Friday, May 24, 2019

Too Scared to Fall Asleep

There was a very scary news story the other day. (OK, that’s not saying much. There are dozens of news stories every day that could be classified as “scary.” Most of them begin with this sentence: “Standing before a bank of cameras and microphones, Senator Richard Blumenthal urgently warned…”)

The scary story to which I’m referring began with this sentence: “Federal health officials will require drug makers of popular sleeping pills to add warning labels after reviewing cases of dangerous, sometimes fatal, incidents tied to the drugs.” There was no mention in the story of Sen. Blumenthal offering urgent warnings, but just give it a few days.

The brand name drugs in question are Lunesta, Ambien, and Sonata. (Hmm, that kind of sounds like a musical trio. “Thank you for coming to the Peter, Paul, and Mary memorial concert. Our first act joins us all the way from Birkenstock, Vermont. Please welcome Lunesta, Ambien, and Sonata!”)

I am familiar with those brand names because I watch golf on TV. Apparently, the only companies that are allowed to buy advertising time for golf tournaments are pharmaceutical companies and luxury cars. Or maybe they’re just targeting the average golf viewer: an old person with money. (I only qualify in one of those two categories. Guess which one?)

The Food and Drug Administration reported that in recent years there have been 66 incidents where injury or death occurred after a patient took one of these insomnia medicines. The most common dangerous behaviors were sleep-walking and driving while asleep.

Wait. What? DRIVING while asleep? Yeow!

I’ve heard of sleep-walking, which usually results in someone opening the refrigerator first thing in the morning and saying, “Hey, who ate the entire apple pie?” while another person shuffles sleepily into the kitchen, with pie crust crumbs all over his face, and replies, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

But sleep driving? That is definitely more serious than a missing apple pie. The news story explained that among the 66 cases, 20 resulted in death. The 46 non-fatal occurrences were not exactly stubbed toes and paper cuts. They included falls, burns, near drowning, hypothermia leading to loss of limb, and self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

In recent years, I’ve been having more and more difficulty sleeping through the night. I figured it was either because I’m getting old or because I watch too many scary shows on TV just before bedtime featuring Senator Chicken Little. And after watching all those TV ads for Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, I was planning to ask my doctor if a sleeping pill prescription might help.

But not now! I’d rather be a little tired during the day and doze off at work at 3 p.m., than to do a zombie act in the middle of the night and take my car for a brain-dead cruise at 3 a.m. (And regarding that apple pie, if it goes missing, well, that was me, but don’t worry, I was wide awake at the time.)

The news story said over 30 million prescriptions were filled for Crosby, Stills, and Nash sleep aids in just 2018 alone. Wow, that’s a lot of people who have trouble sleeping through the night. Or maybe it just means the TV commercials are very persuasive and people are doing what each ad suggests: “Ask your doctor if BeyoncĂ© is right for you.”

Even if I wanted to get a prescription for sleeping pills, it probably wouldn’t matter. As soon as Senator B. gets wind of this story, he and a couple of congressional colleagues will introduce legislation to outlaw these drugs. That press conference will remind me of another famous trio: Moe, Larry, and Curly.

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