Go Ad-Free
logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

Sleeping Pill Linked to Upset Stomach

Who would have guessed that the sleeping pill Ambien was responsible for one woman's upset stomach? It disappeared when she stopped the drug.

Do you know the potential side effects of the medications you take? Sometimes the problems appear quite unrelated to the desired effects of the medicine, and thus may slip under the radar. That seems to be the case for upset stomach caused by the sleeping pill zolpidem (Ambien).

Insomnia and Stomach Pain:

Q. My wife was taking Ambien for insomnia. She was also having stomach pain that her doctor could not diagnose.

Recently she stopped taking the medicine so she could remain alert during a period when our grandchildren were staying here. Two interesting things happened: her upset stomach went away, and she started being able to sleep without the pills.

Ambien and Upset Stomach:

A. Stomachache has been reported as a side effect of Ambien (along with nausea, diarrhea and dyspepsia). Many visitors to our website complain about heartburn and upset stomach as a side effect of this drug.

Doctors don’t always think about a sleeping pill causing digestive difficulties. We’re glad your wife figured this out for herself.

One study hints that people taking zolpidem may be more likely to experience a C. diff infection that can cause unrelenting diarrhea (Strom et al, PLoS One, Jan. 6, 2017).

Digestive Distress from Zolpidem:

Another reader developed similar difficulties, but only after switching to the generic formulation.

Q. I took Ambien CR for insomnia for years with no problems. My insurance company required a switch to generic zolpidem. Within hours of taking it, I developed terrible heartburn and stomach cramping. It was so bad it felt like acid had been poured down my throat.

Over the next week I developed bloating, vomiting and diarrhea. After reading on your website about other people having digestive trouble with zolpidem, I stopped taking it. Within a day I recovered completely. What can I do to get a decent night’s sleep?

Zolpidem Side Effects Go Beyond Upset Stomach:

A. Many visitors to our website have complained about generic Ambien (zolpidem). Even the brand name may be associated with side effects such as heartburn, dizziness, headache, diarrhea and dry mouth. Hallucinations and amnesia have also been reported.

You may be interested in our Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. This online resource contains discussions of several other sleeping pills and many non-drug approaches. It also describes the side effects you might expect from sleeping pills such as zolpidem.

One such sleeping-pill side effect is unsteadiness:

“My 88-year-old husband was prescribed Ambien for insomnia. After the first dose, he fell while getting up to go to the bathroom, gashed his head and had to go to the emergency room for stitches.”

C Morton points out that zolpidem may make driving dangerous, even the next day:

“An FDA alert notes that drug manufacturers lower the dose, because ‘New data show that zolpidem blood levels in some patients may be high enough the morning after use to impair activities that require alertness, including driving.'”

Revised 8/28/17

Rate this article
4.2- 55 ratings
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..
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.