Episode 72: This Sleep Coach Ditched Ambien for Better Sleep

My guest this week, Morgan Adams is a double certified sleep coach. Here’s how she got started.

“I was desperate to get a good night’s sleep after an unexpected crisis rocked my world in my mid-thirties. As a Pharma rep, I didn’t have the luxury of “sleeping in” after staring at the clock all night. That’s when I got my hands on a popular, physician-prescribed sleeping pill—because when you work in the Pharma field, it’s not hard to score a pill for any ill.”

This all-too-common scenario — woman can’t sleep, doc says “I have just the thing”—resulted in reliance on Ambien, pharma name, Zolpidem. According to medlineplus.gov, “Zolpidem is used to treat insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep). Zolpidem belongs to a class of medications called sedative-hypnotics. 

They go on to say, “Zolpidem may cause serious or possibly life-threatening sleep behaviors. Some people who took zolpidem got out of bed and drove their cars, prepared and ate food, had sex, made phone calls, sleep-walked, or were involved in other activities while not fully awake. After they woke up, these people were unable to remember what they had done.”

Morgan goes on to say, “I didn’t know that sleeping pills inhibit your ability to experience restorative sleep. Taking the pills may help you become unconscious, but sedation is not the same as sleep. I would wake up groggy, oftentimes to an empty box of cookies I didn’t remember eating, and trudge through the morning until last night’s pill would wear off. It’s a miracle I never got behind the wheel in these fugue states.”

So begins our conversation on how to sleep deeply and restoratively, without using prescription medications long term.

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Once Morgan made the decision to get off Ambien, she wanted to spread the word about these potentially dangerous meds and help other women find alternatives. 

We discussed the difference between deep sleep and being knocked out using Ambien and other sedative hypnotics. 

There are two main types of sedative-hypnotics – benzodiazepines and Z-drugs. Common benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam), Librium (chlordiazepoxide), Valium (diazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam). Common Z-drugs include Ambien (zolpidem), Lunesta (eszopiclone), and Sonata (zaleplon). Thanks for this to HealthInAging.org

We now know, in part thanks to the work of Matt Walker and colleagues, that of all the lifestyle habits we must pay attention to age in good health, none is as critical to the process as is sleep.

Some of Morgan’s tips mirror mine in The Power of 5 work. If you don’t sleep well it’s time to take stock of every single choice you make throughout the day. So much influences our sleep including, what and when we eat, blood sugar levels, how much or how little we move, stress, what we do or don’t do to prepare for sleep, the lighting and temperature in our pre-sleep environment.

Speaking of blood sugar, Morgan uses and recommends a continuous blood sugar monitor from NutriSense.What’s that? It’s a small device you stick onto your arm that monitors blood sugar levels throughout the day and night. The data is collected to an app on your phone. The idea is to see what foods, activities, and environmental influences push blood sugar levels up higher than normal or keep them high when they should come down to base level. I’ve not yet tried one but it’s on my list to do before the end of the year.

Why would you try one? If your insomnia is due to high blood sugar levels, even in part, and you know what’s driving it, you can adjust what you are doing. 

Morgan also swears that her Oura ring has made a big difference in how she sleeps. It provides all kinds of data on your sleep and wake cycles. Once Oura gets to know you it begins to suggest the time to start winding down as well as activity during the day to keep you on track for a good nights sleep.

I’ve been using my Fitbit Charge to track my sleep recently and the information looks pretty much the same as Oura. It doesn’t have the depth of information though the Oura provides.

Between this interview and my Shortie on the subject of sleep I hope you get how important it is. If you have insomnia or interrupted sleep and need a nudge to move you to take action on sorting it, I’ll close with this quote from Matt Walker,

“Ambien (and all of its cousins in this category) induced sleep caused 50% weakening or unwiring of the brain cell connections originally formed in learning. In doing so, Ambien laced sleep became a memory eraser.” 

Learn more about Morgan and her coaching offers here.

She’s on Insta, and Facebook.



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