Last updated on 11/22/2020
What is Ambien?
Ambien, also available in the market under the generic name zolpidem, is a prescription sedative medication that helps people with sleeping problems like insomnia to get a good night’s rest.
Ambien is available as immediate-release tablets that can help a person fall asleep as soon as they go to bed. The extended-release version of this drug, known as Ambien CR, consists of two layers; the first one dissolves quickly to help people fall asleep. The second one disintegrates slowly to help them stay asleep for an extended period.
Though both variants of this drug work by affecting the brain’s chemicals that might have become unbalanced in people with a sleep disorder, your doctor will determine which one is best for you after analyzing your condition.
Ambien use can result in a severe allergic reaction. Stop consuming this drug and seek emergency medical help if you experience any signs of an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction’s symptoms include difficulty breathing, hives swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Avoid sharing Ambien with others, even if they have similar symptoms to yours. Remember that typical zolpidem doses are not the same for men and women, and it is not suitable for children.
This medicine might also impair your reactions and thinking. You might feel sleepy in the morning, especially if you take the extended-release version. Try waiting for at least four hours or until you are fully awake before doing anything that requires alertness.
Avoid consuming Ambien if you have drunk alcohol during the day or immediately before going to bed.
What to know before taking Ambien?
Often people consume Ambien and engage in activities like eating, walking, driving, making phone calls, or having sex and later have no memories of those things. If something similar happens to you, stop using the drug and talk to a professional, and explore other treatments for your sleep disorder.
Avoid using Ambien if you are allergic to this drug. These tablets also contain lactose, so be cautious if you are lactose sensitive.
This medication is not suitable for people younger than 18 years of age.
Tell the doctor if you have or ever had any of the following to make sure that this drug is safe for you:
- Liver or kidney disease
- Sleep apnea – a condition in which breathing stops during sleep
- Breathing problems or lung disease
- Alcohol or drug addiction
- Mental illness, depression, or suicidal thoughts
Using Ambien in the final trimester of pregnancy may cause extreme drowsiness or breathing problems in the newborn kid.
Breastfeeding might also not be safe while using this medicine. Try asking a doctor about any risk.
How to take Ambien?
Use Ambien as prescribed by your doctor. Follow the prescription label directions and avoid taking it in larger quantities or longer than the recommended period.
This drug’s recommended amount is not the same for women and men, and this medicine is also not appropriate for children.
Try treating the medication guide, instruction sheets, and patient information provided with Ambien before consuming it. Also, ask the pharmacist or the doctor if you have any queries.
Ambien can be habit-forming, which means its misuse can cause addiction, overdose, or even death. Giving ways this drug is against the law, so don’t try to sell it or distribute it to anyone.
Avoid taking this drug if you do not have 7-8 hours to sleep because if you have to wake up earlier than that, you will feel sleepy and unable to concentrate anything throughout the day.
Ambien is appropriate for short-term use only. Inform your healthcare provider if the insomnia symptoms do not improve or get worse after using it for 7 to 10 nights continuously. Avoid consuming this drug for longer than 4-5 weeks unless your doctor recommends it.
If you are using this medicine for an extended period, don’t abruptly stop consuming it, or you could experience very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. When terminating the treatment, ask the doctor to lower the dosage gradually to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Sleep disorder symptoms may return after you stop taking this drug and might be even worse than before. Contact your doctor if you experience worsened insomnia for the first few nights after stopping the treatment.
While consuming this medicine, avoid crushing, chewing, or breaking the Ambien CR tablets because doing so can result in severe side effects.
The following factors can affect the effective Ambien dose:
- Type of insomnia you want to treat
- Your age
- Your sex
- The form of medicine you take (immediate-release or extended-release)
- Other medical conditions you have
Typically, a doctor considers all these factors and start with the lowest effective dose. If the body responds well to medicine, they increase the dosage.
The typical Ambien dose is as per the following:
- The initial dose is 5mg for women and between 5mg to 10mg for men.
- Take the pill immediately before going to bed.
- The doctor might increase the dose to 10mg per day if the 5mg is not sufficient.
- The maximum daily dose is 10mg.
Taking more than the required amount of Ambien can cause an overdose. If you experience confusion, shallow breathing, extreme sleepiness, lightheadedness, fainting, and seek immediate medical help.
Ambien overdose can put you in a coma or be fatal if you mix the medicine with other sedative drugs that can cause drowsiness. Call 911 or the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222 in case of an overdose.
What to avoid while using Ambien?
While taking Ambien, you should keep in mind the following things:
- Don’t consume Ambien during travel, such as to sleep on an airplane or train because, in these situations, you might have to wake up before the drug’s effects wear off. When a person doesn’t get 7-8 hours of sleep after consuming Ambien, they become prone to amnesia.
- Try not to drive or undertake any hazardous activity until you know how the Ambien will affect you. People can feel sleepy in the morning after taking this drug, and their reactions could become impaired. Wait till you feel fully awake before going about your day to day activities.
- Avoid mixing this medicine with alcohol because doing that can worsen its side effects.
Ambien side effects
Ambien use can result in some mild to severe side effects. It can cause a severe allergic reaction, so if you notice signs of hives, breathing difficulty, swelling of lips, etc. seek immediate medical help.
You can talk to a healthcare professional to know more about this drug’s adverse effects. Below-listed is some of the most common and severe adverse effects of using Ambien.
Common side effects
- Muscle pain
- Chest pain
- Irregular heart rate
- Dry mouth
Severe side effects
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe allergic reaction
- Suicidal thoughts and behavior
- Loss of interest in things a person formerly enjoyed
- A feeling of worthlessness or guilt
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking
- Weight gain or loss
- Memory loss
- Having an out of body experience
What drugs can interact with Ambien?
This medicine can interact with various other medications. Each interaction results in a different outcome. For instance, some drugs can interfere with Ambien’s efficiency, while others can worsen its side effects.
Inform the doctor about all the prescription and non-prescription drugs that you are using. Also, tell them if you are taking any vitamins or herbal supplements because they can also interfere with this medicine’s functioning.
Imipramine and chlorpromazine – These medications can decrease your alertness and enhance the sedative effects of Ambien.
The following drugs can increase Ambien’s side effects:
- Antibiotics – clarithromycin and erythromycin
- Medications used for treating fungal infections – ketoconazole, itraconazole, and voriconazole
- Ritonavir and atazanavir
The following drugs can make Ambine less effective:
- John’s wort
- Anticonvulsant drugs – carbamazepine, phenytoin, and phenobarbital
- Antibiotics – rifapentine, rifabutin, and rifampin