1. About zolpidem
Zolpidem is a sleeping pill.
It's used to treat insomnia (when you might have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep). It helps you fall asleep more quickly and makes you less likely to wake up during the night.
Zolpidem comes as tablets. It's only available on prescription.
2. Key facts
- Zolpidem takes around 1 hour to work.
- You'll usually take it for just a few weeks (up to 4 weeks).
- Common side effects are a metallic taste in your mouth or a dry mouth, and feeling sleepy in the daytime.
- Do not drink alcohol or caffeine while you're on zolpidem.
- Zolpidem is also called by the brand name Stilnoct.
3. Who can and can't take zolpidem
Zolpidem can be taken by most adults aged 18 and over.
It's not suitable for some people. To make sure zolpidem is safe for you, tell a doctor if you:
- have had an allergic reaction to zolpidem 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 periods while sleeping)
- have ever had mental health problems
- have ever had issues with alcohol or drugs
- are trying to get pregnant, already pregnant, or breastfeeding
4. How and when to take it
Zolpidem tablets come in 2 different strengths – 5mg and 10mg.
The usual dose is one 10mg tablet, taken 1 hour before you go to bed. If you're over 65 years old, or if you have kidney or liver problems, the doctor may start you on a lower dose of 5mg.
Swallow the tablet whole with a drink of water. Do not crush or chew it. You can take zolpidem with or without food.
It's important to follow the doctor’s advice when taking this medicine. They may ask you to take a tablet just 2 or 3 nights a week, instead of every night.
Do not take more than your prescribed dose.
What if I forget to take it?
If you forget to take your zolpidem, leave out the missed dose. Start again the next night and take your zolpidem at the usual time.
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 need to go to hospital, take the zolpidem 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
Like all medicines, zolpidem can cause side effects in some people, although not everyone gets them.
Common side effects
A common side effect is a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth or a dry mouth. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or do not go away.
Using a mouthwash before bedtime may help. Choose one that's good for a dry mouth, as some can make a dry mouth worse. You can also try taking sips of water and keep some water by your bed at night.
Serious side effects
Some people can get serious side effects with zolpidem. Stop taking zolpidem and call a doctor as soon as possible if you:
- develop memory loss (amnesia)
- see or hear things that are not real (hallucinations)
- fall over – particularly if you are over the age of 65
- think things that are not 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 zolpidem.
These are not all the side effects of zolpidem. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.
You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.
6. Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Do not take zolpidem if you're pregnant, as it may harm your baby. There's some evidence that taking zolpidem can increase the risk of your baby coming early (before 37 weeks) and having a lower birthweight.
Taking zolpidem right up until you go into labour may increase your baby's chances of having withdrawal symptoms as soon as they're born.
For more information about how zolpidem can affect you and your baby during pregnancy, read this leaflet on the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS) website.
Zolpidem and breastfeeding
If a doctor or health visitor says that your baby is healthy, it's OK to take zolpidem while breastfeeding. Zolpidem passes into breast milk in very small amounts.
However, it's best to try some practical steps to help you sleep first. The side effects of taking zolpidem could make you feel too tired to breastfeed and look after your baby.
Do not share a bed with your baby if you're taking zolpidem.
If you notice that your baby is not feeding as well as usual, or seems unusually sleepy, or if you have any other concerns about your baby, talk to a health visitor or doctor as soon as possible.
7. Cautions with other medicines
Some medicines and zolpidem can interfere with each other and increase your chance of having side effects. Certain medicines may increase the drowsy (sedating) effects of zolpidem.
Speak to a doctor or a pharmacist before starting on zolpidem if you take any of the following:
- drowsy antihistamines such as chlorphenamine or promethazine
- medicines to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
- medicines to treat depression
- medicines for epilepsy
- medicines to calm or reduce anxiety
- medicines for sleep problems
- medicines used to treat fungal infections (such as ketoconazole and itraconazole)
- ritonavir (a medicine used to treat HIV infections)
- strong painkillers (such as codeine, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, pethidine or tramadol)
Mixing zolpidem with herbal remedies and supplements
Do not take any herbal remedies that make you feel sleepy while taking zolpidem.
These can increaase the drowsy (sedating) effects of your medicine.
For safety, tell a doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.
8. Common questions
How does zolpidem work?
How long will it take to work?
How will zolpidem make me feel?
Will I sleepwalk with zolpidem?
How long will I take it for?
Can I get addicted to zolpidem?
Is it safe to take for a long time?
What will happen when I stop taking it?
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: 15/11/2019
Next review due: 15/11/2022