After-action report on Ambien:
Feeling reasonably sleepy and comfortable, I decided to try to get off without a sleeping potion. So I took my usual bedtime zinc and magnesium (to prevent cramping), and benzonatate (cough suppressant), 1000 mg. of Tylenol, flushed the nasal passages with saline, then used Flonase in hopes of keeping them reasonably dry over night, spayed the throat with phenol and such on a lozenge, turned off the light, and tried to go to sleep. In the back of my mind was the thought that if I wasn’t worried about sleeping –having the Ambien as a back-up –the not-worrying might let me sleep.
No such luck. The throat was a little bit uncomfortable, and (perhaps due to the Flonase) I kept sniffling and swallowing, and sleep was just not a happenin’ thing. So I took one 12.5 mg. zolpidem (Ambien) extended-release tablet, read for a few minutes to let it start working, and turned off the light again. Mistake! Propped up to read, I was fairly comfortable. But as soon as I got horizontal, I felt queasy: not nauseated enough to worry about vomiting, but distinctly uncomfortable. Sitting up all the way brought the queasiness down to a tolerable level, but when I tried to calm myself down with deep, slow breathing –my go-to approach –I found it impossible. It was as if there was something wrong with the diaphragm and the muscles of the chest; I couldn’t expand enough to get a good breath in, and couldn’t contract enough to force the air out. That left me breathing quickly and shallowly just to get enough oxygen. I tried standing and then walking; I think the walking helped a bit, but only a bit.
Now, this is not a problem I have. Back when my back was giving me trouble, I had some New-Agey breath training. So I can –do, when I’m trying to manage my mood –inhale for thirty seconds and then exhale for thirty seconds, sometimes one nostril at a time. So being reduced to about a two-second inhale-and-exhale was pretty seriously scary, and of course I wondered if something was going on with the heart. I even toyed with the notion ofheading in to an ED, but that seemed like an over-redaction and as likely to make things worse as to make them better. I couldn’t really focus enough attention to read, so I just sat in a reclining chair and breathed for a while. (15 minutes? An hour? Time flies when you’re having fun.) At some pointI fell asleep sitting up –as I had two nights earlier –was down for probably a couple of hours, woke up, seemed to be breathing normally, went to bed, slept well, woke up alert at about 10:30. I still can’t do a full thirty-second inhale –the chest muscles just don’t want to cooperate –but otherwise feel no after-effects.
In the meantime, I’m looking for Plan B as a sleeping solution. If anyone is in the market for 29 Ambien XL in mint condition, no reasonable offer will be refused.
3:30 pm. Talked to Dr. Weiss. In retrospect, it might have been better to start with half an Ambien. But given the experience, no point trying it again. Will switch to 0.5mg lorezepam (Ativan), which is short-acting. I’ll start with half of that, and take the other half as booster if I wake up in the middle of the night.