Ok, probably not in the real sense, but I came across this article that talks about one of the possible side effects of a popular sleeping pill – Stilnox. When I was working at a dispensary, Stilnox was given to patients who had acute insomnia, and is usually given when Valium no longer works for them. Stilnox is this small rounded rectangular pill that is usually given in tabs and names of recipients of this drug are usually recorded for stock-take purposes.

Just in case you feel that this is discrimination, users of Dhasedyl – a popular and addictive cough medicine, also have their names recorded! Haha…

Anyway, back to this drug, users of this drug apparently display unusual sleeping behaviour, such as walking while sleeping or doing other things, and according to the article, “patients were reported to have eaten, made phone calls, shopped online and even driven their cars while asleep after taking the drug. Here, patients have been known to have sleepwalked, cooked and even had sex while asleep, and suffered from amnesia after taking it. None of them could recall doing these things upon awakening”.

I am fine with people sleepwalking – but to make phone calls, shop online or even drive their cars? This is a little uncanny. How do you drive your car while asleep anyway? Can you even get past the entrance of the carpark (or driveway)? However, the most bohua thing to occur is… to have sex while asleep! Hmm… like that also can?

USERS of sleeping pill Stilnox, be warned: The drug may help you sleep, but it may also cause you to walk or do other things while asleep.

Unusual sleep behaviour while on the drug is rare, but enough cases have been reported worldwide – including five here – to warrant a warning on the drug’s packaging. Overdosing on it, or taking it with alcohol, appears to increase the risk of these effects.

Stilnox manufacturer Sanofi-aventis, a French pharmaceutical company, has submitted its revised labelling to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), which is reviewing it.

Sanofi-aventis has already included similar warnings on the packaging for Imovane, another sleeping pill it makes.

The HSA move asking for a warning to be included in the packaging follows similar moves earlier this year by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration and Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration.

In the US, patients were reported to have eaten, made phone calls, shopped online and even driven their cars while asleep after taking the drug. Here, patients have been known to have sleepwalked, cooked and even had sex while asleep, and suffered from amnesia after taking it. None of them could recall doing these things upon awakening.

The HSA said that the five patients here whose cases have come to light since March this year recovered after they stopped taking the drug.

It is probable that more than five people have experienced these side effects, since reporting to the HSA is voluntary.

The Institute of Mental Health’s pharmacy stopped dispensing the drug to its patients in April, but has since decided that its benefits outweigh the risks.

Stilnox will be back on its pharmacy shelves next month, but doctors and pharmacists will counsel patients who take it.

Dr Adrian Wang, a consultant psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, still prescribes it as it works well, is less addictive than some other sleeping pills and has few side effects for most people.

He said: ‘It’s a rare occurrence and quite a small problem. It’s like when you drive, there’s a chance the car will crash. But if there’s a need, you’ll still drive.’

Article from straitstimes.com on 2nd November 2007 

* bohua – colloquial for doing something that is not worth the effort



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