When a Hayward, Wis. man was found frozen to death outside his home after sleepwalking barefoot in -20 degree temps, police were baffled. How does someone walk around in those frigid temperatures and not wake up?
We might have an answer. Timothy Brueggeman, 51, had a prescription to Ambien in his bedroom. Ambien is a popular sleep aid that has been heavily criticized for causing chronic sleepwalking. Could the drug even keep someone asleep as they wandered about in their underwear slowly freezing to death?
More from the Star Tribune
The most-prescribed sleep aid in the United States has helped millions, but it has also has been linked to hundreds of cases of sleepwalking, sleep-driving and even sleep-shoplifting. Such cases led to a class-action suit against Sanofi-Aventis. The drugmaker, which maintains that Ambien is safe when taken correctly and not mixed with alcohol or other drugs, didn't respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
While many insomnia sufferers use the drug without bizarre side-effects, the 51-year-old Brueggeman was not one of them, according to his family and friends.
After taking Ambien and going to bed one night last summer, Brueggeman drove his pickup without waking up, according to longtime friend Ed Lesniak.
It could be more than a month before toxicology tests can give any answers, the Strib says. Friends also said Brueggman sometimes had some alcohol before taking Ambien, something the drug company advises against.
But it is possible to sleepwalk into the cold without a sleeping pill, one doctor told the Strib.
Dr. Michel Cramer Bornemann, of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center at Hennepin County Medical Center:
"With sleep, the sensory cortex [of the brain] is inactivated," he said. "People who sleepwalk can bump into things or walk on a very cold surface and not be able to sense it." In the Upper Midwest alone in recent years, several children -- who are more prone to sleepwalking than adults -- have died by wandering asleep outside in winter, he said.