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Monday , 14 October 2013
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Ambien vs Lunesta for Insomnia

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Ambien vs Lunesta for treating insomnia

Insomnia is a problem we can all relate to – no one has not had it at one point during their life.  Over a year, roughly 1/3 of adults will have some sort of insomnia, and about 2-6% of adults will choose to use a sleep medication.

The ideal treatment for insomnia is without medication.  This article discusses how to fight insomnia naturally.

Of the medications, however, Ambien and Lunesta are two very popular sleeping aids – how do they compare?

Ambien:

Ambien is typically taken in 5-10mg/day, takes half an hour to take effect, and half of it is gone in about 2-3 hours.  It hits you quick, makes you fall asleep, then goes away.

This “rougher” mode of action may make it more potent.  It may also reduce the chance of daytime drowsiness.  It may also, however, not help with people who have trouble with waking up in the middle of the night.

That said, there is a long release form that may reduce these issues.

Lunesta:

Lunesta is typically given in 1-3mg/day, kicks in at about one hour, and half of it is gone in 4-6 hours.  It’s more subtle and softer, but may have more issue with daytime drowsiness.  That said, one major study showed that use of Lunesta reduced daytime drowsiness as compared to placebo, probably due to better quality sleep.

Importantly, it is the only FDA approved medication for treating insomnia that can be given for more than 35 days.  Studies have shown that Lunesta can work for 6 months without inducing tolerance to its effects and as well as causing very little dependency.

This medication, like Ambien, helps you fall asleep faster and improves the quality of your sleep.

Both Ambien, Lunesta

Both medications have similar chemical effects, the most common being drowsiness, dizziness and headache.  Ambien and Lunesta both somehow mimic the action of benzodiazepines albeit in a different way.

There have been reports from both medications of possible hallucinations, night time sleep-activity (even driving a car while asleep!).  They can both worsen depression and both are metabolized by the same enzymes, so have similar drug interactions and counterindications.

User satisfaction

Most people who use this type of medication find it helpful and useful.  In one study, 74-84% reported that they were happy with their decision to use the medication.
That said, one can’t forget the risks inherent to all sleep medications.  Even while some studies have shown limited tolerance and dependency, many users report those are issues.  Rebound insomnia, where insomnia is worsened once the medication is used, is not uncommon.

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This post was written by on Sunday, February 14, 2010. This author has written 223 posts on this blog and has 4877958 total posts views.


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68 comments

  1. I’ve been on ambien for a little over 10 years. I’ve tried to get off with, with my doctor’s help. Several times I took the other meds and didn’t take any ambiem. I may have slept 1 hour out of the who 24 hours a day. I was soooo tired. After a couple weeks, she switched me to another sleep medicine.
    None of them worked. I tried for a month, taking other px meds. I felt like I was going to die, by not being able to sleep. I don’t know what i’m going to do if they have it off the market. If anyone reads this and wants to contact me about your experience, please feel free to do so at: robairesugar@aol.com

  2. I have been taking Lunesta for around 5 Years. I couldn’t
    Handle ambien.  We are all different..  I felt terrible the next day but now I think the Lunesta is making me more depressed as of late, and I want try and sleep without it.  For just 2 nights, I have split my 3 mg. dose in half.  I am in the  insomnia rebound phase.  Today I  also felt  terribly anxious and unsettled, very uncomfortable.  I am anxious to get back to more natural sleep, so I want to stick it out. I think I can  sleep and just fell into the habit of taking a pill .  Have other people weened themselves from Lunesta.  Any pointers would be much appreciated.  Thx

  3. I was taking ambien regulary for 2 years it has a side effect.

  4. I was on long term Ambien because of chronic pain despite the usual talk about it being a short term drug. I developed a horrible need to urinate very often. I couldn’t even go out with friends because I had to go so often I was embarrassed. I ended up having several ultrasounds to see what was wrong with my bladder. I was getting up several times a night to go the teeniest bit and couldn’t have anything in my bladder without it feeling full. I ended up stopping ambien 10mg because i couldn’t sleep and switched to lunesta. To my great suprise, my bladder problem is totally gone and I see now it was caused by ambien. I will never take it again and will stay up all night if I have to before I’d go back on it. Be warned. 

  5. IV HAD INSOMNIA FOR THREE YEARS NOW I CANT SLEEP WITHOUT A PILL USUALLY LUNESTA BUT IV BECOME DEPENDED ON IT I CANT SLEEP WITHOUT IT..IV TAKEN EVERYTHING U CAN THINK OF… WELL IV RUN OUT OF MY LUNESTA AN MY INSUR WONT FILL IT FOR ANOTHER MONTH SO I HAVE TO START TAKEING AMBIEM AN IM SCARED ITS NOT GONNA WORK…IM A MANAGER AT A RETAIL STORE AN I HAVE TO BE ALERT AT ALL TIMES…SO I HAVE TO HAVE MY SLEEP …IV HAD DAYS WHEN THE LUNESTA WOULDN’T WORK AN IV HAD TO LEAVE WORK BECAUSE I FELT LIKE SHIT WITH NO SLEEP…I WANT TO BE NORMAL AGAIN…IM TIRED OF HAVING TO RELY ON PILLS TO SLEEP…IM JUST SO TIRED

    • I am 76 and have been a chronic insomniac for many years. I have tried practically every prescription and non-prescription product on the market. I envy people who have no trouble sleeping compared with others who have some degree of sleep deprivation. I don’t know the answer to eradicate the problem.

  6. Hi Dawn,

    I just want to say that every one acts differently to Ambien. I have been taking 5 mg for 12 years everynight. I tried quitting and could not handle not sleeping. I quit for 3 weeks and had to go back. The reason I quit was because of short term memory loss. I can handle the memory loss but cannot do without sleep. I am 77 years old and retired so that makes a difference. If you can manage without sleep for months and maybe years try quitting but I could not do it. I have never had all the other bad experiences and side effects that people talk about. If you are young it might be worth toughing it out to get back to normal. Good luck and keep me posted on what you decide.

  7. I have tried both Ambien and Lunesta.  Ambien made me very depressed.  Three days after I quit taking it I felt like a new person.  I still can’t sleep and have been trying melatonin and over the counter sleep aids … I still can’t “stay” asleep.  I wake up every hour or so throughout the night.  Tonight I am once again going to try the Lunesta … Wish me luck!  If anyone has any other suggestions, I am open!

    • Have you found a solution? You can pass it on to me. I have read that there are 70 million people who have one for or another of sleep deprivation. It’s awful.

  8. I have taken Ambien for about 8 years, i have a problem with memory lose, which the doctor says is due to being on ambien for so long. I absolutely cannot sleep without taking something, I lie down at night and my mind replays every thing that has ever happened in my life. going without sleep for me is so very hard, i just cannot do it, i tried to come off Ambien with the doctors help, but nothing else has worked.i am now taking lunestra and so far so good, I am sleeping atleast 7 hours a night.I dont know if the memory problems will improve since I am off the Ambien, I guess i will just have to wait and see.

  9. Hey guys, 
    I have suffered from insomnia for quite some time. In males however sleep apnea, or being apnic worsens signs of insomnia and helps mimic effects of add. I had been tested and found apnic, after breathing treatments and sleep masks i have no need for ambien or anything else. Check it out sometime. 

    And the reasoning behind sleep apnic vs insomnia/ add i that when you breathe through your mouth you can cut off your airway with your tongue, your nose doesnt breath, your mouth chokes and finally you exhale releasing the tongue. Doing it 4 to 6 times a night allows you sleep but no deep rem which creates our chemicals for sleep and attentiveness. 

  10. I wanted to add my experience, im 42 and have been struggling with sleep for years, it takes me 3 or 4 hrs to get to sleep then i wake every 20 min, Lunesta helped, but when my Dr. put me on ADHD meds my sleeping problem went away and i was able to stop the sleep meds,

    My sleep problem was my mind would race (feel ampped up) when i tried to sleep, no matter how tired i was.,
     I was on ritlen as a kid in school, so i Do have ADHD,  may be something to check for people who have that racing mind

  11. I have been sleep deprived over the last 5 years. My doctor first prescribed Ambien, which worked perfectly the first night. Out cold 10 minutes after taking it and sound asleep for 8 hours. The second night it took longer to take effect and only got about 6 hours. I quickly reduced down to only sleeping exactly 4 hours each night. Not enough to function at work. My doctor changed my prescription to 3mg of Lunesta and life has been much better ever since. A few nights of tossing and turning for a few hours, even after taking my pill, I took another dose to ensure I sleep. That is very rare I must say. Typically, I am sound asleep within 45 minutes and sleep roughly 6 hours. I am not groggy when I wake and I have the energy to take me through a 15-17 hour day. I would prefer to sleep for 8 hours but apparently my body only requires 6…bummer. It truly was a life changer for me. I could not function at work and my job was jeopardized because of lack of sleep. My new doctor refuses to refill my prescription for 90 pills. She claims I should only take no more than 3 times per week! If I need it more often than that she wanted to send me to a sleep specialist. I’ve tried to go without and suffer terribly without my sleep. I think she’s nuts.  I have switched back to my original doctor.

  12. Don’t take sleeping pills. Best advice I can give.

    • You’ve got to be kidding, Jake. You obviously have no idea what it’s like to get about 20 hours of sleep in an entire week. People such as me have lost their jobs and had their lives changed because of insomnia. Don’t take a pill, you say? Get real.

  13. I’ve been on and off Melatonin, Valarien Root , Tryptophan, prescribed antixylotics, Ambien, and Lunesta. They all stop working after a few days. I’m now on Seroquel. 100 mg works great and you wake up rested. It can be taken up to 400 mg. Only side effect I’ve noticed is carb craving at the beginning of the day. I think its an antipsychotic, but its used for sleep also. HOPP THIS HELPS.

  14. Taking lunesta for the first time tonight. I usually take xanax because its about anxiety, racing thoughts for me, ptsd. Tried ambien, didnt sleep, made me wander around ambien-drunk. Seroquel, knocked me out but made me a zombie, needed it for a brief period but could not live that way. Als my brain seemed to react to the moment it wore off for sleep and woke up in full panic attack, but remained groggy for the entire day. Listless, lethargic, weight gain, killed any and all creative energy. Really hoping lunesta works. Ambien to me is a dangerous date rape type of drug. I cant sleep without some sort of aid and become stressed/panicky when I have nothing. Trying to reserve xanax for anxiety during waking hours and stop using it for sleep, tho I fear waking up in mid panic attack, as anxiety is my biggest issue, and the cause of insomnia. Also adhd. Fingers crossed this works

  15. Ambien, Lunesta, Temazapan, Diphenhyd have all been tried by me.ramine, Doxylomine, L-Tryptophan, Melaton and Valerian root have been the materials I have used to aid in my sleeping. Sadly, I am a chronic insomniac and it “drives me crazy>’ I have read probably everything written on the subject in magazines, in ads and even from doctors. As they say, what may be good for the goose may not be good for the gander. I just spoke with a pharmacist who told me he has never taken a sleeping pill. What is the magic bullet?

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