Zolpidem is a type of sleeping pill prescription medicine. Zolpidem is prescribed as a short term treatment for acute periods of the medical condition insomnia (difficulty sleeping), sleep disorders / sleep problems. It has a calming effect for insomnia patients, helping you to fall asleep, and prevents you waking up during the night. This can help you to improve the quality of your sleep and to feel better rested. Zolpidem is a generic drug which can also be found under the brand name ‘Ambien’.
What is Zolpidem?
- Zolpidem is a type of sleeping pill medicine
- Zolpidem is prescribed to help a person suffering from a short period of insomnia
- Zolpidem is not usually prescribed for more than four weeks at a time
- Zolpidem takes around one hour to work
- Zolpidem belongs to a group of prescription drugs called Nonbenzodiazepine (Z drugs) / CNS depressants
- Zolpidem has no anticonvulsant or muscle relaxant properties
- You should avoid drinking alcohol when taking zolpidem, as the two combined may make it more difficult to wake up the following morning
- Zolpidem is sometimes known by its brand name, Stilnoct, Ambien, Ambien CR
- It is important to read the patient leaflet for a full list of side effects and cautions.
How Does Zolpidem Work?
Zolpidem is a prescription medicine that works by increasing the amount of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in your brain. An increase in GABA receptors blocks certain chemicals in the brain, helping to calm your central nervous system. This, in turn, makes you feel more relaxed and sleepier. Consequently zolpidem improves sleeping health a lot.
The body can become accustomed to the effect of zolpidem, making you feel dependent on it if you take it for longer than a few weeks. This also means that stopping it can lead to feelings of withdrawal in the detox process. This is why your doctor, pharmacy or healthcare provider will only prescribe a short course of zolpidem to help you manage an acute period of difficulty sleeping to treat whatever sleep problem a patient may be experiencing. Taking it for short periods is unlikely to lead to dependence.
How is Zolpidem Taken?
Zolpidem is taken at night, just before going to bed. Zolpidem will make you feel sleepy or drowsy, so it is important to only take it when you are ready to get into bed.
Zolpidem is available in tablet form. The tablets should be swallowed with some water. Zolpidem can be taken with or without food.
What is the proper dosage of Zolpidem?
Zolpidem 5mg / 10mg
Zolpidem is available in 10mg and 5mg tablets. The usual dose is 10mg at bedtime.
A 5mg dose is sometimes recommended for people aged over 65, or those with kidney or liver disease. This is because these groups may be more sensitive to zolpidem, and may therefore feel excessively sleepy the following day.
Your doctor may prescribe a zolpidem tablet once every three nights, rather than every night. You may be prescribed zolpidem but be given the medical advice to only to take it when required. It is important to take zolpidem exactly as your doctor has prescribed it.
Are there any side effects to Zolpidem?
Like all medications, zolpidem use can have some side effects. The most common side effects include:
- A bitter or metallic taste in your mouth
- Dry mouth
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Trouble breathing
- Feeling sleepy (drowsiness) the following day – this may persist for a few days, so it is important to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery if you feel sleepy or more drowsy than usual.
- Ambien addiction
- Hepatic impairment
These side effects are likely to settle in time, but if they are particularly troublesome you should speak to a doctor or pharmacist.
Occasionally, more serious side effects can occur when taking zolpidem. These include:
- Memory loss (amnesia)
- Falling over – especially in the elderly
- Hallucinations – seeing things that are not real
- Delusions – believing things that are not true
- Feeling low or depressed.
You should speak to a doctor straight away if any of these side effects occur.
If you have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) including breathlessness, lip or tongue swelling, call 999 immediately.
Does Zolpidem come with any warnings?
Zolpidem may not be suitable for everyone. You should tell your doctor if you:
- Have had an allergic reaction to a medication in the past
- Have liver disease
- Have kidney disease
- Have myasthenia gravis
- Have breathing problems
- Have sleep apnoea (difficulty breathing at night)
- Have ever had mental health problems
- Have alcohol or drug dependence, or have ever been dependent in the past
- Are pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding.
Some medications can interact with zolpidem or make its sedative effect greater. You may be advised that zolpidem will not suit you (due to drug interactions) if you already take:
- Other sleep medicine
- Strong pain killers including codeine, tramadol, methadone or oxycodone
- Antihistamines that make you drowsy including chlorphenamine and promethazine
- Medicines used to treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
- Medicines used to treat depression
- Medicines used to calm the symptoms of anxiety
- Medicines used to treat fungal infections including itraconazole and ketoconazole
- Ritonavir – a medication used to treat HIV.
You should also tell your prescriber about any herbal remedies or supplements you take. This will allow your prescriber to check that zolpidem will not interact with them.
Zolpidem is a sleeping medication, much as diazepam. Diazepam is also commonly prescribed for anxiety. If the cause behind your sleeping problems is anxiety, ask your doctor about buying diazepam.