03/16/2007 10:31 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Ambien Nation

Nobody sleeps anymore. White nights are the plague of our generation.

We lie awake until dawn, gnashing our teeth over missed opportunities, plotting revenge, envisioning catastrophe. As soon as my head hits the pillow, I see suitcase nukes and the undiagnosed brain tumor.

Lots of my friends medicate for insomnia. I've learned from bizarre experience not to talk to some of them before ten in the morning, because they will swear later in the day that the conversation never occurred. I have also learned to be wary car-pooling with my sleep-medicated pals before noon.

Sleeping aids aren't just a Gotham phenomenon. According to the New York Times, more than 25 million prescriptions for Ambien were written last year. Added to the dozen or so other commonly used sleep aids, doctors dashed off almost 50 million prescriptions for sleeping pills in 2006.

No wonder the Europeans are afraid of us. It isn't just Bush who's asleep at the switch.
Last year the Times performed a great public service by revealing that Ambien users sometimes woke up to find crumbs in their beds from midnight binge eating or woke up - yikes! - behind the wheel of a car, even crashing into walls. For a while, these stories seemed like medical urban myths, picked up by the paper of record.

Yesterday, the FDA finally released new warnings for the drugs, advising people that, yes, in fact, you could open your eyes and find yourself flipping pancakes in the middle of the night, or wake up under arrest in your underwear by the side of the road, car keys in the ignition.

Ambien and its ilk have made us a nation of people who not only can sleep with blood on our hands, but who can literally drive and eat and talk and DO THINGS while asleep. Think about this for as minute. Modern medicine has developed a new range of human behavior: sleep-eating, sleep-driving, sleep-talking. Presumably, we can add sleep-killing and sleep-policy-making to the list.

The implications of the number of sleep aid prescriptions and their weird side effects have yet to be fully analyzed, but they explain much about how we got to be a nation of zombies, run by zombies.

So many of us - citizens and leaders alike - asleep at the wheel.

Of course Scooter Libby doesn't recall telling reporters about Valerie Plame. He's not lying, he really doesn't remember doing it. He was probably sleep-talking.

Does Harriet Miers remember the memo about firing prosecutors? Surely not.

It's only a matter of time before the Ambien defense is introduced into Congressional hearings and American courtrooms.

Many have marveled at how President Bush can sleep with the lives of more than 3,000 American troops and 600,00-some innocent Iraqis weighing on his conscience.

The man doesn't partake of natural sleep, of course. Like his father before him, who famously barfed on the Japanese after a bad reaction to Halcion, the 1980s version of a miracle sleep drug for those with bloody hands, you can bet your Tempurpedic mattress that Junior takes sleep aids.

The new, improved pills not only get him some shut-eye, they enable him to operate with no memory of his actions. What could be better for a villain? How much of what this early riser accomplishes in the morning is sleep-policy? Maybe the impeachment defense lawyers will finally reveal it.

The only member of the regime who certainly never sleeps is the bionic VP, a man literally without a heart, our own evil zombie overlord Dick Cheney. He blinks, but the saurian eye never closes for long.