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 is available on prescription 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.

Don't give zopiclone to children.

  1. 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.
    • Don't 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.
  2. Who can take zopiclone

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

    Zopiclone isn't suitable for everyone. To make sure zopiclone is safe for you, tell your doctor if you:

    • have an allergy to zopiclone or any of its ingredients
    • have liver or kidney problems
    • have severe muscle weakness (myasthenia gravis)
    • 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, are already pregnant, or are breastfeeding
  3. How and when to take

    Zopiclone tablets come in 2 different strengths – 3.5mg 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 3.5mg 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. Don't 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.

    What if I forget to take it?

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

    Never take two 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 take too much zopiclone by accident, you must get advice quickly even if you don't feel any different. Call 111 straight away.

    If you can, take the box or leaflet inside the packet plus any remaining medicine with you to the hospital.

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

  4. Side effects

    Not everyone will get side effects with zopiclone.

    Common side effects happen in more than 1 in 100 people, and include:

    • a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth
    • a dry mouth
    • daytime sleepiness  

    Serious side effects

    Serious side effects are rare, and happen in less than 1 in 1,000 people.

    Tell your doctor as soon as possible if you:

    • lose your memory (amnesia)
    • see or hear things that aren't real (hallucinations)
    • fall over (especially in the elderly)
    • think things that aren't true (delusions)
    • feel low or sad (depressed mood)

    Serious allergic reaction

    The warning signs of a serious allergic reaction are:

    • getting a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin
    • wheezing
    • tightness in the chest or throat
    • having trouble breathing or talking
    • swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat

    A serious allergic reaction is an emergency. Contact a doctor straight away if you think you or someone around you is having a serious allergic reaction.

    These aren't all the side effects of zopiclone. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicine packet.

  5. How to cope with side effects

    What to do about:

    • a dry mouth – try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets
    • a metallic taste in the mouth – try chewing sugar-free gum
    • feeling sleepy or tired – don't drive or use tools or machinery if you're feeling this way. Don't drink any alcohol as this will make you feel more tired.

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

  6. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

    Don't take zopiclone if you're pregnant, as it may harm the developing baby and 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.

    However, your doctor may decide that it's best for you to continue taking zopiclone while you're pregnant.

    Zopiclone passes into breast milk in small amounts. If you have to take zopiclone, talk to your doctor or midwife about your feeding options.

    Tell your doctor immediately if you're trying to get pregnant or become pregnant while taking this medicine.

  7. Cautions with other medicines

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

    The following medicines may increase the sedating effects of zopiclone:

    • medicines to treat schizophrenia and bipolar illness (antipsychotics)
    • medicines to treat depression
    • medicines for epilepsy
    • medicines used in surgery (anaesthetics)
    • 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)
    • some medicines used to treat fungal infections (such as ketoconazole and itraconazole)
    • Ritonavir (a medicine used to treat HIV infections)

    Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies and supplements.

  8. Common questions