What Is Zolpidem Used For? How Does Ambien Work?

Last Updated: June 30, 2020

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Zolpidem uses are well studied in numerous research. In most cases, zolpidem is used for treating insomnia and sleep-related disorders. Ambien mechanism of action provides a sedative effect influencing the central nervous system. The information in this article is dedicated to highlighting the most common indications for Ambien use, the way how the drug works, and its effect duration.

What Is Zolpidem Used For?

Ambien For Sleep

Zolpidem is used for short-term treatment of insomnia, especially when a person faces difficulties falling asleep and the duration of a sleep session. The medication also improves sleep quality in patients with chronic insomnia, reduces the number of awakenings, and can act as a minor muscle relaxant. Ambien for insomnia showed the effectiveness in clinical trials during 4-5 weeks of usage.

Does Ambien Help With Anxiety?

In some cases, Ambien may help with anxiety-related insomnia, but in most cases, it worsens the condition. Acting like benzodiazepines, Ambien uses may cause dependence and side effects. Patients with a generalized anxiety disorder may consider using such medicines for a short period of time (maximum 4 weeks), starting with the lowest dosage. If there are no positive results in the treatment, zolpidem should be changed with antidepressants. Ambien and Adderall should not be used together because they provide the opposite effects: the first one causes sedative effects, and the second acts as a stimulant.

Can One Beat Jet Lag By Using Ambien?

Nowadays, a lot of people experience jet lags as a result of constant or frequent flights. The most common symptoms include difficulties with falling asleep, insomnia, and early waking. Zolpidem tartrate uses sometimes include a prescription for people suffering from sleeping disorders caused by jet lags.

According to the research made to compare the effectiveness and tolerability of Ambien and melatonin, an alternative to Ambien for sleep, and their combination to ease the symptoms of jet lag. The results among 137 volunteers showed higher effectiveness of zolpidem use, especially during the night flight, and was rated as the most effective drug. At the same time, zolpidem alone and in combination with melatonin showed less tolerability than melatonin alone, providing adverse reactions such as nausea, vomiting, amnesia, and somnambulism.

Another study among 138 adult individuals showed also positive results in Ambien use treatment for jet lag symptoms compared to placebo. Zolpidem use improved and prolonged sleeping sessions, reducing the number of awakenings. There were no serious side effects, except for headaches that were noticed in both groups.

Is Ambien Safe For Long Term Use?

Taking Ambien for years may be fraught with a long withdrawal period and a potential to cause strong dependence. That is why it is not recommended to make a prescription for long term Ambien use.

Research is done to evaluate the efficiency of two different treatment programs: zolpidem extended-release 12.5 mg and placebo. The medications were given 3 to 7 nights per week for 6 months of treatment to patients suffering from chronic primary insomnia. At the end of the studying period, the results showed positive tolerance and the effectiveness of improving sleep onset and duration after the 6 months without reviving insomnia after the drug discontinuation. However, a lot of geriatric patients suffer from withdrawal symptoms after stopping Ambien after long term use and being benzodiazepine agonist (BZDA) free, and after 3 years from the beginning of withdrawal, the number of BZDA-free patients decreases.

Warning And Precautions

Before prescribing any sedative-hypnotic medication, including zolpidem drug class, for insomnia treatment, the patient should be diagnosed for the presence of other physical and/or psychiatric disorders. If there are no positive changes after 7-10 days of treatment, that might signify the existence of other illnesses.

Other Ambien contraindications may vary depending on the age, gender, and anamnesis of the patient. In addition, in order to prevent possible side effects, zolpidem should be taken right before bedtime due to the rapid onset.

Zolpidem Mechanism Of Action

How Does Ambien Work?

Zolpidem is a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic agent that influences the GABAa receptor chloride channel in the brain by increasing GABA inhibitory effects and providing sedation. The pharmacology and mechanism of action of zolpidem help faster fall asleep, maintain deep and prolonged sleeping session without disturbances or with less number of awakenings. In general, Ambien MOA improves the quality of sleep in patients with chronic insomnia.

How Long Does Ambien Take To Start Working?

Ambien onset of action is rapid because the drug is quickly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. Typically, the effect could be felt 30 minutes after the administration, and the peak is reached in 1,5-2 hours. Some users report falling asleep in 15-20 minutes after the administration. To reach the proper effect of zolpidem MOA, one should have at least 7-8 hours for sleeping remaining all the time in the bed.

How Long Does Ambien Last?

Ambien stopped working when the person is fully awakened. Also, the duration of the drug effect depends on the dose, presence of other medications, and may vary from night-to-night. On average, the zolpidem effect lasts for 8 hours.

Why Does Ambien Not Work Sometimes?

The medicine should not be taken shortly after the meal, because it decreases the effect of the drug. The best option is to take it on an empty stomach. Other medications can also cancel or reduce zolpidem effects. If Ambien is not working anymore, the patient should not change the dosage without consulting with the doctor. In addition, the medicine should be taken only in the way as prescribed, not for unapproved recreational purposes or to get high. If one takes the medication and stays awake instead of going sleep, Ambien gives one euphoria.

What To Do In Case Of Misuse

Although the main purpose of Ambien use refers to sleeping disorders, the drug is also sometimes used for treating anxiety-related disorders and the consequences of jet lag. Zolpidem mechanism of action is rapid, so one should take the medicine right before bedtime and avoid using it for unapproved purposes. In case of any adverse effects, withdrawal symptoms, or developing dependence, one needs to visit a physician or address to the rehabilitation centers. The professional help in such centers includes Ambien overdose treatment, addiction treatment, managing co-occurring diseases, and post-recovery support.

Page Sources

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Published on: June 30th, 2020

Updated on: June 30th, 2020

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.


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