The pharmaceutical drug zolpidem - sold under the brand names of Ambien, Ambien CR, and Intermezzo - is a commonly prescribed hypnotic medication used to initiate sleep and to treat insomnia. What are the common side effects and dosage of Ambien? Learn about this medicine and important safety precautions and whether it is right for you to relieve difficulty sleeping.

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    Ambien is a hypnotic drug that has direct effects on the central nervous system, specifically the brain.   It causes drowsiness and is safe and effective for initiating and maintaining sleep. It is used to treat insomnia or acute insomnia .

    You may be prescribed a standard or controlled-release (CR) formulation of the drug. There is also a fast-acting form that is taken under the tongue (sublingually). These vary slightly in how long it takes the body to metabolize them, but their effects are the same.

    Available Dosages

    Depending on the formulation used, there are different dosages of Ambien. Women, in particular, are advised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use lower doses due to the potential risks of morning hangover effects that may impact safe driving. 

    The doses of the various formulations of zolpidem include the following:

    • Ambien: 5 mg or 10 mg
    • Ambien CR: 6.25 mg or 12.5 mg
    • Intermezzo (sublingual): 1.75 mg or 3.5 mg

    Any decision regarding the proper dose should be discussed with your prescribing physician and consideration of your entire list of medications should occur.

    How Does It Work?

    Ambien promotes the activity of GABA receptors, a special type of neurotransmitter.   Neurotransmitters are chemicals that serve as messengers between nerve cells (neurons). The additional activity of the GABA receptors inhibits neuron activity that contributes to insomnia.

    Who Should Not Use It?

    Fortunately, the risk of tolerance or dependence with extended use of Ambien is less than with other benzodiazepines . The medication should not be taken with alcohol or with other drugs that suppress the central nervous system or respiratory system, as it may slow or stop your breathing.

    It may not be the best drug to use if you have a history of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, depression, psychiatric disorders, lung, or liver problems. It should be used with caution in the elderly or debilitated.

    Common Side Effects

    There are many potential side effects of any drug. At high doses, Ambien may cause amnesia ( memory loss ), suppression of REM sleep, or breathing difficulties. Abrupt cessation of the medication at higher doses may also cause rebound insomnia . Although an individual likely won't experience most side effects associated with the drug - and may indeed not have any of them - some that commonly occur include:

    • Headache
    • Drowsiness, lethargy, or a "drugged" feeling
    • Dizziness, lightheadedness
    • Constipation or diarrhea
    • Back pain
    • Allergic reactions
    • Sinusitis (sinus infection)
    • Pharyngitis (sore throat)
    • Dry mouth
    • Flu-like symptoms
    • Palpitations (irregular heartbeat)
    • Depression
    • Rash

    Potential Serious Reactions

    With the use of any drug, there are also risks of serious side effects.   These occur more rarely, but include:

    • Worsening depression
    • Suicidal thoughts
    • Aggressive behavior
    • Complex sleep-related behaviors (such as doing activities while asleep)
    • Hallucinations
    • Amnesia (memory loss)
    • Anaphylaxis (allergic reaction such as throat swelling and difficulties breathing)
    • Withdrawal after stopping the drug abruptly

    Safety Precautions

    Ambien should be avoided in pregnancy and with breastfeeding. Certain individuals, as mentioned above, should use the medication with caution or not at all. There is no monitoring necessary with Ambien's use.

    If you experience any difficulties with the use of Ambien, you should be in close contact with your primary health provider.

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    Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

    1. Monti JM, Spence DW, Buttoo K, Pandi-perumal SR. Zolpidem's use for insomnia. Asian J Psychiatr. 2017;25:79-90. doi:10.1016/j.ajp.2016.10.006

    2. Wisden W, Yu X, Franks NP. GABA Receptors and the Pharmacology of Sleep. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2019;253:279-304. doi:10.1007/164_2017_56

    3. Wong CK, Marshall NS, Grunstein RR, et al. Spontaneous Adverse Event Reports Associated with Zolpidem in the United States 2003-2012. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017;13(2):223-234. doi:10.5664/jcsm.6452

    Additional Reading

    • Cooper, D.H. et al. The Washington Manual of Medical Therapeutics. 32nd edition, 2007. 14. Lippencott, Williams & Wilkins. New York.
    • Katzung, B.G. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology. 9th edition, 2004. 134-140. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. New York.
    • Ambien.” Epocrates Rx Pro. Version 16.3, 2016. Epocrates, Inc. San Mateo, California.
    Why does Ambien work so well?
    Zolpidem, commonly known as Ambien, slows down activity in the brain, allowing you to sleep. The immediate release form dissolves right away, helping you fall asleep fast. The extended release version has two layers — the first helps you fall asleep, and the second dissolves slowly to help you stay asleep. more
    How does contract work work?
    The contract employee is usually hired for a predetermined amount of time to do a specific project. A staffing agency or employer of record handles the contract employee's payroll taxes. Job seekers leave a permanent job for a contract position for many reasons. more
    How does work from home data entry work?
    Work from home data entry jobs involve typing information into electronic formats from your home or another remote location instead of at an office. Most job duties are clerical in nature. You may be typing or entering data into a word processing application, spreadsheets, or other specific software. more
    What kind of work is general work?
    general worker means an employee employed to do general work including cleaning, carrying, loading or unloading of vehicles, making of any beverages, assisting on delivery vehicles, delivery of letters or messages. more
    What sleeping pill works better than Ambien?
    What sleeping pill works better than Ambien? Lunesta (eszopiclone) offers some advantage over Ambien in that it is considered safe to be used long term, whereas Ambien is intended for relatively short-term use. Lunesta has been shown to be highly effective for sleep maintenance. more
    What if Ambien stops working?
    Dependence occurs when the body has become so used to the presence of Ambien that is is no longer able to function “normally” without it. If the user either stops taking Ambien or reduces their dose, their body may react negatively, and withdrawal symptoms may appear. more
    How does Ride to Work Work?
    In essence, your employer buys a bike for you to ride to work and you 'hire' it through salary sacrifice (which is where you save by not paying tax and National Insurance contributions on the monthly fees). At the end of the 'hire' period, you are usually offered the option to buy the bike from your employer. more
    How does shift work work?
    Shift work refers to a work schedule that is performed in rotations. For example, while some employees might fill a role during the day, others might work night or early morning shifts. This means the company operates for 24 hours each day. more
    Why does Ambien stop working?
    Rebound insomnia occurs because Ambien suppresses the central nervous system and reduces the firing of certain nerves in the brain. When the use of Ambien is suddenly stopped, the diminishing effects of Ambien suddenly dissipate, leaving the brain in overdrive trying to overcome this sudden change. more
    What works better than Ambien?
    Lunesta, generically known as eszopiclone, is another non-benzodiazepine prescription sleep medication that was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in December 2004. It is a sleep aid medication that offers some advantage over Ambien. more
    Can Ambien stop working?
    In response to sustained exposure to the medication, your body may try to reduce the impact by taking away receptors that interact with the drug. Thereafter, though the drug levels may be similar, the response is not. In time, the sleeping pill seems to stop working as well. more


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