The People's Perspective on Medicine

Stopping Zolpidem (Ambien) for Insomnia Can Be Challenging

Have you ever had trouble getting a good night's sleep? Who hasn't? That's why sleeping pills are so popular. But stopping zolpidem can be a challenge.
Sleep insomnia rest wakeful awake

Tens of millions of Americans have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep. Based on comments we have read on this website, we would have to say that a lot of people rely on zolpidem to get to sleep. If they try to sleep without it, they may find that their insomnia returns with a vengeance. Stopping zolpidem may be challenging.

The official prescribing information states:

“Withdrawal Effects: Symptoms may occur with rapid dose reduction or discontinuation.”

“There have been reports of withdrawal signs and symptoms following the rapid dose decrease or abrupt discontinuation of zolpidem. Monitor patients for tolerance, abuse, and dependence.”

A Reader Asks About Stopping Zolpidem:

Q. My doctor wants me to stop taking zolpidem after years on the drug. Without it, I cannot sleep. I am at my wits’ end. What else can I do?

A. The official prescribing information for zolpidem (Ambien) states that this sleeping pill is for “short-term treatment of insomnia.” Stopping zolpidem suddenly after years on the drug could lead to rebound sleeping difficulties. Your physician should help you by prescribing a very gradual decrease in dose.

Not Everyone Experiences Withdrawal:

Fran reports that she had relatively little trouble, but it’s early days for her:

“I have taken 5 mg of zolpidem (generic Ambien) for about 15 years. It has worked beautifully, and I sleep quite well with it.

“I recently ran out before I could get to my doctor for a new prescription. I decided this was the time to stop. I cut my remaining 4 pills so that they were roughly 2.5 mg and took those. I was able to get a good night’s sleep on half my usual dose.

“I had none last night and, while I didn’t sleep well or long, I did not wake up with the tired feeling experienced with the medication. I had good energy today, though there were times I wanted to take a nap.

“At this point, I am off zolpidem and plan to stay off. Other than difficulty sleeping, I haven’t had any discernible withdrawal symptoms.”

Montanna has a different story:

“I have been taking zolpidem for four years. I was prescribed the 10 mg dose. I would stretch out the 30-count dosage to four months by breaking the pill in half. That meant I would only use about five 10 mg pills a month.

“There were times when I would force myself to stop taking zolpidem for up to two weeks. My thought was this would protect me from getting addicted.

“After two years I started getting side effects. At first I didn’t connect the brain fog, belching and fatigue to zolpidem. I continued using the drug, but in 2016 I got serious abdominal pain along with diarrhea.

“The pains have come and gone throughout the past years but now it is continuous. I have been into fitness all my life. I am a self-motivated body builder. I have managed health clubs and nutrition stores. Taking good care of my body has always been a priority. My doctors have been uninterested in helping me with the damn zolpidem.

“After visiting this website, I knew I had found the culprit! I stopped taking the drug that night! For the next eight days I experienced withdrawal symptoms. The fifth day was the worst! I made it through and do believe the drug is out of my system. It has been ten days since I stopped taking Zolpidem. I still have abdominal pain, gas, low energy, low appetite, light fevers, and chills.”

Stopping Zolpidem:

No one should ever stop taking zolpidem suddenly. And no one should ever discontinue any drug without medical supervision. Sadly, neither the drug company nor the FDA provide meaningful guidelines about how to accomplish this challenging task.

Readers have pointed to a British website with detailed instructions about getting off benzodiazepines. There is even some information about zolpidem.

You can learn more about this website and the Ashton Manual in our article about clonazepam withdrawal. Again, this must be a doctor-supervised process.

Other Ways to Deal with Insomnia:

There are many other ways to deal with insomnia, including targeted cognitive behavioral therapy, herbal remedies such as ashwagandha, chamomile, valerian or passionflower, and supplements such as 5-HTP, tryptophan or melatonin. To learn more about these and other nondrug approaches, you may want to read our online resource, Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. You can find it in our Health eGuide section.

Share your own experience with zolpidem in the comment section below.

Rate this article
star-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-empty
4.2- 6 ratings

Today's Newsletter Reading List

    About the Author
    Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
    Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
    $4.99

    Tips for beating insomnia: foods to avoid, foods that help, herbal remedies, sleeping pills. Our online guide includes drugs that may cause insomnia. Learn about the latest medication, Belsomra.

    Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
    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.

    Showing 8 comments
    Comments
    Add your comment

    Try lavender pure oil on you wrist and drop on your pillow, have a drink of chamomile tea and melatonin (good quality not from dollar stores) and you will sleep like a baby. You can get pure cold pressed lavender oil in grocery store for about $6-7 bucks. If available also chamomile pure oil will help also mixed with lavender oil. I get mine from Europe as EU is very strict on natural pure herbs to be used in anything that is for holistic health. My doctor will not give me Ambien so I was on Temazepam 15 mg and is not addictive but for women only in 15 mg for men 30 so used 30 mg to get a good sleep. Not expensive either. Now only lavender/chamomile oil. It helps. I have chronic insomnia and can go on for days with out sleep this oil mixture truly helps me. Try it/

    I take Restyl 2.5mg whenever I cannot sleep. Not everyday. I think it is Xanax.
    It is not sleeping pill but antianxiety and it works.

    I had been on Ambien for at least 15 years and was determined to get off. I weaned myself off by decreasing the dose over many months. When I was down to 1/4 of a tablet I started using the sea-band on my wrists as directed. I went totally off Ambien and have never slept better.

    One must take great care in using Zolpidem. Do not take it prior to setting completely in bed, ready to douse the light. And be sure to give yourself time to sleep long enough to to allow it to wear off.

    I stopped Zolpidem three month’s ago after 10 years of 10 mg daily. It simply became increasingly less effective. And it caused occasional nighttime feeding frenzies. Couldn’t sleep the first night, but thereafter it was easy.
    No problems and no regrets.

    I am a retired pharmacist and I took Sonata (zaleplon) — same class as Ambien, just shorter duration of action — for several years. I do think it is preferable to ambien, because it allows you to get to sleep, but I never woke with hangover side effects. I decided that I should switch to trazodone in order to get off the zaleplon. So I gradually made that switch ( alternating zaleplon 10 mg with trazodone 25mg) and was able to stop the zaleplon with no problems. However, now I think I want to stop the trazodone as well, so have cut that back to 12.5 mg nightly, and will hopefully complete that process in a couple of weeks. I had much more hangover and behavioral change with the trazodone than I ever did with zaleplon, but I think it was a decent weaning method for me.

    I’ve been on Ambien 5 mg for many years. I does help put me to sleep, BUT it only lasts for approx. 4 hours, and then I spend the rest of the night getting up and down and drifting off into light sleep periods. So I’m not getting the sleep I need, but can’t find a replacement for Ambien. A major downside is it affects your memory. Ambien can erase your memory of items occurring an hour or so BEFORE taking the pill, DURING the active phase, and AFTER the pill wears off, for several hours. I do some reading while the pill is starting to take effect, and the next day, I can’t remember what I read. Ambien, and similarly addictive drugs, are Big Pharma’s dirty little secret.

    I (age 82) started Cognitive Behavior Therapy for my sleep problems after taking a sleep study. Yes… they (psychologist and also an intern) said if I wanted to get off Ambien (I had been on it from 2011 – 2019) that I needed to go “cold turkey”. I did, and followed their recommended sleep hours and all the other guidelines they offered. I now get 5 1/2 – 6 hours of sleep a night. Having tinnitus, I believe this is the best I will be able to accomplish. But… I am off Ambien!

    * Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^