The People's Perspective on Medicine

Zolpidem (Ambien) Side Effects & Heartburn

Zolpidem (Ambien) is a very popular sleeping pill but there is a side effect patients are rarely warned about: Heartburn or acid reflux. It can be BAD!

Visitors to this website alerted us to a surprising side effect of the sleeping pill zolpidem (Ambien) over eight years ago. The unexpected complication is heartburn (acid reflux).

Although the official prescribing information for zolpidem now includes “dyspepsia” as a frequent adverse event we suspect that many patients do not realize that is the medical term for heartburn. And we doubt that many health professionals warn patients about this problem.

We think this is a serious adverse drug reaction that deserves attention as this reader describes:

Q. Why is it that doctors (even my gastroenterologist) are not aware of the severe heartburn side effects of zolpidem (Ambien)? It seems that in some people, this drug causes a malfunction of the esophageal sphincter.

I took Ambien daily for several years before the heartburn symptoms started. I was put on strong proton pump inhibitors to control my symptoms for over a year. I also had lots of diagnostic tests — an upper GI endoscopy and esophageal manometry — all unnecessary. I finally discovered the connection of GERD [gastroesophageal reflux disease] to Ambien on my own.

How can we make the side effects of Ambien more well known?

A. Heartburn, reflux or GERD are common but often unrecognized complications of sleeping pills like zolpidem (Ambien) or temazepam (Restoril).

If a doctor really looked carefully in the official prescribing information for zolpidem, she would discover that dyspepsia (doctorspeak for heartburn) is a frequent side effect. A study published in BMJ Open (Feb. 27, 2012) confirmed this adverse reaction.

Here are just a few stories from visitors to this website to demonstrate the personal impact:

“The very same thing happened to me. I was prescribed Ambien for insomnia, then began experiencing reflux and heartburn nightly. After a few weeks, it occurred to me that the heartburn began about the same time I started the Ambien.

“As I was only instructed to take the Ambien ‘as needed’, I stopped immediately and went online to research this. I found many, many instances of people who’d experienced the same thing. Of course, my doctor was surprised, as she had never heard of this before…..”
Anonymous

“This info has been extremely helpful to me. I have been on the lowest dose of zolpidem (half of the pill) for at least one year. All three of my doctors know I’m on it (gyno, family, wellness) and are fine with it. I’m 53 and have NEVER known what heartburn or acid reflux would possibly be.

“One month ago I went into the hospital for overnight observation because I had a tightness in my chest. they ran 4-5 tests on me and I checked out fine. As the cardiologist/hospitalist was sending me home, he said: ‘if this comes back, you might want to check out acid reflux’.

“I went to my family Dr. one week later for a follow up… he was convinced I had inflamed cartilage around my breast bone (and the discomfort had pretty much subsided).

“Ten days ago, I started feeling the tightness again (in the upper, center of my chest). I wasn’t AS worried knowing that I had just checked out okay, but I wasn’t thrilled with this tightness either — I am also holding on to my gastro appt. for next week. God works in awesome ways. Five days ago I came across an online news article that mentioned sleeping pills and acid reflux! I dug deeper and it pointed me towards the People’s Pharmacy newspaper column!

“I got off my pills the very next day (switched to a natural sleeping aid, not loving it yet). Since day #2 I have not felt any of the discomfort… I will try to last as long as one month before thinking about ‘my Ambien’ again, just to see if that was the culprit. thank you for this info!” –Aunt Di

“UPDATE: after getting off of Ambien the first time, chest tightness subsided within two days. After one week, I had NOT slept, so I started back on the Ambien. It’s all very hard to pinpoint since nothing seems to happen immediately.

“Within one week, I started having the chest tightness again, kept my gastro appt., scheduled an upper scope — it checked out clear. After three weeks of the tightness (acid reflux), I got off the Ambien for a second time. The discomfort was GONE WITHIN 24 HOURS…it’s been one whole week, no discomfort, and NO SLEEP. My primary dr. did send me to a sleep doctor and he agreed that I have symptoms of chronic insomnia — new low-dose med, but NOT zolpidem.” –Aunt Di

Other Zolpidem (Ambien) Side Effects:

  • Morning hangover, daytime drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, driving difficulties,
  • Sleep walking, sleep driving, sleep sex
  • Lightheadedness, accidents, falls
  • Depression, suicidal thoughts, aggressiveness, hallucinations, memory loss, amnesia
  • Headache, back pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation,
  • Sore throat, sinusitis, flu-like symptoms
  • Allergic reaction, skin rash
  • Rebound insomnia, withdrawal symptoms

If you would like to learn more about the pros and cons of sleeping pills and other ways to deal with insomnia, we recommend our Guide to Getting a Good Nights Sleep. You will discover some practical tips that don’t have the kinds of complications linked to drugs like zolpidem (Ambien).

Share your own experience with zolpidem and other sleeping pills below.

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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.” .
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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.

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The proton pump inhibitor pills used for heart burn , also has a side effect not widely reported but significant :

MUSCLE ACHES, HEADACHES AND MUSCLE STIFFNESS.

What do I do when tolerant to Ambien but sleep ZERO without it? Please help!

Found your site recently. Having an issue with ‘heartburn’, memory, and drymouth….all relatively new to me. Suspected various foods, drink, etc. to no positive result. Been on generic Ambien for some time with no ill effects. Stopped a week ago, all but memory issues are almost gone…need more time to confirm. If not for the accidental discovery of your web site, I would have been chasing docs for answers. Can not tell you how great this is. Mike

I do take Ambien but, thank God, I only take approx. one 10-mg tablet every 2 weeks. That said, I have absolutely no ill effects whatsoever from it and am very grateful that Ambien exists; otherwise, I’d have missed out on a ski day or other fun adventure (when some adventure is slated for the next day, and especially if I’m away from home, that’s when I can’t sleep!)

Suffer with heart burn

It is 5:30 am and I have just woken up after taking ambien the night before. My husband returned from a 3 week work trip about 4 days ago. Last night I mentioned to him that my reflux has started back again since he came home. I told him maybe it was just stress but I had plenty of that while he was gone as well. I thought to myself, had I done anything different since he went on his trip. I thought, and it came to me when he was gone i didnt take ambiem due to safety issues and being alone while taking such a strong drug. So when he returned i started taking it once again. Within 2 nights I woke up with bad reflux. I will try the remedy above before ever taken this drug again. To me it’s not worth the pain it causes, the additional medications, and what damage can actually form from reflux going untreated. I’m so glad I discovered this and this forum. Thank you.

I am on ambien for years and liked it, sort of addicted to it. I have gastrititis and can’t tolerate medications that aggravates acid such as Ibuprofen. I did not know that ambien can cause heartburn. Recently my night time acid attack became almost nightly. I went to see my Doctor who sent me to a gastroenterologist. He has done upper and lower endoscopy on 1/13 and do not find any anomaly.
He has ordered an Ultrasound scan on the pancreas. I have just got that this morning. I think this will also come out negative. I noticed that when an acid attack that woke me up, if I take anti acid the liquid king works faster, and apply a cold compress, the pain subsides and I can sleep. I normaly do not have attacks during the day. Therefore zolpidem might be the culprit. I will refrain from ambien to night and see how it goes.
I first found it in the daily newspaper health section and I am grateful to people who posted in this topic.

I have been using Ambien for years my daughter blames my poor memory on it. I am going to try a few suggestion that posted.

thank you so much for this I plan on trying this. May God bless you. thank you

I received radiation treatments to my neck for thyroid cancer for 35 days in 2012, my problem now is severe dry mouth, I can’t eat solid food normal. All the over the counter staff that I take, like biotene moisturizing dry mouth, and others only provideS me with temporary relief. Has anybody had gone thru something similar, and can provide me with suggestions about how to improve my condition, it is very frustrating.

I am writing an essay about ambien and everything about it.

Checking the Pocket Guide to Prescription Drugs, 8th edition, there is nothing about
indigestion listed with the Ambien side effects. Will this drawback to the drug
appear in the newer PDR editions? Are the patients taking Ambien at bedtime awakened by their acid indigestion?

I am so sympathic to anyone with sleep problems since I have dealt with this problem since I was a young woman. I am now 76 years old and finally getting good sleep but not without suffering for years with chronic lack of sleep. I have taken Ambien for approximately 10 years and managed fairly well until my doctor decided I should no longer be using this product. The doctor wanted me to take Gabapentin but I refused since I would have to take 6 pills every night for the medication to be effective. I choose not to do that for various reasons.
My husband did a lot of research for the two of us on the Internet and peoplespharmacy.com specifically. We now have ‘happy sleep nights!’ Our solution: we each take 1/4 of a 3 mg Melatonin tablet, one 500 mg Calcium tablet, and one 400 mg Magnesium capsule an hour before bedtime. We’re about 3-4 weeks into this therapy and so far it’s working great!

And then there are those of us who have no side effects whatsoever and are very grateful for Ambien. I am well rested because of Ambien and am in great shape, very healthy, have a sharp mind and am generally so much happier in my life because I can sleep.

Finally, after being on prescribed sleeping pills, (not Ambien) for 15 months, it occurred to me the cause of heartburn…. the sleeping pills…I got off of the pills and the heartburn disappeared several days later…I now take Melatonin … over the counter (250 pills for $6.00) no heartburn….

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