Zopiclone, commonly sold as Imovane or Zimovane, is a nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic used to treat insomnia and difficulty sleeping. Do not take this drug for longer than four weeks, as long-term use can lead to dependency and other dangerous effects.

Zopiclone brand names

Zopiclone is commonly sold under the following brand names:

  • Imovane
  • Zimovane
  • Imoclone
  • Lyzop
  • Zopitran
  • Zolium
  • Ziclone
  • Zopicon
  • Zolinox
  • Imrest
  • Rhovane

What is zopiclone prescribed for?

Zopiclone is prescribed for the short-term treatment of insomnia. It can help with symptoms like difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking throughout the night, and waking up too early.

How does zopiclone work?

Zopiclone increases the effectiveness of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain with a calming effect. [3] This helps you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep throughout the night. It also helps to increase overall sleep duration.

How is zopiclone usually taken?

Zopiclone is usually taken orally in tablet form. In some places, it may also be ordered in liquid form if you have trouble swallowing pills. [4]

It is prescribed in doses of either 3.75mg or 7.5mg taken once daily right before bed. [4] In order to prevent tolerance and dependency, your doctor may recommend taking it only two or three days a week. It’s important to follow all of your doctor’s instructions for use.

While 7.5mg is the standard dose, 3.75mg is often prescribed as a starting dose for elderly patients or those who have certain medical conditions, such as liver or kidney disease. [4] 

Zopiclone is typically only prescribed for short-term use of up to 2-4 weeks. This drug can lead to tolerance, dependency, and addiction when taken for longer than one month. [3]

Make sure you have at least 7-8 hours available to sleep before taking this medication.

How long does zopiclone stay in your system?

Zopiclone takes around one hour to begin working. It has a half-life (the time it takes for the amount of the medication in your system to decrease by half) of five hours in most patients, except elderly patients who can have a half-life of up to seven hours. [5]

This drug’s effects do not last longer than 12 hours. [4] However, zopiclone may still be detectable in urine for 49 hours, and it can be detected in saliva for 59 hours, on average. [1]

Zopiclone side effects

Zopiclone can cause adverse reactions in some people. Listed below are some of the most documented side effects. This list is not conclusive, so let your doctor know if you experience any other unexpected adverse effects. 

Most common side effects 

These side effects are somewhat common and generally mild. They may affect roughly one in 100 people taking the drug: [4]

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Headaches 

Uncommon side effects 

The following adverse effects are less common and may be more bothersome:

  • Nausea
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Double vision
  • Restlessness
  • Problems with coordination
  • Indigestion
  • Stomach pain
  • Impotence
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased sensitivity to touch, light, or sound
  • Increased or decreased appetite [3] 

Rare side effects

These effects are rare and can be more severe in nature: [4]

  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations, like seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there
  • Delusions, or false beliefs that are resistant to contrary evidence
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Falling over, especially if over 65 years of age
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nightmares
  • Seizures
  • Speech difficulties
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety, irritability, or agitation
  • Numbness of hands or feet
  • Suicidal ideation [3]

Allergic reactions 

Immediately seek medical help if you notice the following signs of an allergic reaction: 

  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the throat or chest
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble talking
  • Skin rash
  • Swelling of the mouth, lips, throat, or face [4]

Unusual sleep activity 

While taking zopiclone, some people may experience sleepwalking or other unusual behaviors during sleep. These can include activities like eating, having sex, or driving. [3] Contact your doctor and immediately stop taking this medication If you experience any of these.

If you experience mild side effects that are bothersome, contact your doctor to discuss your options. If you notice any severe side effects, seek immediate medical care from your doctor or the nearest emergency room.

Zopiclone precautions

Before taking zopiclone, let your doctor know of any other medications you are taking, as well as any known allergies. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as there have been reports of side effects and withdrawal symptoms in infants exposed to the drug. [6] 

Do not take this medication with alcohol or drugs, as this can increase the sedative effects and cause breathing problems. [4] 

If you have liver or kidney disease, your doctor may prescribe a lower dose due to the slower elimination of the drug. [3]

Inform your doctor if you have sleep apnea or other respiratory conditions, as zopiclone can lead to respiratory depression and trouble breathing. [6] For the same reason, this medication is generally not recommended for patients who suffer from myasthenia gravis. [4]

Taking zopiclone can decrease your threshold for seizures, so let your doctor know if you have epilepsy. [6]

Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how this drug affects you during the day. [4] Always avoid driving or operating machinery for 12 hours after taking this medication. 

Tell your doctor if you suffer from depression or anxiety, as zopiclone may increase suicidal ideation in some people. [6]

Zopiclone interactions

The following medications are known to have potentially dangerous interactions with zopiclone. Please note that this list is not exhaustive and only lists the most severe interactions. Always inform your doctor of all other medications you are taking.

Zopiclone may increase the effects of the following: 

  • Antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Anesthetics used in surgery
  • Antihistamines
  • Opioids and other narcotics [3] 

The sedative effects are heightened when this drug is taken with:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Other hypnotic medications
  • Muscle relaxants [3] 

There is an increased risk of side effects when zopiclone is taken with: 

  • Ritonavir
  • Antifungals, such as ketoconazole and itraconazole
  • Certain antibiotics, such as erythromycin and clarithromycin [3]

Other medications, like the following, can decrease the effectiveness of Zopiclone:

  • Rifampicin
  • St John’s Wort
  • Certain epilepsy medications, such as phenytoin and phenobarbital [3]

Zopiclone dependency and withdrawal

Zopiclone is a nonbenzodiazepine, which has a lower risk of addiction than benzodiazepines. However, some people may still experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping this medication. The risk is higher if the medication is taken longer than a few weeks or stopped suddenly, instead of gradually decreasing the dose. [3]

Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Tachycardia, or unusually high heart rate [2]

Some may also experience rebound insomnia, where the insomnia comes back and can be worse than before starting zopiclone. [4]

Zopiclone storage

Zopiclone should be stored in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight. It should be stored below 77ºF. [3] Zopiclone has a shelf-life of three years. [6] Do not take it after the expiration date listed on the package.

What to do if you overdose on Zopiclone

Never take more than your prescribed dose. If you do happen to overdose, you may experience: [4]

  • Loss of balance
  • Limp muscles
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Deep sleep

Even if you do not experience these symptoms, it’s essential to get emergency medical help immediately if you take more than your prescribed dose. The risk of a coma is possible. [4] Go to your nearest emergency room. Do not drive yourself.

FAQs

What can I take instead of zopiclone?

In the US, where zopiclone is not available, eszopiclone (brand name Lunesta) can be taken instead. The two drugs work very similarly. 

Although these medications can be helpful in managing insomnia for a short period of time, they are not a long-term solution. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective in addressing the root cause and providing long-lasting relief. [5] 

How long does zopiclone take to work?

Zopiclone starts to work very quickly. It typically takes one hour for the effects to kick in.

Zopiclone vs Zolpidem (Ambien) – What is the difference?

Zopiclone and zolpidem are both nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics used to treat insomnia. Their effectiveness is similar, but zolpidem is less likely to cause rebound insomnia when you stop taking the drug. [7]

Zopiclone vs Xanax – What is the difference?

Zopiclone is a nonbenzodiazepine used primarily to treat insomnia. On the other hand, alprazolam (brand name Xanax) is a benzodiazepine used primarily to treat anxiety and panic attacks. Although it is sometimes prescribed to treat insomnia, this is an off-label use. [8]

Resources:

  1. Bruun, L. D., Kjeldstadli, K., Temte, V., Birdal, M., Bachs, L., Langødegård, M., Strand, D. H., Gaare, K. I., Øiestad, E., & Høiseth, G. (2019). Detection time of Oxazepam and Zopiclone in urine and oral fluid after experimental oral dosing. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 43(5), 369–377. https://doi.org/10.1093/jat/bky083
  2. Cimolai N. (2007). Zopiclone: is it a pharmacologic agent for abuse? Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 53(12), 2124–2129.
  3. Drugs.com. (2022). Zopiclone. Drugs.com. Retrieved November 11, 2022 from https://www.drugs.com/zopiclone.html
  4. NHS. (n.d.). Zopiclone. NHS. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/zopiclone/
  5. Stanley, N. (2021). Zopiclone and sleep. Sleepstation. Retrieved November 9, 2022 from https://www.sleepstation.org.uk/articles/medicines/zopiclone/
  6. Teva Pharma Limited. (2014). New Zealand Data Sheet: Zopiclone. Retrieved November 9, 2022 from https://www.medsafe.govt.nz/profs/datasheet/z/zopicloneactavistab.pdf
  7. UK Meds Direct Ltd. (2019). Is Zolpidem the same as Zopiclone? UKMeds.co.uk. Retrieved November 11, 2022 from https://www.ukmeds.co.uk/blog/is-zolpidem-the-same-as-zopiclone
  8. WebMD. (n.d.). Xanax: Uses, side effects, and more. WebMD. Retrieved November 11, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-9824/xanax-oral/details