older man with heartburn, acid reflux or indigestion

Q. I have been taking Ambien for about six months. It really helps me get a decent night’s sleep but now I have heartburn.

Can Ambien cause reflux? I hate to take Nexium to counteract indigestion that might be caused by Ambien.

A. Ambien (zolpidem) can cause indigestion or reflux. Here is another reader’s experience:

“Ambien gave me a great night’s sleep after years of wakefulness. The cost was disabling digestive problems: bloating, pain and acid reflux.

“After a year of pain, more than $20,000 in uncomfortable testing and drugs for reflux, I took myself off Ambien. Two doctors had insisted that my digestive woes were not related to Ambien but after three nights of sleeplessness, the digestive problems went away.”

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  1. GITI

    My mom is 55 years old and she developed acute gastric pain after a mothers day brunch. When it did not improve after two weeks of over the counter antacids we took her to a GI specialist who did EGD/Colonoscopy which revealed gastric/duodenitis and H. Pylori. She finished two course of antibiotics with PPI but to minimal relief. We sought another GI who did more testing ie: CT scan, ultrasound, HIDA scan, MRI/A and swallow studies which were all negative. In the meantime her indigestion was worsening and she had lost 15 lbs because all foods irritated her stomach. She was on maximum doses of dexilant and carafate but NO relief. It has been 5 months and drs still have not been able to figure out what is causing her horrible abdominal pain and she has lost 20 lbs. She does have moderate anxiety and has been taking Lexapro and ambien for many years. I suggested for her to stop the ambien and see if her symptoms improve but it is very difficult for her to stop it. She has significantly modified her diet but she still has horrible pain where she stays in bed due to epigastric pain.

  2. John

    I am 61 with no prior history of gastritis or stomach problems, then suddenly developed acid reflux and severe stomach pain that, in retrospect, coincided with taking generic Ambien (Zolpidem) daily over about four months as prescribed by a sleep specialist.

    Initially, none of my doctors identified Ambien as a prospective culprit; I went through an EGD, colonoscopy, CT scan and saw two GI specialists. (The EGD confirmed gastritis/duodenitis/esophegitis.) I was placed on heavy regimens of omeprazole (antacid) and carafate (protects stomach lining) that have given me zero relief. My current GI doctor said the next step would be “more exotic testing” and scheduled me for yet another appointment. Finally, during a monitoring checkup just days ago, my general practitioner suggested stopping the Ambien after he connected it to the timing of my symptoms.

    To me, what seems telltale is being on maximum doses of omeprazole and carafate to no effect, all the while still on Ambien. My GP told me it is rare for someone my age with no prior history of stomach problems to suddenly manifest them with such severity. I suspect the Ambien has caused my gastritis/acid reflux and stopped taking it two nights ago. I am hopeful this solves the problem I was feeling increasingly hopeless about.

    I’ve always eaten right and exercised. I like an occasional beer, haven’t had a drop of alcohol in four months. I also like coffee but trying one cup during that span caused severe stomach pain. For those concerned about losing sleep upon quitting Ambien, I recommend vigorous exercise. I went on a one-hour power walk yesterday that certainly seemed to help.

  3. Rob

    Ambien has help me sleep at night but the nausea that has developed has scared the heck out of me thinking that I was coming down with a tumor or something. I am now tapering it and still having the nausea. My doctor has me tapering it slowly so it will take 6 weeks to come off of it. I was only taking it for a little more than a month. Is it possible to taper it more rapidly?

  4. Richard

    I had a similar experience. Ambien caused me all kinds of stomach problems and bad reflux. The reason that I didn’t figure it out sooner was because I did not get the symptoms at the beginning. It seemed to be a cumulative effect. I wasn’t taking the Ambien every day either. I was only taking it a couple of times a week. In addition, when I stopped taking it for a week, I did not get better. The reason was because my stomach lining had become so inflamed from the Ambien, that it needed more time to heal. The reason I know my stomach lining was inflamed was because I had an endoscopy and the doctors told me that my stomach lining was inflamed. To make a long story short, I decided I would lay off the Ambien for a month. After a month, my stomach was totally healed. About a year later, I took an Ambien again. I didn’t have any symptoms at first. But when I took it two days in a row, the symptoms came back. I immediately discontinued the Ambien and after a few days, the symptoms were gone.

    Ambien does not affect everyone the same way. There are some people that take it who don’t get stomach problems. I’m not sure why it gives certain people (such as myself) stomach problems. My stomach is normally very good. My stomach is not particularly sensitive. I will usually get a nose or throat infection once a year or so. When I do, I go on antibiotics. I handle the antibiotics fine. They don’t bother my stomach at all. Yet many of my friends get upset stomachs from those same antibiotics. So everyone is different. Anyway, if you do suspect that Ambien may be causing your stomach problems, you need to lay off it for at least a month. It may take your stomach that long to heal. That was the case with me.

  5. sophia

    I have terrible chest pains. I also take Edluar. I find that the Edluar actually relieves the chest pain. I have been checked by a cardiologist. Thousands of dollars. I have had an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. I have GERD and I take Dexilant every day. I take Edluar for insomnia. I know it’s not in my head. I can put the Edluar under my tongue and it actually relieves the chest pain. However, I do believe the chest pain is worse when the Edluar wears off. I feel line I’m in a vicious cycle because stopping the Edluar did not stop the chest pain. HELP. My physician does not seam to believe in my pain.

    • Ellen
      Rochester, NY

      My husband has had insomnia and poor sleep for a long time-years. My son suggested he take Ambian so he got a prescription for it. He did not take it all the time but did for a at least a couple weeks. Then he started not feeling well. I thought it was due to dental work which was also bothering him and taking longer to heal than it should normally have. Still after over two months he is still bothered by it. However, he has a metallic taste in his mouth and nausea and he is starting to thinkg after reading several places about the effects of Amian to taper according to his doctor’s plan.. He has an appointment to make sure nothing else is wrong with him but it has been concerning not knowing why he has felt so sick. We shall soon find out but he is thinking it is the Ambian and hopes it is nothing else. From all the testamonies I have read hear and other sites, I have to wonder why Ambien was ever approved by the FDA to begin with. It seems it is a very secretly addicting drug that should never have been on the market. I want my son to stop taking it. He says he only takes it once a week. Still doesn’t mean he isn’t addicted.

  6. Jessica

    I am in my early 30’s and have been taking Ambient CR (Zolpidem generic) for several years. My acid reflux is so bad that I thought I had an ulcer which I no longer believe is the case after reading this article and all of your helpful comments. Now I believe it is the ambien causing my stomach and acid reflux symptoms, but because my insomnia issues are so severe (I have been diagnosed with PTSD and sleeping is a terrifying and uncomfortable issue in my life), I am concerned about quitting ambien. Is there anyone who has continued to take it but been able to control the indigestion issues?

  7. mary

    I am so happy finding this forum, and a specially the posts about Ambien (Zolpidem). Was prescribed 10mg dose Zolpidem about 3 years ago. I began having chronic pain issues. I wasn’t able to get a good night sleep and wanted to keep Vicodin to a minimum, so I opted for this sleep aid.

    Knowing that I’m pretty sensitive to medication, I have cut the 10mg pills into 1/4s, so I have been taking actually 2.5mg for the past 3 years regularly. It always worked and did not have to increase the dose.

    It felt wonderful to get a good night’s sleep again, and I felt absolutely no side effects … until about 5 months ago. It started with acid reflux. Never in my life (69 years) have I ever had acid reflux and don’t even know what heartburn feels like. It happened about 3 or 4 times in a month. Then I started to get a bloated stomach with lots of belching, even with an empty stomach right after I woke up, and intestinal problems followed. I never had any stomach problems in my life either. I try to stick to good nutrition, but obviously my first thought was that I was eating something that did not agree with me. Or maybe I got some bacteria or virus.

    Independently from this, during the past month I decided to try to get back to natural sleeping. I hate medications, and I only try them when I tried everything else and have no other choice.

    Checked on line to see how I could withdraw from Zolpidem. I figured since the dose was so small, I would have no problems not taking it. I took my last dose 5 days ago, and started to have major frontal headaches that would not quit along with all the digestive problems escalating.
    Today I woke up with the usual headache and came back to the computer to do some more research on the subject.

    Then I found this awesome source! It saved my sanity for sure.
    With my head still throbbing from the headache, I decided to cut the 10mg pill into 1/8s. It wasn’t an easy task :) . So now this is actually a 1.25mg dose.

    After about 10 min taking this minuscule amount, my headache disappeared.
    I’m hoping the stomach problems will follow in time.

    So now I’m realizing, that my system wasn’t ready to stop at 2.50 mg yet.
    And from the way I feel now with the 1.25 mg dose–I’m quite sleepy–tells me, that I may even have to cut the 1/8th piece in half, and keep with that for a little while until I completely come off of it.

    I hope someone will find my story helpful to deal with this extremely strong medication. I know I will never touch it again once I’m off of it. I don’t ever like to end up with more problems than I started out with :)

    Best wishes to all.

  8. Ian

    I’ve been taking Ambien for about 3 years. After reading through many of the recent comments, I am concerned that many people are making a direct association that Ambien “causes” the digestive issues. This may be the case for some, but another possibility is that the Ambien is aggravating an underlying issue such as a peptic ulcer or GERD. I’d think a good indicator that this is happening would be having some relatively mild digestive issues before starting Ambien e.g. occasional – diarrhea, sour stomach, stomach ache, acid reflux, excessive gas and/or belching, etc). If there is an underlying condition, like an ulcer, then maybe Ambien is aggravating it. Treat the underlying issue (have an endoscopy for diagnosis) and you may not have to choose between sleep or stomach pain.

  9. Fran
    New York

    I’m so glad I found this site. Have been on generic ambien 10 mg. for 1 week, have abdominal pain so bad thought of going to ER. Stopping taking this today and see if pain subsides. Only new medication I have been taking. I would rather have insomnia!

  10. Anthony
    south florida

    I have such pains in my stomach. I been taking Ambien for 5 years to help me get to sleep. Since then, I have been in the hospital 4 times. They say I have Gas Reflux Gerd. I’ve been taking the medication for 3 months, but it’s not helping. The doctor wants to take more tests in a month, its crazy. After reading what others are experiencing, I am stopping tonight. I tried everything. Please comment- help…

    • Fi

      2 years of chronic pain and bloating and have stopped this drug and BINGO.. stomach is back to normal! I am so tired of Dr’s not doing their job! I have asked over and over if there is lactose in the drug and all have said NO! I am lactose Intolerant (as most humans are because we lack the cow enzyme lactase). Maybe this drug is high in Lactose and could be why it causes such gut issues. Nonetheless, I have been seeking help for years for debilitating gut issues and all the Dr’s have assured me it was NOT this drug. All I can say is do your own trials and keep sharing your experiences because it might just help someone who is looking for answers.

  11. RM

    After taking ambien 12.5 MG for 20 days I started having stomach cramps, bloating, acid reflux, heartburn and nervous feeling. Finally after 4 days of not taking it, I’m feeling better. The doctor that prescribed it didn’t agree with what I said about this side effects.

    • Marilyn
      New york

      Same symptoms, my Dr. Said no but had nervous stomach, digestive issues, almost went to emergency room–stopped & so did most of the issues! Tried it a couple of times, went off tried to use again with same reaction. Must not be a common reaction & I have no other reactions to drugs. Hope this helps someone else!

  12. Jamie

    I too started having issues after an injury to my stomach in May, I was certain there wasn’t any reason why one day I could take Ambien no issues and the next I was suffering such bad abdominal pain I couldn’t walk, sit or eat hardly anything.
    I spent countless hours in the ER and having all the GI tests done to find that my pyloric valve had swollen up to about the size of a que ball, the only relief I have had was taking myself off the Ambien, I have tested this several times, each time I take one, the next day I am in so much pain I can hardly stand it. Doctors didn’t think this was related, but this is the 3rd time I have tested this.

  13. jean

    I am having horrific pains in my gut. I take 5 mg of zolpidem daily. You think this is my problem? I am desperate. I had an endoscope yesterday and no problems with my stomach showed up.
    y mm

    • CAROLE
      United States

      I started to have burning , reflux, a whole gamut of stomach issues after one month on ambien.. clearly there is a high enough percentage of the population that experiences significant gastro problems that drs should make the connection.. I would rather have restless sleep than be in pain all day… great sleep aid for those who don’t experience this side effect..but I’m steering clear of it

  14. CM

    Lucky I found this site as well. Have taken Ambien for a number of years. Usually 1/2 a 5mg. Last year I got switched to Zolpidem and got the ordered filled with 10mg tabs. I usually bite half of one a few nights a week. In the past three months I have developed intolerable GI problems and abdominal pain. Having found these posts I have gone pretty much cold turkey getting off the Zolpidem… GI and Abdominal issues are clearly subsiding. My doc had no idea what was going on. Since I only take Ambien you would think he would have known of this correlation and made some suggestions. I see a GI doc in 2 weeks – we’ll see if he makes the connection.

    • Anita
      New Jersey

      I had the same problems with Zolpidem. I had never taken them regularly until recently. This past week I had one of the worst stomach aches ever; it actually doubled me over. I had been monitoring my food intake because I suspected that it was something I was eating. It’s the Zolpidem. I am grateful for folks who have shared similar incidents. I thought I was going crazy.

  15. Eric

    Hi all. I have taken ambien 10mg for about 6 weeks. The first 4 weeks It made me a good night sleep . The past 2 weeks I have had stomach problem. I started to get acid reflux and upper stomach pain. I’m glad I found this blog. I’d rather have sleepless night than getting stomach problem. I’m going to stop using it tonight. I’ll see what happens the next few days.

  16. BLP

    Well it’s been awhile but the Ambien was certainly the cause of my stomach issues. Got off of it and within days was back to normal……coincidentally melatonin has the same effect, just slightly milder.

  17. Paula

    Wow – glad I found this. I took a few months off from Ambien because the 60 minutes report regarding its effects on women freaked me out. Instead, I was taking half a Xanax (one milligram). It did the job, but as a benzo, it made me feel drowsy in the mornings – besides that, I didn’t experience other negative side effects with Xanax. The only issue was tolerance/dependence (needing to bump-up the dosage), so I got my script filled for Ambien to get the Xanax out of my system/get rid of the dependence tolerance issues. (I’ve tried klonopin and Ativan – neither of those sat well with me. Restoril gave me horrific nightmares.)
    Last night I took a 5mg pill of Ambien. This morning, at first, I was pleasantly surprised to have woken up naturally/on my own after approximately 7 hours, completely alert. With Xanax, I would need to set 2 alarms (one next to the coffee maker) and also had to drink 2 cups of coffee to really wake up. As someone mentioned on this thread, though, exactly 12 hours after having taken it (late this morning), I started to feel really sick to my stomach and looked in the mirror to find I was really pale. I felt debilitated – almost like a full-on migraine attack or effects of food poisoning were starting up (they take me out an entire day).
    I took some pepto (all I have bc I normally don’t get stomach problems) and now I am lying in bed doing work on my laptop. I normally have a lot of energy but I feel really worn-out. In hindsight, there have been a few times in the past when I thought I had a stomach bug or food poisoning, but I’m realizing the culprit was probably Ambien. Last night, I did not eat or drink anything unusual – the only change was having taken Ambien.
    So, I’m going to stop using it. I Will try other things this weekend (homeopathic or perhaps even Benadryl). I’ll probably go back on Xanax next week as it seems to be the only other med that works as a sleep aid for me.
    I know that Lunesta came out with a generic last month, which I will look into – usually, it takes awhile for generics to become available at my HMO’s pharmacy where I can get them affordable. I will also look into getting the generic at Costco/see if they have it b/c it’s a little cheaper than other pharmacies if my HMO doesn’t have it yet.

  18. Tony

    Hi all. I cannot believe I found this blog. Mysteriously I started to get stomach pain about 4 weeks ago after being on ambien for about 6 weeks. Then two weeks ago I started to get acid reflux. I’m 62 and I have had acid reflux or Gerd or heartburn my whole life. Although I did have several ulcers but that was due to h-pylori or too much ibprophen.
    So, last night by chance I reduced my dose of ambient from 5 to 2 mg, then this morning I found this blog. Even reducing 2 mg has made a difference in the stomach pain. But I still have some acid reflux. Ok. I am off this stuff for good. And I hope my stomach muscle that keeps the acid in my stomach will no longer be relaxed from ambien per a few comments above.
    Amazing. I cannot believe all the confirming testimonies. Our doctors lives in their own world of how they were trained. So sad that so many suffer because of the formal structure of medical education.

  19. JES

    I have read many of these comments connecting Ambien with acid reflux and I am surprised and relieved! Surprised that all my misery with GI problems could be attributed to Ambien. Relieved because I will just go off it and see what happens. I have had such bad stomach pain, reflux and GI issues that I have landed in the hospital ER. I only take 2.5 mg of Ambien so I’m surprised that this small dose is wreaking havoc with my stomach but it very well could. I also take Norvasc, a calcium channel blocker for blood pressure and someone mentioned maybe there is a correlation there with reflux disease.
    I find it funny (not really) that we take one medication for something and need to take another to take care of the side effects from the first.
    Big Pharma is killing us.

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