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M. W. is a 22-year-old woman who visits her doctor because she is extremely tired. She reports that although she is exhausted at bedtime, she typically cannot fall asleep for at least an hour or two. She moved to town 2 months ago and has her first full-time job. She likes her job but fears that her supervisors think she is "dumb" because she has made some careless mistakes. After falling to sleep, she sometimes wakes an hour or more before her alarm goes off, usually thinking about her dumb mistakes. Her problems with sleeping began approximately 5 months ago, when she was studying for final examinations in her senior year of college. Aside from a minor dermatological condition, she is in excellent health. What treatment would you recommend for her insomnia and fatigue?
Answer: Zolpidem is the best choice. M. W.'s inability to sleep well is probably the result of anxiety caused by several stresses in her life. She is a recent college graduate, has a new job, and has moved to a new town. These events constitute three stressors, which can induce anxiety and sleep loss. The sleep loss and anxiety are usually of relatively short duration. Zolpidem has a quick onset and a half-life of approximately 2.5 hours. If taken at bedtime, it should allow her to fall asleep quickly and sleep though most or all of the night. Its elimination is fast enough that it should not produce residual drowsiness during the day. A week-long trial of Zolpidem should help M. W. overcome her sleep disturbance.
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