Older adults may have difficulty sleeping through the night and many turn to sleep aids to help them get some much needed rest. But new studies have found taking even an over-the-counter sleep aid at night can put seniors at risk when they are behind the wheel.
OTC medicine, although available without a prescription, are still serious drugs that can increase your risks for injury if not used carefully and by following the directions. Each person reacts differently to medications and sometime the effects can last several hours or create a “hangover effect” which can impair driving the following day. Medication interaction is also a concern when taking any drug that can cause drowsiness; check with your pharmacist before taking any new medication, including OTC drugs, herbal remedies or supplements.
Medications including antihistamines, antidiarrheals, anti-emetics (to treat nausea) can all cause drowsiness and impair driving.
Prescription sleep aids have fallen under the scrutiny of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of late with new recommended dosing for extended release forms of the the drug zolpidem, brand name Ambient CR.
In some cases, especially with women, it can take a long time for the body to clear the drug and as result driving and other activities may be impaired. The recommended dose of zolpidem which is by far the most common ingredient in prescription sleep aids, has been cut in half for women from 10mg to 5mg for regular Ambien, Edluar and Zolpimist and from 12.5 mg to 6.25 mg for extended release versions of the drug. Men should also consider lowering their dose to these levels as well.
The FDA is still evaluating the effects these sleep aids have on next-day impairment but urges patients to be cautious about driving the day after taking a sleep aid.
To learn more about sleep aids and impairment visit the FDA website at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm352085.htm.