1. About zopiclone
Zopiclone is a type of sleeping pill that can be taken to treat bad bouts of insomnia.
It helps you fall asleep more quickly, and also helps stop you waking up during the night.
Zopiclone comes as tablets. It also comes as a liquid for people who find it hard to swallow tablets, but this has to be ordered specially by your doctor.
This medicine is only available on prescription.
2. Key facts
- Zopiclone takes around 1 hour to work.
- Zopiclone is usually prescribed for just 2 to 4 weeks. This is because your body gets used to it quickly and after this time it's unlikely to have the same effect. Your body can also become dependent on it.
- Common side effects are a metallic taste in your mouth, a dry mouth, and daytime sleepiness.
- Do not drink alcohol while you're on zopiclone. Having them together can make you go into a deep sleep where you find it difficult to wake up.
- Zopiclone is also called by the brand name Zimovane.
3. Who can and can't take zopiclone
Zopiclone can be taken by adults over the age of 18.
It's not suitable for some people.
To make sure zopiclone is safe for you, tell your doctor if you:
- have had an allergic reaction to zopiclone or any other medicines in the past
- have liver or kidney problems
- have myasthenia gravis, an illness that causes muscle weakness
- have breathing problems or sleep apnoea (where you stop breathing for short bouts while sleeping)
- have had mental health problems
- have had issues with alcoholism or drug abuse
- are trying to get pregnant, already pregnant, or breastfeeding
4. How and when to take it
Zopiclone tablets come in 2 different strengths: 3.75mg and 7.5mg.
The usual dose is to take a 7.5mg tablet just before you go to bed. It takes around 1 hour to work.
A lower dose of 3.75mg may be recommended to begin with if you're over 65 years old or have kidney or liver problems.
Taking a lower dose in these cases reduces the risk of excessive sleepiness and other side effects.
Swallow the tablet whole. Do not crush or chew it. You can take zopiclone with or without food.
It's important to take it exactly as your doctor has told you. You could be asked to take a tablet on only 2 or 3 nights each week, rather than every night.
Do not take more than your prescribed dose.
What if I forget to take it?
If you forget to take it by bedtime, just start again the next night.
Never take 2 doses at the same time. Never take an extra dose to make up for a forgotten one.
What if I take too much?
If you have taken more than your prescribed dose by accident, call your doctor for advice.
Urgent advice: Contact a doctor straight away if you take too much zopiclone
Do this even if you don't feel any different.
If you need to go to hospital, take the zopiclone packet or leaflet inside it, plus any remaining medicine, with you.
It's a good idea to get a friend or family member to go with you to hospital in case you become sleepy on the way. Do not drive yourself.
5. Side effects
Not everyone will get side effects with zopiclone.
These common side effects happen in more than 1 in 100 people.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or don't go away:
- a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth or a dry mouth
- feeling sleepy or tired
Serious side effects
Serious side effects are rare, but you should call your doctor as soon as possible if you:
- lose your memory - this is called amnesia
- see or hear things that aren't real - these are called hallucinations
- fall over, especially if you're elderly
- think things that aren't true - these are called delusions
- feel low or sad - this could be a sign of depression
Serious allergic reaction
In rare cases, it's possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to zopiclone.
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:
- you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
- you're wheezing
- you get tightness in the chest or throat
- you have trouble breathing or talking
- your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling
You could be having a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate treatment in hospital.
These are not all the side effects of zopiclone.
For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.
You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.
6. How to cope with side effects
What to do about:
- a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth or a dry mouth - if this bothers you, try taking sips of water and keep some water by your bed at night. Using a mouthwash before bedtime may also help. Choose one that's good for a dry mouth, as some can make a dry mouth worse.
- feeling sleepy or tired - do not drive or use tools or machinery if you're feeling this way. Do not drink any alcohol as this will make you feel more tired. If this doesn't help, talk to your doctor.
7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Do not take zopiclone if you're pregnant, as it may harm the developing baby. It can also cause side effects in newborn babies.
There's some evidence that taking zopiclone can increase your risk of having a baby born early (before 37 weeks) and the baby having a lower birth weight.
Taking zopiclone right up to labour may increase the chance of the baby having withdrawal symptoms at birth.
For more information about how zopiclone can affect you and your baby during pregnancy, read this leaflet on the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS) website.
Zopiclone and breastfeeding
Zopiclone passes into breast milk in small amounts.
If you have to take zopiclone, talk to your doctor or midwife about your feeding options.
Non-urgent advice: Tell your doctor if you're:
- trying to get pregnant
8. Cautions with other medicines
Some medicines and zopiclone can interfere with each other and increase the chances of you having side effects.
Certain medicines may increase the drowsy-making (sedating) effects of zopiclone.
Speak to your doctor or pharmacist before starting on zopiclone if you take any of the following:
- medicines to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
- medicines to treat depression
- medicines for epilepsy
- medicines to calm or reduce anxiety, or for sleep problems
- medicines for hay fever, rashes or other allergies that can make you sleepy (sedative antihistamines, such as chlorphenamine or promethazine)
- strong painkillers (such as codeine, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, pethidine or tramadol)
- erythromycin or clarithromycin (antibiotics used to treat infections)
- medicines used to treat fungal infections (such as ketoconazole and itraconazole)
- ritonavir (a medicine used to treat HIV infections)
Mixing zopiclone with herbal remedies and supplements
Do not take any herbal remedies that make you feel sleepy while taking zopiclone.
They can increase the drowsy-making (sedating) effects of your medicine.
For safety, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.
9. Common questions
How does zopiclone work?
How long will it take to work?
Will I sleepwalk with zopiclone?
How long will I take it for?
Can I get addicted to zopiclone?
How do I come off zopiclone and will I get withdrawal symptoms?
Can I drive or ride a bike?
Will it affect my fertility?
Will it affect my contraception?
Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?
Can I drink alcohol with it?
How long will it stay in my system?
Will recreational drugs affect it?
Can lifestyle changes help with insomnia?
Page last reviewed: 30/01/2019
Next review due: 30/01/2022