Ambien and Ambien CR are brand-name prescription drugs. They’re both FDA-approved to treat insomnia (trouble sleeping) in adults in certain situations.

Ambien and Ambien CR come as oral tablets. Both medications contain the active drug zolpidem and belong to a drug class called sedative-hypnotics.

Ambien vs. Ambien CR

Here are some similarities and differences between Ambien and Ambien CR.

Ambien is approved to treat trouble falling asleep. The drug should be used only as a short-term treatment. Ambien releases the full dose of zolpidem into your body all at once. Ambien tablets come in two strengths: 5 milligrams (mg) and 10 mg.

Ambien CR is approved to treat trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. The drug can be used as a short- or long-term treatment. The “CR” in Ambien CR stands for controlled release, which means the medication releases slowly into your body over time. Ambien CR tablets come in two strengths: 6.25 mg and 12.5 mg.

This article will discuss both Ambien and Ambien CR. Read on to learn more about side effects, uses, and more.

Are Ambien and Ambien CR controlled substances?

Yes, both Ambien and Ambien CR are controlled substances. They are classified as Schedule IV prescription drugs. A controlled substance is a drug the government regulates because it can lead to misuse, dependence, and withdrawal.

For more information, see the “Ambien and Ambien CR withdrawal and dependence” section below.

Effectiveness

For information about the effectiveness of Ambien and Ambien CR, see the “Ambien and Ambien CR uses” section below.

Ambien and Ambien CR are brand-name medications that contain the active drug zolpidem. This active drug is also available as generic versions of Ambien and Ambien CR. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication.

The generic is considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. Generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs.

If you’re interested in using the generic form of Ambien or Ambien CR, talk with your doctor. They can tell you if it comes in forms and strengths that can be used for your condition.

Ambien and Ambien CR can cause mild or serious side effects. The following lists contain some of the key side effects that may occur while taking these drugs. These lists do not include all possible side effects.

For more information about the possible side effects of Ambien and Ambien CR, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can give you tips on how to manage any side effects that may be concerning or bothersome.

Note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks side effects of drugs it has approved. If you would like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Ambien or Ambien CR, you can do so through MedWatch.

Mild side effects

Mild side effects* of Ambien can include:

Mild side effects* of Ambien CR can include:

  • headache
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • muscle pain

Most of these side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. But if they become more severe or don’t go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

* This is a partial list of mild side effects from Ambien and Ambien CR. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or see the medication guides for both Ambien and Ambien CR.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects from Ambien and Ambien CR aren’t common, but they can occur. Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include:

  • Memory loss or dementia. Symptoms can include:
    • trouble remembering information, such as names, dates, or places
  • Anxiety. Symptoms can include:
    • trouble controlling thoughts or feelings of worry
    • feeling restless, irritable, or on edge
    • sleep problems, such as trouble falling asleep
  • Unusual sleep behaviors, such as sleepwalking.*†
  • Long-term side effects and next-day side effects.*
  • Allergic reaction.*
  • Behavioral changes, such as hallucinations.*
  • Withdrawal symptoms if the drug is stopped suddenly.**

* For more information about this side effect, see “Side effect details” below.
** For more information about this side effect, see “Ambien and Ambien CR withdrawal and dependence” below.
Ambien and Ambien CR have a boxed warning from the FDA for this side effect. A boxed warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Side effect details

Here’s some detail on certain side effects this drug may cause.

Unusual behaviors in sleep, such as sleepwalking

Unusual sleep behaviors, including sleepwalking, have been reported in people taking Ambien and Ambien CR. Although these side effects aren’t common, they can be serious. In fact, Ambien and Ambien CR have a boxed warning from the FDA for these side effects. A boxed warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

After taking Ambien or Ambien CR, you may get out of bed and perform activities that you may not remember the next day. Reported activities include:

  • driving a car
  • having sex
  • making phone calls and talking on the phone
  • preparing and eating food
  • sleepwalking

These activities may result in serious injury to yourself or others, and in rare cases, could be fatal.

Taking other central nervous system (CNS) depressants with Ambien or Ambien CR can increase your risk for unusual behaviors in sleep. (To learn more, see the “Ambien and Ambien CR interactions” section below.)

Alcohol is an example of a CNS depressant. For more about Ambien and Ambien CR and alcohol, see the “Ambien and Ambien CR and alcohol” section below.

If you have unusual sleep behaviors while taking Ambien or Ambien CR, you should stop taking the medication and talk with your doctor. They may recommend other treatment options for your sleep problem.

Long-term side effects and next-day side effects

Both Ambien and Ambien CR have been reported to cause long-term side effects and next-day side effects (side effects the day after you take either drug).

Long-term side effects

Long-term side effects of Ambien and Ambien CR can include:

Next-day side effects

Next-day side effects of Ambien and Ambien CR can include:

  • trouble concentrating
  • problems with balance or coordination
  • reduced alertness
  • drowsiness
  • slowed reaction times

Because of the possibility for next-day side effects, you should not drive or operate machinery when you first start taking Ambien or Ambien CR. It may not be safe to perform these activities until you know how the drug will affect you.

Also, using certain substances in combination with Ambien or Ambien CR can increase your risk for next-day side effects. These substances include:

Older adults may also be at higher risk for next-day side effects if they take Ambien or Ambien CR.

If you have questions about long-term or next-day side effects of Ambien or Ambien CR, talk with your doctor. You should also speak with them if you have any of these side effects while taking either drug. Your doctor may be able to recommend ways to manage these side effects.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after taking Ambien or Ambien CR. Allergic reactions while taking Ambien or Ambien CR were rare in clinical studies of the drug.

Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)

A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include:

  • swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat
  • trouble breathing

Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Ambien or Ambien CR, as the reaction could become severe. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Behavioral changes, such as hallucinations

Ambien and Ambien CR have been reported to cause behavioral changes, including hallucinations.

Behavioral changes due to Ambien or Ambien CR can include:

  • acting more aggressively than usual
  • being more outgoing than usual
  • feeling confused or agitated
  • hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
  • depression or worsening depression
  • suicidal thoughts or behaviors

Talk with your doctor immediately if you experience behavioral changes, including hallucinations, while taking Ambien or Ambien CR. They’ll typically want to see you because this side effect can be serious. Your doctor may have you switch to a different medication for your sleep problems.

The Ambien and Ambien CR dosage your doctor prescribes will depend on several factors. These include:

  • the type and severity of the condition you’re using Ambien or Ambien CR to treat
  • your sex assigned at birth
  • your age
  • whether you’re prescribed Ambien or Ambien CR
  • other medical conditions you may have
  • other medications you may be taking

Typically, your doctor will start you on a low dosage. Then they’ll adjust it over time to reach the amount that’s right for you. Your doctor will ultimately prescribe the smallest dosage that provides the desired effect.

The following information describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. However, be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to fit your needs.

Drug forms and strengths

Both Ambien and Ambien CR come as oral tablets.

Ambien comes in two strengths: 5 milligrams (mg) and 10 mg.

Ambien CR also comes in two strengths: 6.25 mg and 12.5 mg.

Dosage for insomnia

Below are dosages of Ambien and Ambien CR for treating insomnia (trouble sleeping) in adults.

Ambien for insomnia

For short-term treatment of problems falling asleep, the recommended Ambien dosage is:

  • 5 mg per day for females*
  • 5 mg or 10 mg per day for males*

You should take your dose right before you go to bed. And you should take Ambien only if you have at least 7 or 8 hours before you need to wake up.

The maximum dosage of Ambien is 10 mg per day. You should not take more than one dose of Ambien per day.

Ambien CR for insomnia

Ambien CR is used for short- or long-term treatment of problems falling asleep, problems staying asleep, or both. For this purpose, the recommended Ambien CR dosage is:

  • 6.25 mg per day for females*
  • 6.25 mg or 12.5 mg per day for males*

You should take your dose right before you go to bed. And you should take Ambien CR only if you have at least 7 or 8 hours before you need to wake up.

The maximum dosage of Ambien CR is 12.5 mg per day. You should not take more than one dose of Ambien per day.

* Sex and gender exist on spectrums. Use of the terms “males” and “females” in this article refers to sex assigned at birth.

What if I miss a dose?

Ambien or Ambien CR should be taken right before you go to sleep. You should take a dose only if you have at least 7 or 8 hours before you need to wake up.

For this reason, if you miss a dose of Ambien or Ambien CR, you should typically skip the missed dose. Taking either drug too close to when you need to wake up can increase your risk for side effects, including next-day side effects. (For more information on side effects, see the “Ambien and Ambien CR side effects” section above.)

To help make sure that you don’t miss a dose, try using a medication reminder. This can include setting an alarm or timer on your phone or downloading a reminder app. A kitchen timer can work, too.

Will I need to use this drug long term?

It depends. Ambien is meant to be used only as a short-term treatment for insomnia. In clinical studies, Ambien was effective for helping people fall asleep when used for up to 35 days.

Ambien CR may be used as a short- or long-term treatment for insomnia. Your doctor will discuss your length of treatment before prescribing Ambien CR and while you’re taking the drug.

Ambien and Ambien CR are used to treat insomnia (trouble sleeping) in adults.

Ambien and Ambien CR work in the same way to treat insomnia. They act on parts of your brain to increase the amounts of a substance called gamma-aminobutyric acid, which helps you fall asleep.

How long do Ambien and Ambien CR take to work?

Ambien and Ambien CR begin to work as soon as you take a dose. You’ll likely feel the effects after taking one dose if the drug works for you. Both medications begin to work within about 1 hour of taking your dose.

If you have additional questions about how long it takes Ambien or Ambien CR to work, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Why do Ambien and Ambien CR not work sometimes?

It’s not known why some drugs work in some people or why drugs work sometimes but not all the time.

If you have questions about whether Ambien or Ambien CR are working for you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

How long do Ambien and Ambien CR stay in your system and last?

Ambien and Ambien CR have a half-life of about 2.5 hours. A drug’s half-life is the amount of time that it takes for the body to get rid of half a dose.

Clinical studies looked at Ambien and Ambien CR. When one dose was taken per day for 2 weeks in the studies, the drugs didn’t build up in the body.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Ambien and Ambien CR.

Are trazodone, Xanax, melatonin, and Benadryl used for sleep? Can I take any of them with Ambien or Ambien CR?

Trazodone, Xanax, melatonin and Benadryl may be used for sleep in certain cases. But it’s not advised to take any of them with Ambien or Ambien CR.

Trazodone and Xanax are not approved to treat sleep problems, but doctors may prescribe them off-label for this purpose. Off-label use is when a drug that’s approved to treat one condition is prescribed to treat a different condition.

Trazodone isn’t known to interact with Ambien or Ambien CR. However, according to the manufacturer of Ambien or Ambien CR, you should not use either drug with other medications for sleep.

Taking Xanax in combination with Ambien can increase your risk for side effects,* including next-day side effects and unusual sleep behaviors.

Melatonin and Benadryl are over-the-counter products that may be used for sleep. Melatonin isn’t known to interact with Ambien or Ambien CR. But as mentioned above, taking Ambien or Ambien CR with other sleep medications is not recommended.

Taking Benadryl in combination with Ambien or Ambien CR may increase your risk for side effects such as drowsiness and dizziness.

If you have additional questions about whether a medication is safe to take with Ambien or Ambien CR, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also see the “Ambien and Ambien CR interactions” section below.

* Ambien and Ambien CR have a boxed warning from the FDA for this side effect. A boxed warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous. For more information, see the “Ambien and Ambien CR side effects” section.

Are Ambien and Ambien CR benzodiazepines?

No, Ambien and Ambien CR are not benzodiazepines. They’re similar to benzodiazepines, though.

Ambien and Ambien CR are in a drug class called sedative hypnotics. This type of drug causes you to sleep.

Benzodiazepines and sedative hypnotics work by slowing down activity in your brain. These drugs are typically approved to treat different conditions.

If you have more questions about Ambien, Ambien CR, and benzodiazepines, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Can Ambien and Ambien CR make you feel ‘high’? Is it safe to take them by snorting?

Misusing Ambien or Ambien CR may make you feel “high.” And it’s not safe to snort them.

Both Ambien and Ambien CR are controlled substances. A controlled substance is a drug that the government regulates because it can lead to misuse, dependence, and withdrawal.

Misusing Ambien or Ambien CR can cause central nervous system (CNS) depression. CNS depression can cause serious side effects such as trouble breathing or coma. These risks are increased when Ambien or Ambien CR is used in combination with other drugs or substances (such as alcohol) that cause CNS depression. Misusing Ambien or Ambien CR can, in rare cases, be fatal.

One form of Ambien and Ambien CR misuse is snorting either drug. The tablets are meant to be swallowed. Snorting either Ambien or Ambien CR tablets is dangerous. But snorting Ambien CR is especially risky. This is because Ambien CR is meant to be released slowly over time. Snorting the drug causes all of it to be released at once.

If you have additional questions about misuse and Ambien or Ambien CR, talk with your doctor.

Do Ambien and Ambien CR cause weight gain or side effects in older people?

Ambien and Ambien CR shouldn’t cause weight gain, but they may cause side effects in older people.

Weight gain wasn’t reported by people taking Ambien or Ambien CR in clinical studies. Weight loss, on the other hand, was reported as a side effect for both drugs, although it was extremely rare.

Older people are more likely to have side effects from taking Ambien and Ambien CR. This is because the body becomes more sensitive to drugs with age. Older people taking Ambien or Ambien CR may be at higher risk for side effects such as confusion, memory problems, and coordination problems.

If you have other questions about side effects from Ambien or Ambien CR, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also refer to the “Ambien and Ambien CR side effects” section above.

What happens when you take Ambien or Ambien CR and you stay awake?

Taking Ambien or Ambien CR and staying awake could lead to you engage in behaviors that you don’t remember doing the next day. These behaviors can include activities such as preparing and eating food, driving, and making phone calls.

Ambien and Ambien CR are used to treat sleep problems. You should not use either drug in any way other than exactly how your doctor prescribes. Ambien and Ambien CR are meant to be used right before you try to go to sleep.

If you’re struggling to fall asleep while taking Ambien or Ambien CR, talk with your doctor. They can review your insomnia treatment plan and suggest a treatment that may work better for you.

Are Ambien and Ambien CR used for anxiety?

Ambien and Ambien CR are not approved for treating anxiety.

However, sleep problems such as insomnia may be symptoms of an anxiety disorder in some people. Ambien and Ambien CR may be prescribed to treat insomnia in this group.

If you’re interested in anxiety treatments, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Ambien and Ambien CR can cause withdrawal and drug dependence.

With dependence, your body needs a drug for you to feel as you usually do. It’s also possible to build up a tolerance to the drug. (Tolerance means you need more of the drug to have the same effect over time.) Either of these conditions may lead to misuse of Ambien or Ambien CR.

Because of the risk for dependence and misuse, both Ambien and Ambien CR are controlled substances. A controlled substance is a drug the government regulates because it can lead to misuse, dependence, and withdrawal.

Suddenly stopping Ambien or Ambien CR treatment, or drastically decreasing the dose, may lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms that Ambien or Ambien CR may cause include:

Usually, these symptoms go away on their own after a few days.

If you’re thinking about stopping treatment with either drug, talk with your doctor. They may slowly lower your dosage over time to help you avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Other drugs are available that can treat insomnia (trouble sleeping). Some may be a better fit for you than others. If you’re interested in finding an alternative to Ambien or Ambien CR, talk with your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that may work well for you.

Note: Some of the drugs listed here are used off-label to treat these specific conditions. Off-label drug use is when an FDA-approved drug is prescribed for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat insomnia include:

  • eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • temazepam (Restoril)
  • suvorexant (Belsomra)
  • lemborexant (Dayvigo)
  • zaleplon (Sonata)
  • triazolam (Halcion)
  • rozerem (Ramelteon)
  • doxepin (Silenor)
  • mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • trazodone

Drinking alcohol while taking Ambien or Ambien CR can increase your risk for central nervous system (CNS) depression. With CNS, your body’s nervous system slows down.

Symptoms of CNS depression can include trouble breathing, seizures, and coma. In rare cases, CNS depression can be fatal.

Drinking alcohol while taking Ambien or Ambien CR also increases your risk for unusual sleep behaviors* such as:

  • sleepwalking
  • attempting to drive while asleep
  • doing other activities while not actually awake

If you notice any unusual sleep behaviors, stop taking Ambien or Ambien CR and talk with your doctor as soon as possible.

If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor before you begin taking Ambien or Ambien CR. They can offer more information on the risks of consuming alcohol while taking these medications. They can also offer resources to help you stop drinking.

Note: You should not take a dose of Ambien or Ambien CR if you’ve had alcohol the same evening or close to bedtime. You also should not take a dose of either drug if you took another medication to help you sleep.

* Ambien and Ambien CR have a boxed warning from the FDA for this side effect. A boxed warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous. For more information, see the “Ambien and Ambien CR side effects” section.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves prescription drugs such as Ambien and Ambien CR to treat certain conditions. Ambien and Ambien CR may also be used off-label for other conditions. Off-label drug use means using a drug for a purpose other than what it’s been approved for by the FDA.

Ambien and Ambien CR for insomnia

Ambien and Ambien CR are FDA-approved to treat insomnia (trouble sleeping) in adults.

Ambien is approved to treat trouble falling asleep. The drug should be used only as a short-term treatment. This was up to 35 days in clinical studies.

Ambien CR is approved to treat trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. The drug can be used as a short- or long-term treatment.

For more information about how Ambien and Ambien CR are alike and different, see the “What are Ambien and Ambien CR?” section above.

About insomnia

Insomnia is a type of sleep disorder that can include trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. This can cause problems with day-to-day life.

Sleep problems caused by environmental factors (such as noise or watching TV in bed), do not qualify as insomnia. Not having the chance to sleep also isn’t considered to be insomnia.

Insomnia may be short or long term. (Long-term insomnia may be referred to as chronic insomnia). Insomnia is considered chronic when you’ve had trouble sleeping for at least 3 days a week for at least 3 months.

People with insomnia are thought to be at higher risk for depression, alcohol use disorder, and hypertension (high blood pressure).

To learn more about insomnia, you can refer to our sleep hub.

Effectiveness for insomnia

Clinical studies have shown that both Ambien and Ambien CR are effective for treating insomnia in adults.

Treatment guidelines published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicinerecommend Ambien and Ambien CR as treatment options for adults with insomnia.

Ambien and Ambien CR and children

Ambien and Ambien CR are approved to treat insomnia only in adults. Neither drug has been shown to be safe or effective in children.

In a study of children with insomnia due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Ambien and Ambien CR caused hallucinations and other side effects. When compared with the results of adult studies, these side effects occurred at a higher rate in children than adults.

Since Ambien and Ambien CR are not approved for use in children, talk with your doctor about other insomnia treatment options for your child.

Do not use more Ambien or Ambien CR than your doctor recommends. For some drugs, doing so may lead to unwanted serious side effects or overdose.

Overdose symptoms

Symptoms of an overdose can include:

What to do in case of overdose

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor. You can also call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use its online tool. But if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or your local emergency number, or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

You may wonder how Ambien and Ambien CR compare with other medications that are prescribed for similar uses.

Lunesta is the brand name for eszopiclone, and Ambien and Ambien CR are brand names for zolpidem. Lunesta, Ambien, and Ambien CR are all prescribed to treat insomnia in adults, and they work in similar ways.

But these medications do have some differences. For example, unpleasant taste is a common side effect for Lunesta, but not for Ambien or Ambien CR. Next-day side effects, such as trouble concentrating the day after a dose, are possible with taking Ambien or Ambien CR but not with Lunesta.

To find out how Ambien compares with Lunesta, see this article.

It’s not known if it’s safe to take Ambien or Ambien CR while pregnant.

There have been a few reports of withdrawal symptoms in newborns exposed to Ambien and Ambien CR in the third trimester (29 weeks to delivery). These symptoms included shortness of breath and sleepiness. In rare cases, the newborns required a ventilator to help them breathe. But in most cases, withdrawal symptoms were treated and went away within a few hours to a few weeks.

If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, talk with your doctor before taking Ambien or Ambien CR. They can explain the risks and benefits, and provide possible alternatives to treat your insomnia.

It’s not known if Ambien or Ambien CR are safe to take during pregnancy. If you’re sexually active and you or your partner can become pregnant, talk with your doctor about your birth control needs while you take Ambien or Ambien CR.

For more information about using Ambien or Ambien CR during pregnancy, see the “Ambien and Ambien CR and pregnancy” section above.

Ambien and Ambien CR are known to pass into breast milk. Taking either drug while breastfeeding can cause side effects in a child who is breastfed, but this isn’t common. The side effects can include:

  • excessive sleepiness
  • slowed or irregular breathing
  • limpness when held
  • loss of neck muscle control, which causes the head to droop

Because of the risk for side effects, talk with your doctor about Ambien or Ambien CR and breastfeeding. They can discuss the risks and benefits of taking either drug. They can also tell you about other options for treating your condition or feeding your child.

As with all medications, the cost of Ambien and Ambien CR can vary. To find current prices for Ambien and Ambien CR in your area, check out GoodRx.com.


The cost you find on GoodRx.com is what you may pay without insurance. The actual price you’ll pay depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Keep in mind that you may be able to get a 90-day supply of Ambien or Ambien CR. If approved by your insurance company, getting a 90-day supply of the drug could reduce your number of trips to the pharmacy and help lower the cost. If you’re interested in this option, check with your doctor or your insurance company.

Before approving coverage for Ambien or Ambien CR, your insurance company may require you to get prior authorization. This means that your doctor and insurance company will need to communicate about your prescription before the insurance company will cover the drug. The insurance company will review the prior authorization request and decide if the drug will be covered.

If you’re not sure if you’ll need to get prior authorization for Ambien or Ambien CR, contact your insurance company.

Financial and insurance assistance

If you need financial support to pay for Ambien or Ambien CR, help may be available. Check out Medicine Assistance Tool’s site to see if you’re eligible for support.

To know if Ambien or Ambien CR is covered by your health insurance plan, call your insurance provider. You can also talk with your pharmacist about possible ways to lower the cost of Ambien or Ambien CR.

Mail-order pharmacies

Ambien and Ambien CR may be available through a mail-order pharmacy. Using this service may help lower the drug’s cost and allow you to get your medication without leaving home.

If recommended by your doctor, you may be able to receive a 90-day supply of Ambien or Ambien CR, so there’s less concern about running out of the medication. If you’re interested in this option, check with your doctor and your insurance company. Some Medicare plans may help cover the cost of mail-order medications.

If you don’t have insurance, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist about online pharmacy options.

Generic version

Ambien and Ambien CR are available in generic forms of a drug called zolpidem. (A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication.)

Generics are considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. And generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs. To find out how the cost of zolpidem compares with the cost of Ambien and Ambien CR, visit GoodRx.com.

If your doctor has prescribed Ambien or Ambien CR and you’re interested in using zolpidem instead, talk with your doctor. They may have a preference for one version or the other. You’ll also need to check your insurance plan, as it may only cover one or the other.

Ambien and Ambien CR can interact with several other medications. They can also interact with certain supplements.

Different interactions can cause different effects. For instance, some interactions can interfere with how well a drug works. Other interactions can increase the number of side effects or make them more severe.

Ambien and Ambien CR and other medications

Below is a list of medications that can interact with Ambien and Ambien CR. This list does not contain all drugs that may interact with them.

Before taking Ambien or Ambien CR, talk with your doctor and pharmacist. Tell them about all prescription, over-the-counter, and other drugs you take. Also tell them about any vitamins, herbs, and supplements you use. Sharing this information can help you avoid potential interactions.

If you have questions about drug interactions that may affect you, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Medications that can interact with Ambien and Ambien CR include:

  • Other central nervous system depressants. Taking other central nervous system (CNS) depressants withAmbien or Ambien CR can increase your risk for unusual behaviors in sleep.* The side effects can include drowsiness, coordination problems, and an impaired ability to drive. Examples of other CNS depressants include:
  • The antidepressant imipramine (Tofranil). Taking the antidepressant imipramine with Ambien or Ambien CR may decrease alertness.
  • The antipsychotic chlorpromazine. Taking the antipsychotic chlorpromazine with Ambien or Ambien CR may decrease alertness and increase the risk of problems with coordination and reflexes.
  • Ketoconaxole (Nizoral Anti-Dandruff). Taking ketoconazole in combination with Ambien or Ambien CR can increase the risk of side effects from Ambien or Ambien CR. If you need to take ketoconazole, your doctor may lower your dosage of Ambien or Ambien CR.
  • CYP3A4 inducers. Taking medications called CYP3A4 inducers with Ambien or Ambien CR can cause Ambien or Ambien CR to not work or work less well than usual. An example of a CYP3A4 inducer is rifampin (Rifadin).

* Ambien and Ambien CR have a boxed warning from the FDA for this side effect. A boxed warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous. For more information, see the “Ambien and Ambien CR side effects” section.

Ambien and Ambien CR and herbs and supplements

You should not take St. John’s wort while taking Ambien or Ambien CR. Taking this supplement can cause Ambien and Ambien CR to not work or work less well than usual.

However, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist before using any supplement while taking Ambien or Ambien CR. They can let you know it’s safe to take with your treatment plan.

Ambien and Ambien CR and foods

There aren’t any foods that have been specifically reported to interact with Ambien and Ambien CR. If you have any questions about eating certain foods with Ambien and Ambien CR, talk with your doctor.

You should take Ambien and Ambien CR according to the instructions your doctor or other healthcare professional gives you.

Ambien and Ambien CR come as oral tablets that you swallow.

When to take

You should take Ambien or Ambien CR right before you go to bed. Be sure to take your dose at least 7 or 8 hours before you plan on waking up.

To help make sure that you don’t miss a dose, try using a medication reminder. This can include setting an alarm or timer on your phone or downloading a reminder app. A kitchen timer can work, too.

Taking Ambien and Ambien CR with food

You should not take Ambien or Ambien CR with food. And you should not take either medication right after you eat.

Keep in mind that taking Ambien or Ambien CR on an empty stomach may help you fall asleep faster. This is because taking either drug with a meal or right after a meal can slow the effects of the medication. This means it may not work as quickly as usual and increase your risk for next-day side effects.*

* For more information about this side effect, see “Side effect details” in the “Ambien and Ambien CR side effects” section above.

Can Ambien and Ambien CR be crushed, split, or chewed?

The manufacturer of Ambien hasn’t stated whether it may be crushed, split, or chewed.

You should not crush, split, or chew Ambien CR. This can cause the medication to not work as intended. Instead, you should swallow Ambien CR tablets whole.

If you have trouble swallowing Ambien or Ambien CR tablets, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

This drug comes with several precautions.

FDA warning: Unusual sleep behaviors

This drug has a boxed warning. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Unusual sleep behaviors have been reported in people taking Ambien or Ambien CR. These behaviors include sleepwalking, attempting to drive while asleep, and performing other activities while not actually awake.

These behaviors may result in serious injury to yourself or others and, in rare cases, death. If you notice any unusual sleep behaviors, stop taking Ambien or Ambien CR and talk with your doctor as soon as possible.

For more information on this boxed warning, see “Side effect details” in the “Ambien and Ambien CR side effects” section above.

Other precautions

Before taking Ambien or Ambien CR, talk with your doctor about your health history. Ambien or Ambien CR may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors affecting your health. These include:

  • Mental health conditions including depression. Although rare, taking Ambien or Ambien CR can cause behavior changes, including worsening depression. Before you take Ambien, tell your doctor if you have a mental health condition. They can help determine if Ambien is safe for you to take.
  • History of alcohol or drug addiction or misuse. Both Ambien and Ambien CR are controlled substances, and using them can lead to addiction or misuse. If you have a history of alcohol or drug addiction or misuse, you may have an increased risk for these side effects. Your doctor may want to monitor you more closely than usual if they prescribe Ambien or Ambien CR.
  • Liver problems. If you have liver problems, you may need a lower dose of Ambien or Ambien CR than usual. If your liver condition is severe, Ambien or Ambien CR may not be safe for you to take. Talk with your doctor about whether either drug is right for you.
  • Breathing or lung problems. Ambien or Ambien CR can cause respiratory depression, but this is rare. The condition can occur in people who already have breathing or lung problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or sleep apnea. Your doctor can help determine whether Ambien or Ambien CR is safe to take.
  • Unusual sleep behavior. Ambien and Ambien CR can cause unusual sleep behaviors, such as sleepwalking or performing activities while asleep. (To learn more, see the FDA warning above.) If you’ve had unusual sleep behaviors, tell your doctor before you first take Ambien or Ambien CR. They may have you try a different treatment for your condition.
  • Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Ambien or Ambien CR or any of its ingredients, you should not take Ambien or Ambien CR. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options for you.
  • Pregnancy. It’s not known if it’s safe to take Ambien or Ambien CR while pregnant. For more information, see the “Ambien and Ambien CR and pregnancy” section above.
  • Breastfeeding. Ambien and Ambien CR pass into breast milk and may cause side effects in a breastfed child. For more information, see the “Ambien and Ambien CR and breastfeeding” section above.

Note: For more information about the potentially negative effects of Ambien and Ambien CR, see the “Ambien and Ambien CR side effects” section above.

When you get Ambien and Ambien CR from the pharmacy, the pharmacist will add an expiration date to the label on the bottle. This date is typically 1 year from the date they dispensed the medication.

The expiration date helps guarantee that the medication is effective during this time. The current stance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to avoid using expired medications. If you have unused medication that has gone past the expiration date, talk with your pharmacist about whether you might still be able to use it.

Storage

How long a medication remains good to use can depend on many factors, including how and where you store the medication.

You should store Ambien tablets at a room temperature of 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C). You should store Ambien CR tablets at a room temperature of 59°F to 77°F (15°C to 25°C).

Be sure to keep either form of Ambien in a tightly sealed container away from light. Avoid storing this medication in areas where it could get damp or wet, such as bathrooms.

Disposal

If you no longer need to take Ambien or Ambien CR and have leftover medication, it’s important to dispose of it safely. This helps prevent others, including children and pets, from taking the drug by accident. It also helps keep the drug from harming the environment.

This article provides several useful tips on medication disposal. You can also ask your pharmacist for information about how to dispose of your medication.

Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.