What Do I Need to Know About Ambien and Lunesta?

Choose your sleep medications carefully.

Sleep is crucial and many turn to sleep aids for assistance. Ambien, Lunesta and other medications can help ease you to drift off; but, there are considerations to make. Comparing the products while weighing the side effects can help you select the right approach for your specific needs.


Ambien, or zolpidem tartrate, is a sleep aid that is taken orally. Patients take one dose right before turning in for the night. Dosage instructions suggest to take the medication on an empty stomach. Taking the sleeping pill with food will delay its effects, so it may take longer to fall asleep.

Zolpidem Benefits

The sleep medication is designed to help patients fall asleep quickly and easily. This is a major benefit for anyone who suffers from insomnia. In addition, the product can significantly reduce the number of times you wake up throughout the night. The effects on the brain are calming, which is conducive to restful sleep.

Recommended Use

Doctors recommend that Ambien usage should be limited to fewer than two weeks. The dose that is right for you is determined by your physician and depends on your age and health. Patients take less than 10 milligrams each night.

Side Effects

There are many possible side effects including:

  • Hiccups
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Joint and muscle pain

The side effects are infrequent aside from hiccups. Uncommon, but severe, side effects include:

  • Irritability
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Hives
  • Hallucinations

A comprehensive list of side effects is available on Web MD.


Infrequently, using Ambien leads to temporary memory loss. Those taking zolpidem should make sure that they get at least seven to eight hours of sleep to ensure that memory loss does not occur.

Some subjects may become dependent on the sleep aid if it is not used properly. It is important to stick to the proper dosage and duration. The sleeping pill is designed for short term use.

Withdrawal symptoms can be troublesome. Abruptly quitting zolpidem can lead to:

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Cramping
  • Nervousness
  • Flushing

The symptoms can be avoided by reducing the dosage gradually as instructed by your physician. Avoid taking more than the proper dose to ensure that the medication does not become habit-forming. More information is available in the Prescribing Information and Medication Guide.


Lunesta, or eszopiclone, is an oral medication that treats insomnia. This medication can be taken with a light snack; but, it is not recommended with heavy or fatty foods that can disrupt its effectiveness.

Eszopiclone Benefits

Like Ambien, eszopiclone helps people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer with less disruptive waking throughout the night. This medication offers a solution to insomnia with a low risk of dependency if taken properly. This short-term sleep aid offers support without the drawback of insomniac symptoms worsening after you quit taking Lunesta.

Recommended Use

A patient's dosage depends on a number of factors. Those who have liver disease should not take more than two milligrams of the sleep medication. Your physician determines the dose according to your health, age and other considerations.

Side Effects

Possible side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Cold-like symptoms

Uncommon side effects include:

  • Hallucinations and irrational thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Memory Loss
  • Anxiety

More information about the possible side effects is available in the Lunesta Medication Guide.


People who take Lunesta may experience memory loss, especially if they fail to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. People should not take Lunesta if they have the following conditions:

  • Mental illnesses
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Liver disease
  • History of addictive behavior

Inform your physician about all medications you are taking including herbal supplements and natural sleep aids.

Non-Benzodiazepine Hypnotics

Ambien and Lunesta are non-benzodiazepine hypnotic medications that can be effective in the treatment of insomnia. Other oral meds fit into the category; most are short-term solutions to sleep problems. The non-benzodiazepine hypnotics are ideal for many patients because they take effect quickly. The body is typically able to process the medications rapidly as well.

Non-Benzodiazepine Hypnotics
Medication Brand Duration
Eszopiclone Lunesta Short term
Zolpidem Ambien Short term
Zaleplon Sonata Short term
Rozerem Ramelteon Long term
Zopiclone Multiple brand names Short term

Physician Guidance

Your physician can offer guidance to help you decide an approach that works for you. Some behavior management and stress relief can help reduce insomnia significantly. If other approaches do not work effectively, your doctor may prescribe sleep medication such as Ambien, Lunesta or other hypnotics on a temporary basis.

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What Do I Need to Know About Ambien and Lunesta?