Shakespeare recognized that sleep is the “chief nourisher in life’s feast”, despite his legendary manic work habits. But getting enough sleep often eludes millions of people, especially those who suffer from insomnia, according to a recent article in The New York Times.
At wit’s end to nod off for the night, millions of Americans plunk down billions of dollars each year for prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help them get their elusive Z’s. This category of drugs is dubbed “Z Drugs” (i.e. Ambien, Lunesta et al).
According to the Times article, in April 2019 the Food and Drug Administration required drug companies and OTC sleep aid product manufacturers to add a warning on the product package for many of the most widely prescribed and used insomnia medications following reports of injury and death from auto accidents caused by “sleep-driving.”
“It’s essential for users of sleep aids to read the warning labels on the packages of these medications,” said Jay W. Dankner, Managing Partner of the top Manhattan-based auto accident law firm of Dankner Milstein. “These drugs don’t fully wear off for 6-to-8 hours after use, depending on the product. So people should not get behind the wheel of a car while under the influence until the seeming subtle, yet powerful, effects of these drugs have worn off completely.”
The Times article cited a Georgia woman who was arrested in May 2019 when she drove the wrong way on a highway the day after using Ambien, as prescribed. Although she had consumed no alcohol, she flunked a standard sobriety test and told police she was unaware of how she ended up going the wrong way.
Statistically, extreme reactions to these sleep drugs, as in the case of the Georgia woman, are uncommon. What is not uncommon however, is how disastrous sleep-driving accidents can be when they occur. Some have resulted in the death of drivers and passengers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as many as 20 percent to 30 percent of people in the US sleep poorly. “Drowsy driving, the dangerous combination of driving and sleepiness and/or fatigue, is a major problem in the United States,” Dankner said. “The risk, danger, and often tragic results of drowsy driving are alarming.
“This usually happens,” Dankner continued, “when a driver has not gotten enough sleep. Taking sleep aids, drinking alcohol, or late shift work are often the dangerous culprits.”
Sleep experts at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health suggest that for people who suffer from chronic sleep disorders, or lack of sleep due to irregular or long work hours at their jobs, there are better, safer and more long-lasting alternatives than prescription drugs to treat this common problem. The alternatives, according to the experts, are especially valuable for older people who metabolize drugs more slowly, are more likely to have treatable underlying causes for a sleep disorder like insomnia and are more susceptible to adverse side effects of medications.
“In other words,” Dankner advises, “when persistent sleeplessness is a problem, before your doctor writes a prescription for a sleeping pill, ask whether there are other remedies that may be safer, more effective and longer lasting. And please do so before you get behind the wheel of a car. And if you do feel drowsy, even before you start your vehicle, by all means try taking a 5-to-10 minute nap before heading on your way.
For more information, or if you have been in an auto accident and are injured contact the top New York auto accident injury law firm of Dankner Milstein, P.C. by calling 212-751-8000. Or you can E-mail one of the firm’s lawyers for a free