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Ambien Patient Tips

Written by C. Fookes, BPharm on Jun 20, 2016

How it works

Ambien is a brand (trade) name of zolpidem. Zolpidem causes sedative effects by enhancing the effects of GABA, a chemical transmitter in the brain. However, zolpidem's chemical structure is different from benzodiazepines.


  • Used to help you get to sleep and stay asleep.


If you are between the ages of 18 and 60, take no other medication or have no other medical conditions, side effects you are more likely to experience include:

  • Drowsiness and unsteadiness on standing, drugged feeling, lightheadedness, headache, dizziness, an increased risk of falls.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery after taking Ambien. Avoid alcohol.
  • Only take Ambien or Ambien CR if you intend to stay in bed a full night (7 to 8 hours).
  • Ambien can be habit-forming. Only take as recommended by your doctor and for the shortest time possible. Never share with another person and keep medication out of reach of children or others who may misuse it. Selling or giving away this medicine is against the law.

Notes: In general, seniors or children, people with certain medical conditions (such as liver or kidney problems, heart disease, diabetes, seizures) or people who take other medications are more at risk of developing a wider range of side effects. For a complete list of all side effects, click here.

Bottom Line

  • Ambien induces sleep; however, Ambien CR may impair physical and mental capabilities the next day. May induce complex or dangerous sleep-related behaviors like "sleep-driving" which is worse with high doses or combined with alcohol or other drugs that cause sleepiness.


  • Food delays speed of effect so Ambien will work faster if not taken with food.
  • Take tablets immediately before going to bed, not sooner. Do not take Ambien if you have drank alcohol that evening or before bed.
  • Ambien CR may help you to stay asleep, as well as promoting sleep initiation. Do not cut, crush, or chew this formulation.
  • Higher dosages and CR formulation may impair next-day alertness and ability to drive.
  • Safety and effectiveness in children has not been demonstrated.
  • Tell your doctor if your sleep worsens after taking Ambien. For short-term use only.

Response and Effectiveness

  • Time to peak effect varies depending on whether the Ambien is immediate or controlled release (CR) but ranges from just over 0.5 hour to 1.5 hours. Food delays time to peak.
  • Ambien CR has two layers: the first dissolves quickly to help you fall asleep, and the second layer dissolves slowly to help you stay asleep.


Ambien (zolpidem) [Package Insert] Revised: 10/2014 Accessed June 2016 sanofi-aventis U.S. LLC

  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Ambien only for the indication prescribed.

  • Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. This drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. It is an informational resource designed as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of this information. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Copyright 1996-2017 Revision Date: 2016-06-20 00:00:00