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What Are the Different Uses for Zolpidem?

By Jennifer Long
Updated May 17, 2024
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Common uses for zolpidem include insomnia and anxiety. Off-label uses include treatment for restless leg syndrome (RLS) and a few brain disorders. Research has also suggested that zolpidem may help stroke victims repair aphasia symptoms that interfere with language. It acts as a hypnotic by relaxing brain activity, which in turn also relaxes bodily activities.

One of the primary uses for zolpidem is the short-term treatment of insomnia. The immediate-release form helps induce sleep in an average time of about 15 minutes. Extended-release zolpidem is a dual layer tablet. One layer induces sleep while the other layer slowly releases to prolong a sleeping state. Doctors prescribe extended-release tablets when a person suffers from the inability to fall asleep and the inability to stay asleep.

Anxiety is another one of the primary uses for zolpidem. Sufferers vary on the levels of anxiety experienced. Some people have temporary stress-induced anxiety that causes occasional bouts of sleeplessness, but other people have an anxiety disorder and need a medication that acts similar to benzodiazepines and promotes relaxation during a panic attack. Both of these instances are temporary and do not usually require long-term use. The zolpidem is only taken as it is needed.

Restless leg syndrome occurs as a result of overactive nerves in the legs. The brain has difficulty stopping these nerves during times of inactivity, such as sleeping. This makes a person feel as though continual movement is necessary even though sleep is required. Although it is designed to induce sleep, one of the off-label uses for zolpidem is to help someone with RLS gain the ability to stop moving, fall asleep, and stay asleep for the time needed.

Doctors prescribe zolpidem as a temporary aid; it is not designed for chronic insomnia. While zolpidem can be helpful for many situations, it can be addictive. The medicine becomes ineffective when taken for long periods of time. Ideally, it should only be taken for two to three weeks, and after this point, dosages need to be readjusted. Most doctors will recommend only taking this medicine occasionally instead of nightly to avoid dependence.

Common side effects of zolpidem include drowsiness, headache, vivid dreams, dry mouth, and appetite changes. Chest pain, difficulty breathing, or hives are a sign of an allergic reaction and a doctor should be notified. If swelling of the face, lips, or tongue occurs, immediate medical attention is necessary.

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