When you are looking for a way to overcome insomnia, you might well reach for a pill called zolpidem. Sold for years under the brand name Ambien, it is probably the most popular prescription sleeping pill in the US. But are you willing to wreck your digestion in order to drift off to sleep a bit faster? That is a dilemma many readers have faced. Not everyone was warned ahead of time.
Could Your Sleeping Pill Wreck Your Digestion?
Q. I never used to have indigestion or heartburn. However, if I take zolpidem (generic Ambien) for more than a few days in a row, I get very bad indigestion.
Now I have to decide whether I want to be tired or have an upset stomach. If I go a few days and don’t take it, my digestion is fine. Is there anything that will help me sleep without upsetting my stomach?
Insomnia or Stomachache?
A. The official prescribing information for zolpidem lists dyspepsia (aka heartburn or indigestion) as a frequent side effect. We suspect that most people are not warned about this adverse reaction, though. Many other readers share your dilemma.
“Ambien gave me a great night’s sleep after years of wakefulness. The cost was disabling digestive problems: bloating, pain and acid reflux.”
Mike from New Jersey wrote:
“I’ve been having problems with heartburn and dry mouth. I’ve been taking zolpidem for months with no obvious ill effects. When I found reference on your website to heartburn as a side effect, I stopped taking the zolpidem. Now my heartburn is almost gone. I sure am glad I ran across this.”
Have You Taken Zolpidem Too Long?
Zolpidem is intended for the short-term treatment of insomnia. People who take it regularly run the risk of dependence and additional side effects such as next-day impairment (JAMA Internal Medicine, online, July 16, 2018). We suspect you’ll rarely be told that this medication might wreck your digestion.
You may want to try some nondrug approaches such as melatonin, magnesium, acupressure or tart cherry juice. Our online resource, the eGuide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep, provides details on these and other strategies to overcome insomnia.