How Does Zolpidem Work?

How Does Zolpidem Work?

Zolpidem tartrate is a strong sleeping pill and is classified as a non-benzodiazepine. This class of psychoactives (pharmaceuticals which affect the central nervous system) are structurally dissimilar to benzodiazepines and are therefore different on a molecular level. They are similar to benzodiazepines in their biochemical and physiological effects and therefore have benefits, adverse effects and risks similar to this class of medicines.  

Like benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepines function as positive allosteric modulators on the GABA receptor. GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the central nervous system (CNS). This neurotransmitter is prevalent in high concentrations in the cerebral cortex and limbic system. The natural role of GABA is to reduce the activity of the neurons to which it binds. It is responsible for the inhibition of nerve transmission in the brain. Non-benzodiazepines further increase the inhibitory effects of GABA and this creates a calm sensation.

When the depression of the CNS occurs and a state of relaxation is attained, the muscles consequently relax. This is a smaller effect of non-benzodiazepines. Brain activity is also slowed down and the individual can then fall asleep and remain asleep for longer periods of time.

How Long Does Zolpidem Take to Work?

The onset of action is the time taken for the medication to take effect. Following oral administration, this time can range anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the active ingredient.

Sleeping tablets, like Zolpidem tartrate have an average onset of action of less than 30 minutes in most patients. It also has a half-life of around 2.5 hours. The half-life of a medication is the duration taken for the concentration of the main ingredient to be removed from the body by one half.

If a tablet is coated in a special coating, like those which protect the lining of the stomach, the onset of action may be prolonged.

The different types of this sedative are based on the type of benefit you require. The immediate-release Ambien tablets release the hypnotic ingredients rapidly. This assists the user in falling asleep quicker. The extended-release form of Ambien (Ambien CR) releases the active ingredients slowly over a period of time and thereby helps the individual stay asleep throughout the night.

The factors which affect how the medicine is absorbed by the body or the onset of action are formulation (liquids, tablets, capsules etc.) and the physiochemical properties of the pharmaceutical such as solubility.

Factors which affect how well a medication works include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Body weight
  • Medical history/ condition
  • Genetics
  • Individual's tolerance to the medication

How Much Zolpidem Can I Take

How Much Zolpidem Can I Take?

The standard prescription dose of Zolpidem tartrate for adults is 10 mg daily. This dosage is normally adjusted based on the patient and the condition being treated. The typical doses for the treatment of insomnia are as follows:

Extended-release formulations

Female adults:   6.25 mg once a day, administered one hour prior to retiring to bed

Male adults: 6.25 - 12.5 mg once a day, administered one hour prior to retiring to bed

Seniors: Half of the prescribed dose, once daily

Pediatrics: Not recommended as the safety has not been established yet in children

These dosages should not exceed the maximum amount recommended. It can be adjusted by a healthcare practitioner based on the response of the patient to the medication.

Immediate-release formulations

Female adults: 5 mg once a day, administered one hour prior to retiring to bed

Male adults: 5 - 10 mg once a day, administered one hour prior to retiring to bed

Seniors: Half of the prescribed dose, once daily

Pediatrics: Not recommended as the safety has not been established yet in children

Other than using this medication to reduce sleep onset (fast-release forms) or to increase sleep latency (slow-release forms), there are formulations available to assist awakenings during the night.

These are available as sublingual tablets (dissolve under the tongue) and can be administered for middle-of-the-night awakenings if there are at least four hours available from administration of these sublingual medicines and to when the user must awaken.

Does Zolpidem Expire?

The expiration date is the final date by which the manufacturer can guarantee the complete therapeutic benefits and safety of the medication. Manufacturers typically do not recommend or comment on the stability of the product after the original expiration date has lapsed as these can negatively affect the company in legal situations.

Zolpidem tartrate should be stored at room temperature and in its original packaging. Heat, humidity levels and light can affect the stability of the product and the storage conditions can therefore play a role in this circumstance. The bathroom cabinets are not ideal for storage due to the heat and humidity. Similarly, the car glove box is not advised for a similar reason.

Statistically, hospitals are known to dispose of medications to the value of $800 million annually because of expiry dates. Pharmacies, nursing homes and medical practitioners further add to these disposal statistics.

Can I Take Zolpidem Every Night?

Ambien should not be taken in a single dose per night. This is irrespective of the formulation, which means neither the immediate-release or extended-release forms can be administered twice a night.

If an individual awakens during the night and requires a further dosage of zolpidem tartrate, they should use a sublingual tablet such as the brands Intermezzo and Edluar or low-dose generic sublingual tablets. These formulations should only be used if you have at least four hours available to dedicate to sleep before you have to awaken. It is preferred to have a full 7 to 8 hours of rest time though.

The normal treatment period of this sleep aid is two days to four weeks. This should not be increased without recommendation as this could place the user at an added risk of developing tolerance to the medication.

There is, however, new data which reveals Ambien CR may be used for periods up to 24 weeks (six months).

These findings come from a press release by Sanofi Aventis, a multinational pharmaceutical company, which stated that a research study found this data when evaluating the long-term efficacy and safety of the extended-release forms of Ambien. They have concluded that when using this medication for chronic insomnia, patients were able to tolerate the sedative for longer-than-average treatment periods.

Updated: 14th January 2021
Review Due: January 2022

Steve

ABOUT STEVE

Fueled with a passion to try and help people less fortunate than himself Steve immersed himself in the medical industry. By researching new and innovative medical advancements and regularly sharing important information on social media Steve intends to make a difference where it matters most, people's health. His wealth of knowledge and keen eye for detail will help keep our readers informed and contribute towards improved health.

Daisy Reed – Feb 26, 2021
Hi Steve, Your knowledge and understanding of your subject matter is reflected in your writing and is most reassuring. Having suffered from sleep problems most of my life I decided to try Zolpidem for myself. I took the medication as advised and the results have been great. I sleep for 8 hours each night without waking and feel refreshed and energized in the morning. Best wishes Daisy Reed

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