a prescription drug is the best way to help when you have an issue (and there is nothing wrong with that). I still travel a lot internationally, but I haven’t taken any Ambien for years. I decided it was better to try other more natural tactics to fall asleep (which I will share in a future post). Have you taken any prescription or over the counter medicines to help you get over the jet lag?
- Consult a doctor before taking Ambien or any prescription medicine for jet lag.
- Be sure to follow the directions on the medicine. Avoid alcohol and devote 8 hours to sleep.
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