Zolpidem: What It’s For, Side Effects & Dosage

Updated in December 2023

Zolpidem is a medication that is sedative-hynpotic, non-benzodiazepine that is normally prescribed to treat short-term insomnia. 

Treatment with zolpidem should not last for very long, as it can increase the risk for tolerance and dependence if used for long periods. 

This medication should only be used as prescribed by a doctor, who will indicate the dosing and duration of treatment. 

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What it is used for

Zolpidem is indicated for the treatment of short-term insomnia. 

Possible side effects 

The most common side effects that can occur with zolpidem use are agitation, nightmares, drowsiness, headache, dizziness, exacerbated insomnia, retrograde amnesia, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, back pain, lower or upper respiratory infection and fatigue.

In addition, some people reported hallucinations when using zolpidem, as well as sleepwalking, sleep-driving or participating in activities they did not agree to. If you notice this type of behavior, you should discontinue use and inform your prescriber. 

To decrease your risk for side effects, you should only take the dose indicated by the doctor and avoid the use of other substances, like alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines and other hypnotic sedatives, which can cause additional sedation, decrease respiration and lead to coma or death. 

How to take it 

Because this medication is fast-acting and can have an effect in less than 20 minutes, it should be taken immediately before going to bed, or when already in bed. You should only take one dose and indicated by your doctor, and you should not exceed this dosing in the same night.

Generally, the recommended dosage is 1 pill per day for 2 to 5 instances of occasional insomnia, or 1 pill per day for 2 to 3 weeks in instances of transient insomnia. You should not exceed 10mg within 24 hours. 

People over the age of 65 or who have a history of liver failure or require physical assistance should only take half a pill, which is equivalent to about 5mg per day.  

Due to the risk for dependency and tolerance, this medication should not be used for more than 4 weeks. The recommended period of use should be only 2 weeks. 

Contraindications of zolpidem 

Zolpidem should not be used in people who are hypersensitive to the active substance or any component present within this medication formula. 

In addition, it is also contraindicated for people with myasthenia gravis, sleep apnea, depression or with respiratory or liver failure. This medication should not be used in children under the age of 18 or by people with a family history of drug or alcohol abuse. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also refrain from using zolpidem. 

It is important to avoid driving and to avoid doing any activities that require attention when using zolpidem.