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Ambien Zombies: Bizarre Behavior on Long-Distance Flights

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

In a recent article in CNN travel, “Sleeping pills and planes: Embarrassing tales from 35,000 feet,” by Sandee LaMotte, the author tells the story of passengers who take Ambien, or other sedatives, on long flights, and behave in bizarre and sometimes dangerous ways.

These behaviors can include sleepwalking, childlike behavior, disrobing, fondling other passengers, becoming aggressive, and even urinating in the cabin. While the extreme acts are rare, they are becoming more frequent and in some cases can lead to injuries and even death.

“You wandered around the plane butt-naked,” she replied. The passenger hung his head. “I figured something was wrong,“ he said, “when I woke up with my underwear in my hand." “CONFESSIONS OF A FED-UP FLIGHT ATTENDANT: ATTACK OF THE AMBIEN ZOMBIES”— YAHOO TRAVEL

In a 2014 Yahoo Travel article, “Confessions of a Fed-Up Flight Attendant: Attack of the Ambien Zombies,” a flight attendant who calls herself “Betty” shares her experiences with these zombie-like passengers and voices her frustrations with this growing problem.

Much like sleepwalking, these passengers rarely remember these events. They wake to embarrassment and shame as their antics are shared with them from a fellow passengers’ cell phone. Sometimes the videos are even posted online.

Z-drugs and Benzodiazepines

Zolpidem (Ambien) is from the class of drugs called nonbenzodiazepines (or Z-drugs) which includes eszopiclone (Lunesta) and zaleplon (Sonata). Although they have a completely different chemical composition then their sister drugs, benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium), they do have similar effects.

Not only do both benzodiazepines and Z-drugs have potentially serious side effects, but they can also create dependence in as little as 2-4 weeks of continuous use. For some, withdrawal from long-term use of these drugs is a harrowing, life-altering experience. One which can be spread out over months and even years.

Please check out both of these articles to learn more.


  1. “Confessions of a Fed-Up Flight Attendant: Attack of the Ambien Zombies.” Yahoo Travel. April 26, 2014. Accessed July 5, 2019.

  2. LaMotte, Sandee. “Sleeping pills and planes: Embarrassing tales from 35,000 feet.” CNN Travel. July 4, 2019. Accessed July 5, 2019.


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