The People's Perspective on Medicine

How Can You Get to Sleep Without Zolpidem?

Can you learn how to sleep without zolpidem? There are many nondrug approaches, but you may need to taper the dose of zolpidem first.

Americans tend to be sleep deprived, and the problem may be getting worse. Watching the evening news could be enough to make a person anxious, and anxiety frequently leads to insomnia. No wonder so many people rely on sleeping pills such as zolpidem or eszopiclone. But taking pills every night is not ideal. Can you manage to sleep without zolpidem?

Learning How to Go to Sleep Without Zolpidem:

Q. I have been taking zolpidem for insomnia for ten years. When I was laid off, I needed to take more and more to get to sleep.

Without insurance, I can no longer afford this drug. I have found out I can’t go cold turkey, though. Heart palpitations kept me awake all night! I would appreciate your advice on how I can get off zolpidem.

Does Zolpidem Cause Dependence?

A. There is considerable controversy surrounding the question of zolpidem (Ambien) dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Researchers have reported no rebound insomnia, even after a year of nightly use (Roehrs et al, Journal of Psychopharmacology, Aug., 2012).

The official prescribing information warns, though, that

“There have been reports of withdrawal signs and symptoms following the rapid dose decrease or abrupt discontinuation of zolpidem.”

Gradually tapering the dose with your doctor’s assistance may reduce symptoms. Our Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep should help you with this project. It also has information on many nondrug options that can help with insomnia. This is an online resource, sold at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Tips for Getting to Sleep Without Zolpidem:

Establishing a bedtime routine can be very helpful, especially if it involves turning off the computer and other screens half an hour to an hour before bedtime. A relaxing activity, whether it is meditating or taking a bath, can help.

During the day, many people need to pay attention to caffeine consumption. That includes coffee and tea, of course, but it can also include soft drinks and medications that contain caffeine, such as Anacin or Excedrin. Consuming caffeine after lunchtime can disrupt sleep if you are sensitive.

In some cases, a small bedtime snack like a bowl of cereal can be helpful. You want to avoid anything heavy or that might cause indigestion, though.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
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Tips for beating insomnia: foods to avoid, foods that help, herbal remedies, sleeping pills. Newly revised (November 2016), our online guide (too long to print) includes drugs that may cause insomnia. Learn about the latest medication, Belsomra.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
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I have read an article about Sea-Bands, I don’t know if they work but I would like to try them. If someone has tried them please send me your results and let me know where I can buy them.

Do you know anything about Belsomra. Is it safe? What the side effects. I’ve tried everything and nothing works; Ativan and melatonin do nothing. I sleep for 2 hours and then have to take more Ativan and melatonin. Help!

Shirley D- I have been having trouble sleeping since Feb 2017. I take zoloft in the morning and ativan at night. I tried several times to sleep without it to no avail. There are night when I sleep 3 or 4 hours or not at all. I went to a therapist he told me about breathing exercises. I need some ideas as how to get off these medications and get back to normal sleeping.

I had been on Zolpidem for over 4 years. I suddenly developed cramps every day in late afternoon. This went on for months and my doctor sent me to John s-Hopkins for an endoscopy and colonoscopy after the blood work reflected all was well on that side. The test came back negative. So, great health but why was I getting these cramps? After another 6 months I got your email and a woman complained of the same problem and had the same tests. She researched al her meds and she found that Zolpidem could be the criminal. She stopped it cold turkey and after 2 days found relief. I did the same and yes, the cramps went away. It took 5 days to get a decent nights sleep but was well worth it. I have been off Zolpidem and thank you for your medical news.

With Fibromyalgia, I have had insomnia for over 20 years. A sleep study showed I was getting just 7 minutes of sleep/night. I took Zolpidem for about 5 years. Then I became concerned about the longterm usage. I weaned myself off of it over a month and a half.

Yes, there were some bad dreams, and obviously less sleep, but also began Luna Natural Sleep Aid, along with Magnesium for the restless legs (also caused by the Fibromyalgia).

Added two Tylenol PM to the regimen. This works most nights for me.
I don’t take naps during the day. I keep active to wear my body out for sleep.

I am 77 years old, and am retired, but am subject to a great deal of stress. I recently moved to Missouri from New York, and am in the process of having a house built. Unfortunately there are some extremely stressful conditions related to the new house [which I am currently occupying] and these will need negotiations with the builder.

This preamble is to set the stage for my insomnia. I have a very difficult time falling asleep, and, if I take one of the various sleep aids, including Belsomra, they usually give me only about four hours of sleep. Belsomra, by the way, is not on my drug plans formulary, and consequently I had to have my primary care giver advocate for it. I take it occasionally, as I take anything else occasionally, and I find that if I vary the drugs I get better results, but none of them is effective for more than about four hours.

So, sometimes I get up and work on my computer or do some other task, and eventually am tired enough to go back to bed and sleep for a few more hours. There is a German product, “Nervenruh” which is probably one of the most effective OTC remedies, but is not available in this country, that I have been able to find.

As to getting a good nights sleep, may I add that pink noise is helping me? I read an article in something, maybe Time, and decided to try it. So far (about three weeks) it is helping me . Why, I don’t know, because I always sleep with the T V on, rather, I leave it on all night. Now I do sleep with pink noise! It might help someone else! Good luck!

I take clonazepam to control my ADHD with the side effect of improving my sleep (except when I go off it on weekends to prevent dependence.) I improved my sleep by taking 1 mg melatonin sublingually about 1-1/2 hours before bed. While my sleep isn’t perfect nor enough, the melatonin did help significantly. I only use 1 mg because higher amounts are unnecessary and can cause side effects.

I’ve been taking ambien for 15 years. I had to do something because of joint and muscle pain when sleeping. Pain killers was not a good idea for nightly sleep and didn’t seem to help me push past pain. I do get sleep on ambien, even if it is considered fake sleep. I have a better quality of life then before Ambien.

I am still trying and searching for a cure for the joints and muscle pain. I am 58 and in good shape. I walk and swim and do stretching exercises. I have tried sleepy time and other over the counter things, which al help. I agree you have to do all the things that promote sleep but pain is pain and you have to get sleep. I am trying some new things now and will report back if I get sleep.

I too used to take ambien because while I could always fall asleep, I could not stay asleep. I decided that I definitely had to get off of ambien due to the recent information out regarding it and it’s connection to Alzheimer’s. I only took 5 mg but cut my pills in half and gradually decreased my dosage while taking 3 mg of melatonin.

I also make my own kefir and drink a small glass of it before bed. But one of the most important things I take which I feel really helps is sustained release magnesium. I take 2 tablets about 1/2 hour before bed. I have to say I also exercise almost every day – even if just to walk, all of these and a bit of reading (not on a tablet tho’) before bed works very well for me.

I have had success with a combination of (2) 3mg Melatonin and Lavender oil on the soles of my feet immed’ly before getting into bed, then reading to sleep, usually in 10-15 mins. I wake rested, even if I only get 5-6 hrs sleep, unlike the dopey, sad, now-I-need-to-drag-myself-through-another-day feeling I’d be submerged in, mornings after the insomnia drugs.

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