Restoril and Ambien – A Guide to Differentiate the two Sedatives

Last Updated: June 10, 2020

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

What Restoril And Ambien Are

Both Restoril and Ambien are medications prescribed to patients who suffer from various types of sleep disorders such as insomnia. These two substances function in a way where they contribute to the hormonal balance in one’s brain. They do this to regulate the user’s sleep. More precisely, Restoril and Ambien slow down the central nervous system (CNS). As a result, they will cause drowsiness which helps patients fall asleep.
sleeping woman
Restoril is the generic name for Temazepam, which is an intermediate-acting 3-hydroxy hypnotic belonging to the benzodiazepine class of psychoactive drugs. Temazepam was first synthesized in the year of 1964. However, it wasn’t until the late 1980s that it became a widely prescribed hypnotic medicine that can treat insomnia.
Ambien, which is the brand name for Zolpidem. The medicine came into use a bit later. It gained mainstream popularity in the 1990s because it proved to be an efficient medicine to treat insomnia.

Restoril And Ambien Similarities and Differences

Both Restoril and Ambien are potent hypnotics, or sedatives used to treat sleep disorders. In addition, the DEA labeled the drugs as Schedule IV Controlled substances. One minor difference between the two is that Ambien comes in oral tablets, sublingual tablets, and oral spray. Meanwhile, Restoril is only available in oral capsules.

Furthermore, Ambien is a short-acting, non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic. It comes in 5mg and 10mg dosages. Whereas, Restoril is an intermediate-acting, Benzodiazepine receptor agonist. It comes in 7.5 mg, 15 mg, 22.5 mg, 30 mg dosages. Ambien’s half-life is about three hours. On the other hand, Restoril’s is eight hours. The time to maximum drug effect in Ambien’s case is about 30 minutes to an hour, while in Restoril’s case, it is about 2 to 3 hours. And last but not least, Restoril has a slow onset of action. As a result, it makes the drug an unsatisfactory choice for cases of insomnia.

What are Ambien Side Effects?

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleepwalking
  • Amnesia

What are Restoril Side Effects?

  • Hemodynamic side effects
  • Orthostatic hypotension3
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Daytime impairment
  • Hangover

Restoril and Ambien Warnings

Like most hypnotics, both of these drugs come with warnings. Users have reported Ambien to only cause severe anaphylactic reactions. Meanwhile, one should not give Restoril to severely depressed patients or those with signs of latent depression. However, there might be absolutely no other solution. Then, these patients should be closely monitored by a medical professional.
Furthermore, pregnant women should avoid using Restoril as it can cause teratogenic effects on a fetus. Also, Restoril is more likely to cause a hangover because it gets into the blood stream by gastrointestinal absorption.
Important note: Immediately call 9-1-1 if someone is experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Weak or shallow breathing
  • Fast heartbeats
  • Pounding headaches

Page Sources

  1. Juha Puustinen, Ritva Lähteenmäki, Janne Nurminen, et al. Long-term persistence of withdrawal of temazepam, zopiclone, and zolpidem in older adults: a 3-year follow-up study. BMC Geriatrics, 2018.
  2. T Carnwath. Temazepam tablets as drugs of misuse. BMJ. 1993 Aug 7; 307(6900): 385–386.
  3. Paul P. Doghramji. Insomnia: Zolpidem Extended-Release for the Treatment of Sleep Induction and Sleep Maintenance Symptoms. MedGenMed. 2007; 9(1): 11.

Published on: May 5th, 2017

Updated on: June 10th, 2020

About Author

Roger Weiss, MD

Dr. Roger Weiss is a practicing mental health specialist at the hospital. Dr. Weiss combines his clinical practice and medical writing career since 2009. Apart from these activities, Dr. Weiss also delivers lectures for youth, former addicts, and everyone interested in topics such as substance abuse and treatment.


Leave a comment

  • Mayra E. Gonzalez
    It Is true that ambien cause some brain damage that may cause Alzheimers?
  • Allen Russell
    I had to give up Ambien because of sleep driving, though it was a wonderful drug that put me to sleep within 20 minutes. I did, however, require a supplement of a different Ambien dosage to KEEP me to sleep. I’m now sleeping fine through the nights with no supplements and hopefully with NO SLEEP DRIVING with Terazepam.