Can sleep aids make your morning commute dangerous?

Can sleep aids make your morning commute dangerous?

Sleep aids are meant to safely and quickly help a person doze off into dreamland. But the Food and Drug Administration says the lingering effects of the drugs can make driving dangerous the next day.

The FDA says research shows that in many cases, people are not fully alert to drive safely after waking in the morning.  With a national focus on driving under the influence of prescription drugs, the FDA says the goal is to help find a way to prevent injuries and accidents for people who use sleep aids.

Last year alone, more than 60 million prescriptions were written for sleep aids in the U.S., reports IMS Health. One study found that close to 5 percent of drivers had prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) meds in their system during daytime hours.

The FDA recently rejected a company’s new sleep drug application because some results demonstrated that they had a negative effect on driving on the day after taking the medication.

This year, the FDA made significant efforts to warn consumers of the influences that OTC allergy drugs like Benadryl have on driving abilities. They have also required manufacturers to reduce dosages for drugs like Ambien for women.

The FDA reports they will continue to review all sleep aids on the market, particularly those that cause drowsiness, and in testing phases they will request that manufacturers do more in-depth driving tests.

Dr. Ronald Farkas, clinical team leader for the FDA’s division of neurology products, said at a conference this year that, in part, the issue comes from people dismissing the standard warning labels regarding driving and operating heavy machinery.

The FDA has altered their rationale around testing reactions of the typical patient, as many people’s responses are more powerful to some drugs than others. “Some people have higher blood levels than others, and some seem to be more sensitive than others,” Farkas said in a statement.

Dr. John Burr, pulmonologist with an expertise in sleep medicine with Advocate Medical Group in Normal, Ill., says the ideal sleep drug should put you to sleep when you want to be asleep and not persist in its effects into waking hours.

“The ideal drug is not the same for everyone. Sometimes people take medicine to help them sleep but don’t stay in bed long enough for the effects to wear off,” he says. “We are learning that some people, especially women, take more time to metabolize the dose.”

Dr. Burr says an important thing to remember is to not use medication as the only way to manage insomnia and to never take a dose close to waking up time.

FDA representatives are currently are working on guidelines for pharmaceutical companies to help them better understand what is required for drug approval in relation to drowsiness and driving effects.

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  1. Brianne Chambers August 23, 2013 at 3:34 pm · Reply

    I have taken sleeping pills almost my entire life because I have such bad sleeping problems, and I have personally never had any issues with them. But, at the same token, I also know friends you have, and you still must be very careful and wary if you do decided to use them, especially often. I love the part thats says, ““The ideal drug is not the same for everyone”, as it is so true. Everyone needs to simply find out what’s going to work for them.

  2. I have Chronic Pain and have suffered from insomnia since a Diagnosis of SLE and Fibromyalgia in 1995. My Phyisican who treats me for the Chronic Pain also treats the insomnia as it is very important that a person have all meds properly planned to prevent interactions. I had been taking Ambien 10mg at bedtime. The am so glad that my Pain Management Doctor understands the importance of sleep in management of pain. On a recent visit I was informed that recent information indicated that females do not clear this medication as rapidly as males. My Dose was decreased and unfortunately I am unable to sleep on the lower dose. My Doctor is in the process of trying me on other medications in hopes to find something.

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About the Author

Sarah Scroggins
Sarah Scroggins

Sarah Scroggins, health enews contributor, is the director of social media at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has a BA and MA in Communications. When not on social media, she loves reading a good book (or audiobook), watching the latest Netflix series and teaching a college night class.