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Zopiclone

1. About zopiclone

Zopiclone is a type of sleeping pill that can be taken to treat bad bouts of insomnia.

It helps you fall asleep more quickly, and also helps stop you waking up during the night.

Zopiclone comes as tablets. It also comes as a liquid for people who find it hard to swallow tablets, but this has to be ordered specially by your doctor.

This medicine is only available on prescription.

2. Key facts

  • Zopiclone takes around 1 hour to work.
  • Zopiclone is usually prescribed for just 2 to 4 weeks. This is because your body gets used to it quickly and after this time it's unlikely to have the same effect. Your body can also become dependent on it.
  • Common side effects are a metallic taste in your mouth, a dry mouth, and daytime sleepiness.
  • Do not drink alcohol while you're on zopiclone. Having them together can make you go into a deep sleep where you find it difficult to wake up.
  • Zopiclone is also called by the brand name Zimovane.

3. Who can and can't take zopiclone

Zopiclone can be taken by adults over the age of 18.

It's not suitable for some people.

To make sure zopiclone is safe for you, tell your doctor if you:

  • have had an allergic reaction to zopiclone or any other medicines in the past
  • have liver or kidney problems
  • have myasthenia gravis, an illness that causes muscle weakness
  • have breathing problems or sleep apnoea (where you stop breathing for short bouts while sleeping)
  • have had mental health problems
  • have had issues with alcoholism or drug abuse
  • are trying to get pregnant, already pregnant, or breastfeeding

4. How and when to take it

Zopiclone tablets come in 2 different strengths: 3.75mg and 7.5mg.

The usual dose is to take a 7.5mg tablet just before you go to bed. It takes around 1 hour to work.

A lower dose of 3.75mg may be recommended to begin with if you're over 65 years old or have kidney or liver problems.

Taking a lower dose in these cases reduces the risk of excessive sleepiness and other side effects.

Swallow the tablet whole. Do not crush or chew it. You can take zopiclone with or without food.

It's important to take it exactly as your doctor has told you. You could be asked to take a tablet on only 2 or 3 nights each week, rather than every night.

Important

Do not take more than your prescribed dose.

What if I forget to take it?

If you forget to take it by bedtime, just start again the next night.

Never take 2 doses at the same time. Never take an extra dose to make up for a forgotten one.

What if I take too much?

If you have taken more than your prescribed dose by accident, call your doctor for advice.

Urgent advice: Contact a doctor straight away if you take too much zopiclone

Do this even if you don't feel any different.

If you need to go to hospital, take the zopiclone packet or leaflet inside it, plus any remaining medicine, with you.

It's a good idea to get a friend or family member to go with you to hospital in case you become sleepy on the way. Do not drive yourself.

5. Side effects

Not everyone will get side effects with zopiclone.

These common side effects happen in more than 1 in 100 people.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or don't go away:

  • a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth or a dry mouth
  • feeling sleepy or tired

Serious side effects

Serious side effects are rare, but you should call your doctor as soon as possible if you:

  • lose your memory - this is called amnesia
  • see or hear things that aren't real - these are called hallucinations
  • fall over, especially if you're elderly
  • think things that aren't true - these are called delusions
  • feel low or sad - this could be a sign of depression

Serious allergic reaction

In rare cases, it's possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to zopiclone.

Urgent advice: Contact a doctor straight away if:

  • you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • you're wheezing
  • you get tightness in the chest or throat
  • you have trouble breathing or talking
  • your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling

These are warning signs of a serious allergic reaction.

A serious allergic reaction is an emergency.

These are not all the side effects of zopiclone.

For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.

Information:

You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.

6. How to cope with side effects

What to do about:

  • a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth or a dry mouth - if this bothers you, try taking sips of water and keep some water by your bed at night. Using a mouthwash before bedtime may also help. Choose one that's good for a dry mouth, as some can make a dry mouth worse.
  • feeling sleepy or tired - do not drive or use tools or machinery if you're feeling this way. Do not drink any alcohol as this will make you feel more tired. If this doesn't help, talk to your doctor.

7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Do not take zopiclone if you're pregnant, as it may harm the developing baby. It can also cause side effects in newborn babies.

There's some evidence that taking zopiclone can increase your risk of having a baby born early (before 37 weeks) and the baby having a lower birth weight.

Taking zopiclone right up to labour may increase the chance of the baby having withdrawal symptoms at birth.

For more information about how zopiclone can affect you and your baby during pregnancy, read this leaflet on the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS) website.

Zopiclone and breastfeeding

Zopiclone passes into breast milk in small amounts.

If you have to take zopiclone, talk to your doctor or midwife about your feeding options.

Non-urgent advice: Tell your doctor if you're:

  • trying to get pregnant
  • pregnant
  • breastfeeding

8. Cautions with other medicines

Some medicines and zopiclone can interfere with each other and increase the chances of you having side effects.

Certain medicines may increase the drowsy-making (sedating) effects of zopiclone.

Speak to your doctor or pharmacist before starting on zopiclone if you take any of the following:

  • medicines to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
  • medicines to treat depression
  • medicines for epilepsy
  • medicines to calm or reduce anxiety, or for sleep problems
  • medicines for hay fever, rashes or other allergies that can make you sleepy (sedative antihistamines, such as chlorphenamine or promethazine)
  • strong painkillers (such as codeine, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, pethidine or tramadol)
  • erythromycin or clarithromycin (antibiotics used to treat infections)
  • medicines used to treat fungal infections (such as ketoconazole and itraconazole)
  • ritonavir (a medicine used to treat HIV infections)

Mixing zopiclone with herbal remedies and supplements

Do not take any herbal remedies that make you feel sleepy while taking zopiclone.

They can increase the drowsy-making (sedating) effects of your medicine.

Important

For safety, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.

9. Common questions

How does zopiclone work?

Zopiclone boosts the effectiveness of a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

GABA blocks transmission across nerves in the brain and has a calming effect.

By boosting the effectiveness of GABA, zopiclone improves sleep.

How long will it take to work?

Zopiclone takes around 1 hour to work.

Will I sleepwalk with zopiclone?

Some people have reported doing things like sleepwalking, making food and making phone calls while they're asleep after taking zopiclone. They do not remember when they wake up.

This is more likely to happen if you take zopiclone with alcohol or other medicines for mental health problems like depression or anxiety.

If this happens to you, go back to your doctor for advice.

How long will I take it for?

You'll usually be prescribed zopiclone for just 2 to 4 weeks.

This is because your body gets used to this medicine quickly, and after this time it's unlikely to have the same effect.

Your body can also become dependent on it.

If you still have sleeping problems after finishing your course of zopiclone, try the lifestyle changes recommended below.

See your doctor again if these don't help.

Can I get addicted to zopiclone?

If you just take it for a few weeks, you're unlikely to become addicted to zopiclone.

You may become dependent on it if you take it for longer than 4 weeks.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice about stopping zopiclone.

They can help you come off your medicine gradually if you have been taking it for a long time, or if you're worried about becoming dependent on it.

How do I come off zopiclone and will I get withdrawal symptoms?

Do not suddenly stop taking this medicine without telling your doctor, as you may get withdrawal symptoms.

This is when, for a few days or weeks, your insomnia returns more intensely than before.

You may also feel anxious, restless, have mood changes, and become very sensitive to light, noise and being touched.

Speak to your doctor about coming off zoplicone. They may suggest that you reduce your dose of zopiclone slowly, over a few days or weeks, to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

But if you have been taking zopiclone for less than a month, you're unlikely to have any of these symptoms.

Can I drive or ride a bike?

Do not drive a car, ride a bike or operate machinery if zopiclone makes you sleepy during the daytime, gives you blurred vision, or makes you feel dizzy, clumsy or unable to concentrate or make decisions.

This may be more likely when you first start taking zopiclone, but could happen at any time - for example, when starting another medicine.

It's an offence to drive a car if your ability to drive safely is affected. It's your responsibility to decide if it's safe to drive. If you're in any doubt, do not drive.

GOV.UK has more information on the law on drugs and driving.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you're unsure whether it's safe for you to drive while taking zopiclone.

Will it affect my fertility?

There's no firm evidence to suggest that taking zopiclone will reduce fertility in either men or women.

But speak to a pharmacist or your doctor if you're trying to get pregnant. They may want to review your treatment.

Will it affect my contraception?

Zopiclone doesn't affect how contraception works, including the combined pill and emergency contraception.

Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?

Do not drink caffeine-containing drinks like coffee, cola or energy drinks while you're on zopiclone.

Caffeine has the opposite effect of zopiclone in your body and stops it working.

Can I drink alcohol with it?

No. Do not drink alcohol while you're on zopiclone.

Alcohol and zopiclone together can make you sleep very deeply, so you don't breathe properly and can have difficulty waking up.

How long will it stay in my system?

Zopiclone doesn't stay in your system for more than about 12 hours.

But some people feel sleepy the next morning when they wake up.

If this happens to you, do not do any activities that require you to be fully alert, such as driving, cycling, or using tools or machinery.

Will recreational drugs affect it?

Using cannabis with zopiclone will make its sleep-inducing effects worse.

You could go into a very deep sleep, where you have difficulty waking up.

Using heroin or methadone with zopiclone may also increase the sedative effects of both of them.

Again, you could go into a very deep sleep and have difficulty waking up.

Talk to your doctor if you think you might use recreational drugs while you're taking zopiclone.

Can lifestyle changes help with insomnia?

There are a number of things you can do to help yourself beat insomnia:

  • set regular times for going to bed and waking up
  • relax before bedtime - try taking a warm bath or listening to calming music
  • use thick curtains or blinds, an eye mask and earplugs to stop you being woken up by light and noise
  • avoid caffeine, cigarettes (or e-cigarettes), alcohol, heavy meals and exercise for a few hours before going to bed
  • do not watch TV or use phones, tablets or computers just before going to bed
  • do not nap during the day
  • write a list of your worries, and any ideas about how to solve them, before you go to bed to help you forget about them until the morning

Some people find sleeping tablets you can buy in a pharmacy helpful. But these don't cure insomnia and can have unwanted side effects.

Important

Do not take any medicines or herbal remedies that make you feel sleepy while taking zopiclone.

They can increase the drowsy-making (sedating) effects of your medicine.