Published on 15 September 2022

Does Ambien Cause Memory Loss?

Zopiclone (Imovane) ambien-cause-memory-loss
Table of Contents

People who take sleeping pills do get better sleep. Having a good night's sleep after numerous sleepless nights might be a relief. However, these advantages frequently end there. Regular use of these medications may result in tolerance, rendering them useless even to promote sleep.

When recommending sleeping drugs, doctors frequently discuss the side effects, including confusion, memory, and performance issues during the day.

Memory is the one part of cognition that is most obviously impacted badly and has serious, long-lasting impacts. For instance, these pills can prevent people from forming or consolidating new memories; and even make them forget things that happened while they were on the medicine.

Long-term use of sleep medicines is frequent, even though they are typically prescribed for transient sleep interruptions. Ambien is one of the sleeping pills used to treat insomnia. Does Ambien cause memory loss? Can the memory loss caused by the drug be reversible? Let us see more into it. 

What is Ambien?

Ambien is an imidazopyridine with rapid sedative-hypnotic action. The effects of Ambien are a reduction in waking episodes, an increase in total sleep time, and better sleep quality. It induces sleep by attaching to particular GABA receptors that control the regulation of chloride channels.

It is used for the Short-term treatment of insomnia. It includes Difficulty falling asleep, waking too early, or waking in the middle of the night, and Anxiety-related insomnia.

Every medication is also used for an Off-label purpose, wherein the medicine is used without the FDA’s confirmation. It relieves stress, anxiety, migraine, headache discomfort, and various neurological conditions.

How Does Ambien Work?

Different drug classes are available depending on what it is used for. Ambien is classified as a sedative-hypnotic medication. All the medicine used for treating the same conditions belongs to the same drug class and works similarly. 

Its mechanism of action involves boosting the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, reducing activity in the central nervous system (CNS), and promoting a quicker onset of sleep. Ambien acts directly on the brain, producing a calming effect.

Can Ambien Cause Memory Loss?

Ambien, particularly at larger doses, may result in memory loss as a side effect, a sign of amnesia. It may happen more frequently if you take the medication but do not get into bed.
A loss of memory that occurs right before the night is usually not a problem. It doesn't matter if you can't recall lying awake for a short while before going to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night. 

Ambien use and long-term memory issues can also be due to untreated sleep apnea. There are many accounts of people taking sleeping pills who stay awake and out of bed and do not remember what happened afterward.

Studies Related To Ambien-induced Memory Loss:

After taking Ambien, most people quickly fall asleep. But occasionally, people may find themselves in strange situations—like taking a shower—and have no idea how they got there.

Travelers taking Ambien to fall asleep on a flight may wake up before the drug takes effect leading to serious side effects.

There were numerous instances of impaired driving while on Ambien, with one notable example involving a person who woke up in police custody. 

Research by the National Center for Biotechnical Technology revealed that volunteers who took a dose of 20 milligrams of Ambien experienced impairment six hours later in some psychomotor measures, such as word recall.

How Does Ambien Affect Memory?

As a sedative-hypnotic, Ambien slows down the brain and central nervous system by activating neurotransmitters in the brain. Ambien starts to act rapidly, usually in about 20 minutes, although its controlled-release version is the best at maintaining sleep.

The usage of Ambien can result in amnesia, with abuse of other CNS depressants, including alcohol and benzodiazepines. People who use Ambien may not recall what happened to them while the drug was in their system since the brain does not preserve short-term experiences in long-term memory. 

Additionally, Ambien seems to impair short-term memory, making it impossible for users to recall events that occurred a few minutes earlier. It is more likely to occur in individuals taking high doses of Ambien. It may raise the risk of dementia or Alzheimer's because of the harm to short-term memory.

Possible Side Effects Of Ambien

Every medication has its side effects. It may affect people or not, entirely dependent on various factors of the person consuming it. You can get the necessary help from the doctor if you see any changes in your body after taking the medication.

Common Side Effects Severe Side Effects
Sleepiness or drowsiness Hallucinations
Disorientation Slowed or compromised breathing
Confusion Memory problems
Unusual behavior Loss of consciousness
Falling Inability to Concentrate

Can Memory Loss Cause By Ambien Be Reverse?

Memory loss from Ambien may resolve with a change in medication or treating the underlying cause. According to the FDA Prescribing Information, users should only take Ambien after sleeping 7-8 hours to prevent memory issues.

The Food and Drug Administration mandated that the manufacturers of Ambien cut the dosage given to female customers in half in January 2013 because women's bodies break down the drug more slowly than men's.

Inform the prescribing doctor if the person experiences parasomnia or memory loss while on Ambien.
The person should discuss treatment options with the doctor if they have become dependent on Ambien.

Treatment options like dose tapering, medical detox, and addiction treatment- under medical supervision are acceptable depending on the situation.

Treatment For Memory loss

Treatment includes:

  • Switching prescriptions 
  • Cognitive therapy for issues like head injuries  
  • Therapy for problems related to mental health  
  • Rehabilitation for substance abuse  
  • Surgery and medications for blood clots, brain tumor  
  • Nutritional supplements  
  • Lifestyle tips to improve memory 
  • Get adequate sleep (7-8 hours).   
  • Eat a balanced meal with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and protein.  
  • Limit alcohol intake.  
  • Avoid smoking.   
  • Engage in mindful activities like yoga and relaxation techniques.  
  • Exercise regularly.

Other Nonbenzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics?

The "Z" drugs can sometimes induce amnesia and cause risky or bizarre behaviors (such as cooking or operating a vehicle), without memory of the incident upon awakening. E.g., Eszopiclone, zaleplon.

Also Read:

Bottom Line Form Practical Anxiety Solutions

People who struggle with sleep loss should consider adopting natural sleep measures. Researchers have suggested various sleep hygiene techniques to help individuals sleep better. Sleep medications may be the best option when sleep hygiene interventions are ineffective because not sleeping has risks, and lack of sleep undoubtedly lowers cognition.

If you are worried that one of your prescription or over-the-counter medications may be the trigger for memory problems, talk to your health professional about alternative treatment options. Use Ambien as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking Ambien without speaking to your doctor first.

  • Mintzer, M. Z., & Griffiths, R. R. (2016). Selective effects of zolpidem on human memory functions. Journal of Psychopharmacology. From Obtain on 14/09/2022
  • Shih, I., Lin, C., Tu, F., Chang, M., Hsu, C., Chi, H., & Kao, H. (2015). An Increased Risk of Reversible Dementia May Occur After Zolpidem Derivative Use in the Elderly Population: A Population-Based Case-Control Study. Medicine, 94(17). From Obtain on 14/09/2022
  • Inagaki, T., Miyaoka, T., Tsuji, S., Inami, Y., Nishida, A., & Horiguchi, J. (2010). Adverse Reactions to Zolpidem: Case Reports and a Review of the Literature. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 12(6). From  https://do Obtain on 14/09/2022
  • Chavant, F., Favrelière, S., Lafay-Chebassier, C., Plazanet, C., & Pérault-Pochat, C. (2011). Memory disorders associated with consumption of drugs: updating through a case/noncase study in the French PharmacoVigilance Database. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 72(6), 898-904. From  Obtain on 14/09/2022