Omnivore - Take your Ambien and put your head in a vat of Nutella

The perils of a sleep aid mixed with hazlenut crack.


  • Typical consumer at 2 a.m. on Ambien and Nutella

Oh. My. God. The big jar of Nutella costs $6.56 on Amazon now! You do have to spend $25 total to avoid shipping costs. But you can get just one jar and a book or something. Me? I’ll just go ahead and get four jars. That should last six weeks.

I’ve become addicted to this chocolatey hazlenut spread recently. There’s no need to worry. It’s only 100 calories per tablespoon, about the same as butter and peanut butter. Could be slimming, if you ate nothing else. And the Nutella folks have been kind enough to design breakfasts that contain their spreadable crack. The meals are “based on FDA and USDA Food Pyramid guidelines!”

But that’s not when I eat it. I eat it at 2:30 a.m.

Some background: After my botched knee surgery, I developed severe insomnia and began taking Ambien, the drug that got slapped around by the FDA about a month ago. It ordered all pharmaceutical makers using Ambien’s active ingredient, Zolpidem, to cut pill doses by half.

The reason specifically mentioned was the frequency with which users of the drug cause auto accidents in the morning. Blood levels turn out to remain higher than thought. The day before the FDA issued its order, I had a horrific experience with the drug myself. The police can tell you all about it. I’m writing about that for another publication.

That aside, the drug has another common side effect. Many people taking it get up in the middle of the night, sleepwalk to their kitchens and majorly pig out, with no memory of doing so. It’s called “sleep eating.” Several friends have told me stories of waking up and finding their bed littered with food boxes and wrappers. It’s not uncommon, either, for people to actually drive to a store and return with armfuls of ice cream and candy.

I take a very low dose of the drug and, until my experience a month ago, have never blacked out. But I have found myself staggering to the kitchen a lot, going directly for the Nutella. I heat up some soft flat bread in the microwave, spread Nutella on it, fold the bread in half and eat it. And then I do it again. And occasionally again. It’s also good on apple slices, fingers and pickles. I should ask my partner Wayne to hide it, but, believe me, I’d find it, even in this 4,000-square-foot house. (If I chose not to blame the Ambien, I could conclude that I suffer “Night Eating Syndrome,” the latest eating disorder identified by psychiatry.)

I could go on about Nutella’s effect on me, but I’ll refer you to the website, which has a thorough analysis. I also draw some comfort from the fact that my addiction, prosaic as it is, is widespread and, really, not my fault. It’s the damned Ambien.

(Seriously, Ambien turns out to be a dangerous drug for many people. Please talk to your doctor, especially if you are taking doses over 5 mg.)