Uses Of Zolpidem

Zolpidem (Ambien) is a sedative-hypnotic medication used to treat insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep).  Zolpidem acts on the central nervous system by slowing brain activity and inducing sleep.

Side Effects Of Zolpidem

Like all drugs, Zolpidem may cause side effects.  Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you experience any symptoms that persist or become severe, including:

  • Feeling unusually tired
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or problems with balance
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Gas
  • Pain or tenderness in the stomach
  • Feeling lightheaded or “drugged”
  • Redness in or around eyes
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Burning, redness, or tingling on the tongue (when taking sublingual tablets)
  • Aching or cramping muscles
  • Dryness in mouth or throat
  • Back, joint, or neck pain
  • Abnormal dreams
  • Ringing, itching, or pain in ears
  • Heartburn
  • Unstable when walking
  • Change in appetite
  • Pain, numbness, tingling, or burning in extremities (hands, feet, arms, legs)

Your zolpidem prescription should come dispensed with a medication guide, which will list IMPORTANT WARNINGS or SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS.  Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the symptoms listed in those sections, or any of the following symptoms:

Zolpidem may cause other side effects.  If you experience any symptoms not listed here, or anything unusual while taking this medication, call your doctor.

Warnings & Precautions

Before taking zolpidem, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of this medication.  There are a few specific things you should tell your doctor or pharmacist before taking this drug:

  • if you are allergic to zolpidem or any of its ingredients
  • what other medications you currently take including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and herbal or nutritional supplements.  Be especially sure to mention if you take antidepressants such as imipramine (Tofranil) or sertraline (Zoloft); chlorpromazine; antifungals such as ketoconazole (Nizorel) or itraconazole (Onmel, Sporanox); rifampin; any other tranquilizers, sedatives, or sleeping pills; medications for anxiety, seizures, pain, mental illness, colds, or allergies.
  • If you take St. John’s Wort, as this can lessen the effect of zolpidem.
  • If you currently do or have ever drunk large amounts of alcohol.
  • If you currently or have ever used street drugs, as these can interact with zolpidem.
  • If you have ever had depression, mental illness, or thoughts of killing or harming yourself.
  • If you have ever had a problem with heavy snoring, sleep apnea, liver or kidney disease, or breathing problems such as asthma, emphysema, or bronchitis.
  • If you have ever had myasthenia, a condition causing weakness in certain muscle groups.
  • If you are pregnant, especially if you are in your third trimester, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. Zolpidem may cross the placenta or be present in breastmilk.  If you become pregnant while taking zolpidem, call your doctor.
  • If you are 65 years or older, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking zolpidem. This medication is not usually prescribed for adults over 65, as it is less safe and effective than other drugs used for insomnia.
  • If you are having surgery or dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking zolpidem.

Before taking zolpidem, you should know:

  • The day after using zolpidem you may have slow reaction times.  Do not drive or operate heavy machinery the day after using an extended-release zolpidem product even if you feel fully awake.  Be aware of decreased reaction times when driving or operating heavy machinery the day after taking any zolpidem products.
  • Zolpidem may cause you to feel sluggish or be uncoordinated and may make you more likely to fall. Be especially careful not to fall if you get up during the night after you have taken zolpidem.
  • Do not drink alcohol while zolpidem is still in your system, as this causes side effects to be more severe.
  • Therapy with any drug can cause unexpected changes in mood and behavior. When taking zolpidem call your doctor if you suddenly develop symptoms of mental illness such as hallucinations, aggressive behavior, memory problems, anxiety, new or increased depression, agitation, difficulty concentrating, confusion, or thinking about killing or harming yourself.  Your family should also be aware of serious side affects and know when to call your doctor.


Zolpidem comes in several different forms and your doctor will prescribe which one is right for you.  Each form of zolpidem also has a specific brand name.  Zolpidem comes as a tablet (Ambien), extended-release tablet (Ambien CR), sublingual tablet (Intermezzo, Edular), and an oral spray (Zolpimist).  In any form, zolpidem should be taken immediately before going to bed, and not more than once per day.  The sublingual tablet can be taken to help induce sleep but can also be taken if you wake up in the middle of the night to help you fall back asleep.  Zolpidem works best on an empty stomach, so take it without food.  Always follow the prescription label exactly and bring questions to your doctor or pharmacist if any of the directions are confusing.

Whatever form you take zolpidem in, you should plan to go right to bed.  Zolpidem should make you sleepy very quickly and you should plan to stay asleep for 7 to 8 hours.  When taking the sublingual tablets (Intermezzo) after waking during the night, you should plan to sleep for 4 or more hours.  Do not take a dose of zolpidem if you do not have enough time to stay asleep.  If you do take zolpidem and are required to get up before this amount of time has elapsed, you may have trouble with drowsiness, memory, coordination, and alertness.

Extended-release tablets must be swallowed whole: do not chew, crush, or split the extended-release tablets.  If you cannot swallow tablets, ask your doctor to change the form of zolpidem that you take.

When taking sublingual zolpidem (Intermezzo) do not open the foil pouch until you are ready to take the dose.  Sublingual tablets should not be swallowed or taken with water.  Place the sublingual tablet under your tongue and wait for it to dissolve completely.


When taking zolpidem, do not miss appointments with your doctor.  It is important to have your therapy monitored when taking this drug.

Zolpidem is a Schedule IV controlled substance.  Special regulations and policies apply to writing and filling a prescription for a controlled medication, including the number of refills on your prescription, transferring between pharmacies, and other policies.  Ask your pharmacist about any questions you have regarding filling your zolpidem prescription.  Do not let anyone else take a dose of your medication.

Keep a list of all the medications you currently take including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, dietary supplements, and herbal remedies.  Always bring this list with you to doctor appointments and if you will be admitted to a hospital.  This is also important information to have with you in case of an emergency.


All information has been provided courtesy of MedLinePlus from the National Library of Medicine and from the FDA.