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Sleep doctor on sleep aid morning after: "Like driving drunk"

(CBS News) The FDA released new dosing guidelines for Ambien and other popular sleep aids containing zolpidem, the active ingredient in many sleep medications.

The government agency will now require the recommended dose for women to be cut in half, from ten milligrams to five milligrams, and suggests that doctors consider doing the same for men. New studies indicate that women metabolize the drug differently and the drug stays in their system longer. Patients can face a higher risk of injury due to morning drowsiness. An estimated 40 million Americans regularly use prescription sleep aids.

Dr. Carol Ash, the Medical Director of Sleep Medicine at Meridian Health in New Jersey, warned that routine activities, like driving to work, can be seriously impaired the morning after taking a sleep aid at the previously recommended dose.

"It's essentially like driving drunk," she said Friday on "CBS This Morning."

"These drugs are staying in our system much longer than previously thought...It's impairing your thinking as you're getting up in the has the same impact on your thinking as driving drunk."

Dr. Ash noted that "We don't recognize the importance of sleep," adding that for many, "'Sleep is basically for wimps.'" She insisted that "there are other options" for those seeking a good night's rest.

"These medications can be addicting. You want to take them only for four to six weeks and after that you should be reaching out to a specialist."

She urged the millions of Americans who depend on sleep aids to look into alternative solutions, including cognitive behavioral therapy and practicing better "sleep hygiene." "It will take time, but it can be solved," Dr. Ash said."

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