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Do Sleep Aids Impair Driving Performance?

Do Sleep Aids Impair Driving Performance?

People who cannot sleep become desperate, so it is not surprising that sleep aids are used by approximately 60 million Americans each year. In addition to prescription drugs, there are many over-the-counter medications used for treating insomnia.

Most common sleep aids help people fall asleep easier and potentially remain asleep for longer. Unfortunately, sometimes the sedative effects last too long and impair functions during the night and the morning after. People can be harmed by nocturnal activities such as sleep-walking and sleep-eating when they do not know what they are doing, and lingering drowsiness during the day can make activities which require alertness, like driving, very hazardous.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm from a vehicle collision or other side effect from sleep-inducing drugs, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical and hospital bills, rehabilitation expenses, lost wages, lost future wage horizon, disfigurement, pain and suffering, and loss of life’s pleasure.  However, your case must be handled correctly and competently, or you may never collect the compensation you are entitled to.

Problems With Sleep Aids

While many people are helped by sleeping pills, there can be side effects to taking them, and some are serious. Among the most commonly prescribed drugs that may cause problems are Zolpidem tartrate, the generic name for best-selling Ambien, and Trazodone.

1) Zolpidem

Zolpidem is in the class of medications called sedative-hypnotics and is a common ingredient in the most widely prescribed sleep medications, including Ambien, Edluar, and the oral spray Zolpimist.

Side Effects of Zolpidem include:

  • Parasomnia — unusual behaviors during sleep, including sleep walking, sleep eating, sleep driving, sleep sex, and sleep violence, with no recollection of the behavior upon awakening
  • Depression and a suspected factor in suicide attempts
  • Hallucinations and dissociation or detachment from physical and emotional experiences
  • Addiction if taken too often
  • Worsening of insomnia
  • Increased risk of next-day car accidents.

Some zolpidem drugs, sold as generic or the brand name Ambien CR, contain an extended-release form of zolpidem that stays in the body longer. Studies have shown many people, especially women, who take extended-release zolpidem have drug levels that are high enough to impair driving and other activities the next morning.

As a result of these problems, on January 10, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the public of the dangers associated with zolpidem and lowered the recommended dose from 10 to 5 milligrams and to 6.25 milligrams for Ambien CR. The FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System has approximately 700 reports of zolpidem use and impaired driving ability and/or traffic accidents. Although those incidents have not been conclusively linked to zolpidem, a number of lawsuits have been filed for personal injury the plaintiffs believe were the result of taking the drug.

2) Trazodone

Trazodone, another drug commonly prescribed for sleep, is even more likely to leave you feeling drowsy the next day, increasing the chance of accidents while driving.

Trazodone was actually approved as an antidepressant by the FDA in 1981. It has never been approved to treat insomnia; and while some studies have shown that trazodone may improve sleep during the first two weeks of treatment, little is known about how well it works or how safe it is past that point for treating chronic insomnia. Still, it is widely prescribed because it is inexpensive and it is not a controlled substance.

Risks of trazodone include:

  • Abnormally low blood pressure, dizziness or fainting, particularly in seniors
  • Heart-rhythm disorders
  • Priapism, or persistent erection, which may require surgery
  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in children and adolescents
  • Next day drowsiness, which increases the chance of having an accident while driving.

Sleeping Pill Lawsuits

The FDA has warned that patients who take zolpidem extended-release should not drive or engage in other activities that require complete mental alertness the day after taking the drug. This is because zolpidem levels can remain high enough the next day to impair these activities.

If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury from taking sleeping pills or from a vehicle crash caused by sleep medication, you may have the right to file a lawsuit for compensation for your damages. Some plaintiffs have already been awarded damages as a result of sleeping pill side effects which were not adequately addressed on drug warning labels. However, proving that damages were linked to sleep aids is difficult; to be successful, you need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.

The seasoned Pennsylvania personal injury attorney Cliff Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters, is a Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association.  Rieders has won numerous awards and recognition from the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, and he received the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority recognition award.  He was a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority and served on its Board for 15 years.

Rieders was a Law Clerk in the federal court system for one of the most well-known and longest serving federal judges in the country, the Honorable Malcolm Muir.  Cliff has received the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, as well as the Milton D. Rosenberg Award from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. He is on committees and organizations that write the law in many fields of practice and was involved in the writing of the Mcare Act, which governs medical liability actions in Pennsylvania.

Cliff Rieders wrote the book on medical malpractice that lawyers use in the state.  Cliff teaches the subject of medical malpractice at seminars attended by the leading lawyers in the state.  Cliff Rieders is recognized as an outstanding authority in the medical malpractice field.  Cliff has even testified before the legislature on medical malpractice laws. Rieders is a Nationally Board certified specialist for Civil Trial and Civil Practice and Procedure, a cum laude Phi Beta Kappa graduate of New York University as well as Georgetown University Law Center.  Rieders is admitted in Pennsylvania, New York State, District of Columbia and numerous federal courts including the Supreme Court of the United States and is a life member of the American Law Institute which publishes recommended legal principles utilized throughout the United States.

Cliff Rieders is the lawyer that other lawyers call for counsel and advice in the medical and hospital malpractice and pharmaceutical/vitamin supplement fields.  He does substantial work in multi-district litigation in connection with pharmaceutical products and medical devices.

Based in Williamsport, Cliff Rieders and the other trial lawyers at Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters serve clients throughout Pennsylvania, offering a free consultation on all personal injury matters. More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.