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Sleepwalking stops vegetarianism (4/2/12)

April 2, 2012

Eating in Your Sleep

Some people do not eat meat; they will not eat meat.  The reasons are many.  They range from concern for their own health to concern for the health of the planet, as eight pounds of grain is usually needed to create one pound of meat.  Yet even vegetarians of 40 years standing may sometimes break the habit of a lifetime and eat meat.

Especially when they do it in their sleep.

Ambien Made Me Do It

A gracious, very friendly patient of mine had been taking benzodiazepines (valium like drugs)  for anxiety and a variety of different sleep problems.  One day, she discovered she had run out of all her pills.  The prescription was at the pharmacy, but there were difficulties in getting over there.  And  company was coming.

So instead she took pills from an old prescription of ambien – for three nights.

One morning she woke and walked down to the kitchen.  Raw chicken and mozzarella cheese were strewn verywhere.

She had no idea how.


Why This Mess?

It took a while to clean up the mess, but it still puzzled her – how could someone have taken mozzarella and chicken from the freezer and just dumped it on counter tops?

The next night she awoke, recognizing  she did not feel quite  right.  She remembered awakening during the night, but all other recollections were vague.

Her company had noticed her lying on the floor with her head against the bed frame at  2:30 that morning.  They found her sleep position curious, but were too polite to say anything – just yet.

The next morning dawned with stranger experiences.  Something was filling the spaces in her teeth.

She went to look.  She saw small brown flecks – hamburger crumbs.  She had not eaten meat in over 40 years.

Why was she eating hamburger?

She went down to have breakfast.  Pieces of hamburger were strewn throughout the refrigerator shelves.

It had been her husband planned lunch that day.  Now at least she knew the origin of the hamburger in her teeth.

She turned to the Net, and began looking up sleepwalking and ambien.

How Often Does This Happen?

According to the manufacturer, ambien (zolpidem) may provoke sleepwalking in less than 1% of patients.

They may be correct.  However, clinicians in sleep labs, who see a far more problematic population, feel the numbers are higher. And people underreport their problems with sleepwalking.

Lots of them, like my patient, often don’t know they’ve done it.

What Do People Do While Sleepwalking?

Pretty much anything – drive, eat, turn on the TV.  One Canadian man claimed that he had gotten drunk while asleep, slugging back a quart of vodka he kept normally in his freezer – under the influence of ambien.  He was a sleepwalking drunkard.

Why Does Ambien Cause Sleepwalking?

In part because it does not cause “normal” sleep, but rather a sort of pre-coma state that may make it easier for sleep to follow.

People think of waking and sleeping as some kind of magic light switch which turns on with a flick from one to another.

That’s wrong.

To get from waking to sleeping large parts of the brain have to coordinate their activities and act correctly – together.  If they don’t, you can stay awake; have a brain that is partially awake and partially asleep; or go into an “in-between” state that is quite different from normal sleep and wake.

Sleepwalking generally occurs in deep sleep – when the brain is as close to coma as it normally gets.  Ambien may be provoking some in-between states where most of the brain is “asleep”, but the motor controls on muscle actions are not yet turned off.

So people keep moving – and can do almost anything.

Did Ambien Unlock An Unconscious Desire to Eat Meat?

Probably not.  Sleepwalking folks often act in ways that are inexplicable when they are awake.  Chances are that hungry thoughts were easiest to fulfill with the prepared hamburger right in front of her unconscious, deep-sleeping eyes.

And how well did she sleep?  Outside of eating meat, roaming through the house, and filling the kitchen with frozen chicken and mozzarella, she thought she slept surprisingly well.
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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