Patients taking sleep medication have reported such automatic behaviors as walking, eating, and even driving in their sleep—and not remembering it in the morning. “The most problematic thing is not that they just eat. I have patients that will get up and cook and leave the gas on overnight,” says Downey. Zolpidem (Ambien) in particular has been linked to sleep eating
, although this apparent trend may be a function of the large number of people taking zolpidem, rather than a specific quality of the drug.
Downey stresses that automatic behavior is relatively rare, however. “We’ve only had one person here do that, and we evaluate over 1,000 people a year.” Nevertheless, the Food and Drug Administration considered the risk serious enough to request that all sedative-hypnotic drug products carry a warning about the potential for sleepwalking and similar behaviors.