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Should Teens Take Ambien for Insomnia?

Teen girl sitting up in bed with a groggy look on her face due to too much ambien

It is normal for teenagers to experience insomnia every so often, but insomnia lasting longer than 30 days is a chronic condition. Though sleeping difficulties and insomnia in teens are fairly common, there are currently no prescription drugs approved by the FDA to treat childhood insomnia. Ambien is not recommended for individuals under the age of 18 and is currently only approved for adult usage.

Risk-taking and lack of judgment are traits associated with adolescents, increasing the risk for teen addiction to prescription drugs. Teenagers may believe that Ambien is a relatively safe drug because it is not classified as an illegal substance. However, Ambien addiction is serious and can be dangerous or potentially life-threatening.

Ambien Risks Affecting Teenagers

Teenagers who ingest high doses of Ambien are at risk of overdose, which can be fatal. Ambien triggers sedation and, under high doses, the body may stop breathing. The risks of taking Ambien intensify if a teenager combines the medication with another sedative, such as alcohol. This combination can slow an adolescent’s breathing, cardiac-functioning, and respiration.

Ambien also slows down a teenager’s brain functions. This causes undesirable symptoms such as amnesia, excessive amounts of energy, distorted speech, and confusion. Other symptoms may include dizziness, fatigue, lack of coordination and drowsiness. Higher doses can also trigger paranoia or suicidal thoughts. As teens experiment with Ambien, they may experience:

  • Increased Ambien tolerance: Individuals who develop a tolerance require larger amounts of Ambien to achieve the desired effects. Tolerance can prompt teenagers to take higher amounts, putting them at greater risk of overdose.
  • Ambien addiction: Teens addicted to Ambien either swallow Ambien pills or crush and snort them to experience a high. Ambien addiction symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, trouble awakening, poor school attendance, and declining academic grades. Other Ambien addiction side effects can include euphoria or memory impairments.
  • Ambien withdrawal: Teenagers may experience unpleasant Ambien withdrawal side effects if they suddenly stop taking the drug. Ambien withdrawal can trigger symptoms such as excessive irritability, trouble falling asleep or seizures. Other symptoms can include panic attacks, nervous energy or suicidal thoughts.
  • Dangerous interactions with other drugs: Ambien can be especially dangerous when it is combined with other drugs that cause drowsiness. Potential drugs that can interact with Ambien include opioid medications, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers and medications that treat anxiety or seizures. Other substances that interact with Ambien include vitamins, herbal products, and other over-the-counter medications.
  • Rebound insomnia: Rebound insomnia is a withdrawal symptom where a person experiences increased insomnia when they cease taking Ambien. Ambien rebound insomnia can cause a person to experience worsened sleeping difficulties.

Alternatives to Ambien for Teenagers with Insomnia

Natural and herbal remedies as well as over the counter supplements can substitute for Ambien. Teenagers that have trouble sleeping can avoid addictive insomnia medication and explore diet and lifestyle changes. Alternative therapies and natural sleep aids, such as relaxation, massage, and aromatherapy can also be used to treat insomnia in teenagers.

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping pills: Some physicians recommend melatonin for teens, which is a sleep aid pill. Melatonin is a hormone in the brain and plays an important role in sleep regulation and circadian rhythms. Melatonin has a minimal amount of adverse effects in the short-term, but more research is being conducted to learn about potential long-term effects. OTC sleep medications that contain antihistamines can also help trigger sleep.
  • Herbal & dietary supplements for insomnia: Herbal and dietary supplements can act as teenage insomnia cures. Herbal remedies for insomnia can include chamomile or passionflower. Valerian root can be another herbal cure for insomnia, as it is said to help induce and maintain sleep.
  • Natural remedies for insomnia: Natural remedies for teenage insomnia can include changes in diet, such as eliminating caffeine, coffee, and soda and staying away from sugar and processed foods. Other natural remedies for insomnia can include taking a warm bath prior to bedtime or using a sound machine.
  • Proper exercise & meditation: Relaxation and mindfulness exercises for insomnia can be helpful for teens. Mindfulness exercises and meditation can calm the body and clear the mind, making it effective in the treatment of insomnia. Proper exercise is also important, as it deepens sleep in adolescents. However, exercising too close to bedtime can negatively impact sleep; the best time to exercise for insomnia is 3 to 4 hours prior to bedtime. Other options include sleep meditation, breathing exercises, and other relaxation techniques.

If your teenager is struggling with an Ambien addiction, Next Generation Village can help. Representatives are available 24/7 to answer your questions and direct you to the right treatment for your teenager.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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