HomeReviewsInterviewsStoreABlogsOn Writing


Can you believe this?

Dear Prudence:

I did something recently that concerns me on many levels. I am under a large amount of stress because I’m in an unhappy marriage (which we’re trying to work out) and because my company laid me off. I am under treatment for depression. A week ago, my doctor doubled the dosage of my antidepressant and, because I’m not sleeping well, he prescribed Ambien. On Saturday morning, I confused the vials and took two Ambien.

I told my wife what happened and that I would probably sleep all day and went to bed. At around 10 p.m., my wife commented on how productive I had been: mowing the lawn, cleaning up, grocery shopping. I remembered none of this and said so. She said her only concern was that I left for “errands” and returned two hours later with nothing in hand. I talked to my doctor Monday, and he told me Ambien can cause amnesia and that some people have reported walking, driving, and cooking in their sleep.

I know now what filled the missing two hours. This afternoon, I got a call from a woman who called me “lover” and asked when I wanted to come back. She called me her f–k buddy. This is a woman I had talked to only twice before in social situations. I do not even know where she lives; maybe I phoned her for directions. I do find her attractive, but I am stunned that I did something like this. My wife is vindictive, and if I say anything to her, it will end our marriage. I do not want to continue a relationship with the other woman.

Well, I guess it’s original.

Part of Prudence’s solution made me chuckle:

Don’t ask for details—you want to preserve your amnesiac deniability. And since you don’t know what you did, you’re hardly in a position to confess anything to your wife. From now on, when you have trouble drifting off, forget the Ambien and brew yourself a nice cup of chamomile tea.

Too funny.

Via the CreoleInDC blog.


  • I could maybe buy this explanation. DH has picked up a handful of drivers knocked off their asses on Ambien who have fallen asleep at red lights or slammed into parked cars or what have you. They all swear they don’t remember a thing.

    Still, though, if I were the wife I’m not sure I’d be inclined to believe his excuse. I mean, I’m really supposed to believe his penis just somehow found it’s way inside the vagina of a woman he *hardly* knows because of some Ambien-induced stupor? That bit about the unhappy marriage makes me slightly suspicious. Blaming infidelity on his Ambien is just way too easy. Also what are the odds he wore a condom?

    Yeah. This scenario is shaping up to be a nightmare…


  • willaful
    May 3
    3:42 pm

    No – I don’t believe it. People make up stuff in letters to columnists all the time and this one sounds extremely phony.


  • Yep, I saw on MSN. From a medical standpoint, I can almost buy it, because there are cases where ambien has caused things like this.

    But, as a wife? I dunno.


  • Nonny
    May 3
    7:03 pm

    I know people that have reported crazy things they’ve done while on ambien. I think the worst so far was the person that slept-walked and started eating raw hamburger out of her fridge with a spoon…

    I’m not sure I can buy this one, though. If the other woman was a roommate or lived in the same complex, maybe. Driving across town? Very doubtful.


  • amousie
    May 3
    7:22 pm

    I went for a walk with my neighbor and his dog (my dog was also along). We drove to the lake near our house, walked for an hour and a half, stopped at a bakery on the way home. He didn’t remember the walk, our discussion or the bakery trip.

    He’s also knocked over wall bookshelves, eaten hummus with a shoe horn, found sandwiches next to his bed, and hit our shed with his car (shared driveway).

    So I can believe that this could happen although I’m not sure my neighbor would do something out of character like cheating unless he was already so inclined. During our walk he seemed pretty much normal although I was also throwing balls into the lake and on the paths for the dogs so maybe I wasn’t completely paying attention.

    PS. He’s now off Ambien.


  • Las
    May 3
    8:21 pm

    I find it totally probable, but if I were the wife his ass is out the door, especially considering that the marriage was already in trouble. Forgiving a man for cheating, no matter what the circumstances, just gives him permission to do it again.


  • I can totally believe it, and I think it’s possible he did it without any subconscious desire to cheat.

    There was a case I saw on 20/20 or some similar show several years ago of a man who repeatedly tried to kill his wife (strangling her, picking her up out of bed and throwing her in their backyard pool) while in the midst of “night terrors”. When you suffer night terrors, the ambulatory part of your brain is awake and able to act, and the other part is sound asleep and dreaming.

    You can’t control your dreams, and they don’t always have any basis in your actual waking life (otherwise, I’d be able to explain the dream I had the other night that I had pubic hair growing out of my nipples–go ahead and try, you bunch of armchair Freuds, I dare you).

    At the time of the story, the couple underwent extensive counseling where no major problems in the marriage or latent resentment of the wife were unearthed. He underwent psychiatric observation and some time in a sleep lab, and in the end he was found not responsible and treated for his disorder.

    Having suffered from night terrors as a young child, I can attest to the fact that what you’re experiencing and what is real are often two completely different things–and there is no way to stop yourself from seeing your mother, sister, father, dog, wall clock or dresser as a monster that is going to eat you alive and suck the marrow from your bones. And you often have no memory at all of what you experienced–only anecdotal evidence from the poor people who were stuck dealing with you.

    If Ambien makes you sleep while your body is essentially awake, I can’t see that this is much different from night terrors. You can no more blame this guy for cheating (or even assume part of him wanted to cheat) than you could for him dreaming about it.


  • It’s a urban legend designed to amuse us and nothing more


  • That’s terrible for the person concerned, but really hilarious as an anecdote. It would make a good plot complication for a story, actually. Hmmm….


  • linda
    May 4
    3:29 am

    I was prescribed ambien (here in australia it is called stilnox) and whilst I did not shag anybody, I did some very bizarre things including cooking full meals, went shopping, made a lot of phonecalls I do not remember. I would get up the next morning and find meals in my fridge, furniture rearranged, and blisters on my fingers from cooking. I would also find wrappers of chocolates and subway wrappers. Fortunately all these shops were in walking distance of my house so as far as I know I never drove.
    I talked to my doctor about this, and it was interesting that all the things I did, were things I wanted to do subconsciously. So, while he can claim he was under the influence, maybe the intent was there 🙂


  • So, while he can claim he was under the influence, maybe the intent was there

    I still say you can’t blame him for it. Even if he was attracted to the woman, or had fantasized about sex with her, feeling desire and having fantasies is not the same as real intent. After the last few days, I have an almost irresistibly powerful subconscious (and conscious, heh) desire to murder my ex, but I’d still never actually do it. Guess for his sake, I should stay away from the Ambien….


  • Hmmm. Am I the only one who thinks maybe Ambien shouldn’t be on the market? I mean, seriously, wtf? These are not acceptable side effects in my book. People blitzed out of their minds on sleeping pills should not be out endangering themselves, their families, and the public at large. Also I’m stunned people continue taking these meds after the first episode. That’s really risky and seems fairly negligent.


  • KCfla
    May 5
    1:17 am

    @ Lolita
    I work in Pharmacy, and Ambien was originally supposed to be used for short- term sleep problems. But I have patients who have been on this for years. And yes, I’ve heard a bunch of horror stories about the side affects.

    Do I believe this guy’s excuse- no, not really. I’d go postal if it were my DH.
    But I’d probablygo after the Dr. too. It’s his job to keep a handle on the situation


  • Now I feel stupid. They had me on Ambien when I was in labor–for 6 weeks, YOU try sleeping while contracting on high for that long–anyway, all I did was sleep and wake up for more anti-contracting shots. Man, I couldda been partying!

    This is especially lame as I’m already a sleepwalker and didn’t even do that. (Then again, I was a whale and sorta srapped to the bed, so who knows, maybe I tried.)



RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment