Monday, January 08, 2007

That the House is Not Yet Burned Down? Not From Lack of Trying.

Since we are, even now, having some "issues" with sleep and medications, I thought I'd take the opportunity to relate our tale of Ambien-induced insanity from the week before Christmas.

For several days, I had noticed unexplained messes in the kitchen in the mornings, messes that hadn't been there the night before. There were also several nights that Alex woke me up when he got out of bed to go rattle around in the kitchen. I just assumed he was getting a drink, which is a habit of his. But then the morning messes I'd discover just became over-the-top ridiculous.

Many of you who read here are all too familiar with the challenges of dealing with the effect of bipolar disorder and its various medications on sleeping. When Alex is "cycling," he has a lot of trouble with his sleep habits. He almost always has a prescription for a sleep-aid, as do many bipolar people, because one thing you do NOT want to deal with is a bipolar person who is not getting good SLEEP. Trust me on this one.

So one night, he was driving me up the wall at bedtime with excessive irritability and MUCH flailing about in lieu of actual sleeping--so much so that I got up and relocated to the living room sofa. I just wanted to be away from the angry, restless person in my bed so that I could get some rest. Apparently, sometime around midnight, Alex took some Ambien. And had already had a Klonopin, because of the agitation/irritability. And he went to sleep. I didn't fare as well, since I was on the sofa, but I did manage to drift off around 2:30 AM, about 30 minutes after seeing and hearing Alex get up and bang about in the kitchen...for a really LONG time. After which he went and got back in bed, and slept like the dead.

Around 4:15 AM, I woke to the smell of smoke. (Yes, we do have electric smoke alarms, but my nose is faster.) I bolted up and ran to the kitchen, and was amazed at what I found. My husband, IN HIS SLEEP, had mixed up a pitcher of Crystal Light Fruit Punch. And microwaved (but not eaten) a Lean Pocket, which was still in the microwave, nestled in its little reflective cardboard sleeve. He had also consumed at least a half-dozen Pop-Tarts (yes, we are all about the health food).

The source of the smoke was two-fold, and to be found in the oven, which was set to 450 degrees, and just a-cookin' away for well over two hours: The charred remains of an entire box of 40 chicken nuggets, as well as an entire box of frozen waffles. The chicken nuggets were on a baking sheet, but the waffles had simply been tossed directly onto the lower oven rack--some of them were even stacked on top of each other, three deep.

This, folks, was some WELL-DONE food. Blackened waffles and fossilized chicken. (Fortunately, the wasted chicken was not in the form of THIS fine product, photographed but thankfully not purchased by a near-hysterical Alex on a recent shopping trip): Yumm. And the smoke, it was EVERYWHERE. So I did what any rational person would do--I went into the bedroom and poked and yelled at my snoring husband, attempting to inform him that he had NEARLY BURNED THE HOUSE DOWN AS WE SLEPT...but he couldn't even wake up.

We went to see the doctor about this episode the very next day, and the Ambien, especially in combination with Klonopin, was implicated immediately. Apparently there are people all over the country who are eating, driving, dating, and doing trigonometry while sound asleep, thanks to Ambien. Let the patient beware. It has never had any sort of such effect on me, but I'll certainly use more caution with it from now on.

I will also be tying Alex by his big toe (or some other appendage) to some sort of sleepwalker's booby-trap from now on.

And speaking of smoky ovens: When you are dealing with exploded chicken-nugget detritus and such, and decide, for the first time ever, to go ahead and push that "self-cleaning" button on your oven and see what happens? If you are as ignorant as me, let me just tell you what happens. The coolest thing is that the oven door LOCKS ITSELF SHUT. Me, I thought that was AWESOME, and waited with 'bated breath to see what came next. What came next were FLAMES. In my ELECTRIC oven. Which was also awesome. Because to "self-clean?" Your oven basically just heats itself up to 3,000 or so degrees Farenheit and burns every bit of junk present in the oven into oblivion. Which is cool.

Except that, the unintended consequence is a LOT of smoke, for a long time. Again, as with the Ambien, let our experience serve as your warning.


  1. Luckily he only burned up the groceries and not the house. I have heard of people committing crimes while taking this drug. Scary!

    What do the doctors think about herbs like Valerian root?

    I feel for you guys....insomnia really SUCKS!

  2. That's scary!

    So, flames are normal when your oven is self-cleaning? Because I freaked out when I saw flames and shut it off.

  3. Life is way more fun/interesting/exciting at your house than at mine.

  4. jules, he has samples of Rozerem, which is supposed to be more "natural," but he has yet to try it. Nothing much works for him. It all works on me, but Sonata is best.

    amie, I don't know, but I just went with it! I have to admit, the oven is cleeeeeeeean. You do have to wipe out a film of ash on the bottom and the racks, but WOW, no more stuck-on stuff! The fire didn't last too long--I'm guessing there isn't much oxygen in there to feed it when the door is sealed shut.

  5. andrea, isn't that the old Chinese curse? "May you have an interesting life."

  6. That self-clean mode also kills any birds that happen to be living in cages in your house...

    Just a little something to remember should Bella ever get a pet bird.

    What a great story, but seriously, it's scary.

  7. Well, it wasn't a healthy-feeling experience for US, so I'm not surprised!

  8. We have the same exact stove, so I am well familiar with the self-cleaning mechanism and the smoke entailed. Yuck. We also have a bipolar person on klonepin with some mighty huge sleep issues right now. And a mom with big sleep issues of her own. Not sleeping sucks. Sleepwalking sucks more. Sleepwalking and insomnia while cycling... oh man!

    I think we're living parallel lives.

  9. I am evil for laughing, aren't I? But you told the story so well.

    On a serious note, the story is scary, and I am glad you have such a fine nose.

  10. We did the self cleaning oven thing recently too, and yes, there was a LOT of smoke. It was pretty nasty. I'm glad your house didn't burn down!

  11. With a blog like yours to read, who needs day-time television??

  12. Holy Moly! My Mom takes Ambien sometimes since menopause has screwed up her sleep habits. Maybe I should lock the fridge and the pantry. because, of course, since we are fire department family, two of our smoke detectors have the batteries removed! ( Note to self...stop at store for 9 volts).

    Just glad everyone was OK!

  13. Dear lord.....I probably shouldn't be laughing hysterically at the fact that your house nearly burned down, but that's FUNNY stuff there!!

    "Hmm...let's just toss waffles directly onto the burners of the oven...they'll cook faster that way!"

    It's really kind of a scary testament to the "thinking" that goes on in the heads of men...even while asleep.

  14. Oh hey Belinda, while ya'll are NOT sleeping how 'bout you take some pictures of those puppies at your house? :0)

  15. Well at least we know how to get really, really crispy waffles.

    Scary, scary stuff there.

    Flaming, smoking oven as it self cleans? Scary. Controlled scary.

    Charred waffles and chicken nuggets gathered together in a bonfire in your oven as you and your family sleeps? Pee your pants scary. Thank goodness y'all are okay and you've gotten to the bottom of what happened.

    Seeing that Dwight Yoakam is making pressed chicken rings? Extremely scary. I literally screamed when I saw that picture. Why, Dwight, why? Why are you making freaky, trashy frozen food?

    Do you see what happens when I leave the country?

  16. That's a fantastic story, thanks to your good sniffer.

    If you've got that weird crematorium smell in your house that lingers after your oven is clean, you can simmer an onion and some rosemary in water for a little while, but for God's sake, remember to turn it off!

  17. Insomniac minds wanna know... is Ambien as good as it seems? is it a deep sleep or just a drugged sleep?

    I *seriously* need to do something about my sleeplessness.

  18. And, let me guess, Alex hasn't gained one iota of weight from these midnight "feasts", has he?! Well, maybe that last one doesn't count as a feast so much. Me, I just think about food in my sleep and I gain weight.

    (Glad you woke up when you did! Best wishes for Alex getting things back on track; I know he's not having a good time.)

  19. I always thought self-cleaning ovens cleaned themselves all along.
    I've read a few blogs of people who have done what Alex did on Ambien. It's a good thing he doesn't live alone. Gosh, waffles sound so good now.
    Hope 2007 is good to all of you.

  20. HAHAHAHA! OK, I'm insensitive, but that was hilarious!

    Good for you for discovering the funeral pyre of waffles (what a concept for a chain restaurant!) Because if it were me, I'd be dead; I have almost no sense of smell.

  21. I read this this morning and have been thinking about it all day.

    It freaks me out. The way drugs affect us. Many times in the past year i have taken clonazepam before sleep, had a great sleep... only to wake up to one of my kids saying something like:

    "I woke you up in the middle of the night because i was scared and you told me to go watch TV."

    And i remember nothing.

  22. I hope Alex can get his sleep regulated, how scary.

    My sister did the self cleaning thing on her oven and had flames. It took her a little while to get it unlocked and the flames out. I've never tried the self-cleaning on mine, just hand clean it. MAybe it is safer that way:o)

  23. Didn't some congressman or whatever drive around that and have an accident within the last year? I can't remember.

  24. I had a roommate last year who took Ambien and frequently slept-ate. One night while the other two of us were out of the apartment, she polished off a gallon of vegetarian chili, half a chicken & broccoli casserole & 4 pounds of Easter candy. That was the jewel of many such incidents. Of course, when we approached her about it the next morning, she refused to believe us, and said we had hidden that food just so we could pick on her. And, yes, she had other issues besides insomnia.

  25. Wow. That is scary. It is a good thing that you have been getting such great deals on groceries, 'cause it sounds like you are going through them pretty quick. I don't know about your self cleaning oven, but mine said you should take out the oven racks before self cleaning.
    I really like your backsplash!

  26. OMG, Belinda. My oven did the SAME thing when I set it to clean the pizza that wasn't, and we had smoke and flames like you wouldn't believe.

    Glad you all fared better!

  27. I'm bipolar and I take melatonin for sleep. It's natural and I don't have any side effects. I think you can find it in different doses, so just find the one that works. This is usually in the vitamin section or with natural food products, etc. I just worry about drug interactions and doc says this is okay to take. Heard lots of creepy stuff about Ambien. I feel sorry for my family when I'm cycling. The meds help, but there's only so much they can do. I think I'll always have some symptoms, I just hope my family can stand being around me some of the time. We did the self-cleaning thing with the oven one time. We had to open all the windows while it burned up everything. Pretty cool feature, though, I'd say. Lastly, I'd agree with Jules, here. Where are the puppy pictures? : )

  28. Jules and BP -

    I would have to say that there are no puppy pictures posted because, -ahem,- perhaps you wouldn't be able to tell them from, say...very large, jumpin-hoppin dustbunnies, because they have yet to feel clippers on their darling little faces?

    The self-cleaning oven is truly a marvel of modern technology...until, you attempt to OPEN the door after the cleaning cycle is done, and you discover that the incredible deal you got on that used oven might have been because the door won't UNLOCK again! Ever. And it would cost more than the oven is worth to replace the electronic part the size of a grain of rice that controls the door-locking mechanism, so you decide to scrap the whole thing, get a new one, and have a great excuse for never cleaning your oven again.
    Sometimes, life is truly bliss.

    Oh, and B, we do need puppy pictures, so call your groomer soon.

    "Some Anonymous Groomer"

  29. Well you have completely scared me out of taking my ambien....I am glad your house didn't burn down though:-)

  30. I've heard of these Ambien nighttime adventures, but it's wild to read about an actual experience!

    I need help for sleeplessness, b/c I don't know how much longer my Disaronno cocktail with 5mg of Valium will work. But I always need something, or I'll just lay there.

  31. I too had Ambien sleep-walking-eating adventures. It wasn't pretty. I thought it was my husband leaving the kitchen a mess after getting a midnight snack. Nope, it was me. Scary.

    Oh, and in case you ever decide to take the grill from your barbecue and put it inside the self-cleaning oven? Don't!

    I learned the hard way. It DID eventually clean it (read: burnt it to a crisp so it fell off), but we had to stay at a hotel that night because my husband has emphysema and couldn't breathe in the house. Stupid, stupid, me.

  32. Oh Belinda. You know I know exactly where you are coming from. I can't tell you all the sleepwalking I have done from the klonopin/ambien mix. Cartons of ice cream, obliterated and left on the counter. Drink mix everywhere. Half eaten food.

    Even sex that I don't remember having (though the hotband doesn't complain about that, Hm, imagine that~

    Anyway, he must have felt horrible. That's how I would have felt. Just another day in bipolar land.

    Im off ambien now, and have switched to trazodone. I sleep like death now. Its not good sleep though. its like...coma.

    Im glad y'all didn't bake.


  33. I was on Ambien for awhile. Had some weird side effects, though nothing quite like that. I did wake up one morning and discover an email that I had written in the middle of the night that I had no recollection of. Nothing too strange and to a good friend, thankfully.

    My husband is on it and the weirdest side effects that he has is that, if he doesn't get to bed before he starts to fall asleep, he'll say really weird things. The last one was "who's the white guy in here?" We're both Caucasian. HAHAHA! It does provide for some humorous, though also frustrating moments as I'm yelling at him, "GET TO BED!!" and my 5-year-old is trying to help, the sweetheart.

    Meds are so tricky. Hope you two can get things figured out soon.