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…..”
“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
- 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.