FRENY MENEZES
By Freny Menezes

Pharm. D

30 September 2022
Medically reviewed by
Kajal Jain
M. Pharm
lunesta-vs-ambien
Table of Contents

You might be stressed or experiencing difficulty sleeping for several reasons. If you're experiencing insomnia, a medical practitioner might recommend a prescription sleep aid like Lunesta or Ambien. But which one works better? The answer is it depends. 

More than one-third of Americans suffer from a sleep disorder such as insomnia. Zolpidem (Ambien) is the most commonly prescribed medication for insomnia or other sleep disorders. In 2018, it was reported that around 1.7 million prescriptions of Lunesta had been issued in the United States. After acknowledging these statistics, it is essential to understand that these drugs are also at risk for drug-drug interactions or drug-food interactions that may pose health dangers.

However, Ambien also has an extended-release form, Ambien CR, which may make it a better option for some people.

Both drugs are classified as non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics. Lunesta and Ambien are believed to work by interacting with GABA receptors in the brain to produce a sense of calm. They have comparable efficacy, but both also have the potential to become addictive with serious risks. Unlike Ambien, Lunesta is not restricted to short-term use. Other differences between the two lie in their available forms, dosage, and side effects. Continue reading to learn more about Lunesta and Ambien.

What Is Lunesta?

Lunesta (Eszopiclone) is a hypnotic medication that is good for falling asleep and staying asleep for longer. It works by slowing brain activity and producing a calming effect. It comes in 1, 2, and 3-milligram tablets.  

The FDA has recommended starting at the lowest dose (1 mg) and increasing only if needed. It was first approved on December 15, 2004. It is not as habit-forming as some sleep medicines but is more likely to cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly. Lunesta is prescribed to people ages 18 years and older who have trouble sleeping.

Lunesta (eszopiclone) has an average rating of 5.8 out of 10 from a total of 310 ratings for the treatment of insomnia. 44% of reviewers reported a positive effect, while 36% reported a negative impact.

What Is Ambien?

Ambien (zolpidem) is a non-barbiturate, non-benzodiazepine drug that aids in falling and staying asleep. It works by slowing brain activity and producing a calming effect. It was first approved on December 16, 1992. It can be habit-forming and is more likely to cause side effects. It is available in 5mg and 10 mg tablets; 6.25mg and 12.5mg extended-release tablets. 

These extended-release formulation help users stay asleep longer. However, the FDA has recommended starting at a 5 mg dose (6.25 mg dose for Ambien CR) because of the risk of drowsiness the following day after taking a dose. It is also available as sublingual tablets and an oral spray. Ambien is prescribed to people ages 18 years and older who have trouble sleeping.

Ambien (zolpidem) has an average rating of 7.0 out of 10 from a total of 540 ratings for the treatment of insomnia. Around 61% of reviewers reported a positive effect, while 21% reported a negative impact.

Lunesta reaches peak levels in the blood nearly one hour after taking it, while Ambien (zolpidem) reaches peak levels in the blood almost 1.5 hours after its administration. Therefore, Lunesta may reach a peak level of therapeutic action faster than Ambien and generally lasts longer than regular Ambien.
Taking Ambien or Lunesta with alcohol can cause dangerous physical and cognitive impairment, and an Ambien overdose is also tricky. This is because alcohol works similarly to these sedative/hypnotic drugs. This increases the effects of both drugs and alcohol.
Ambien helps to sleep faster despite jet lag if it is taken immediately before going to bed after arriving at the destination.

Possible Side Effects Of Both Medication

Lunesta Common Side Effects Ambien Common Side Effects
Unpleasant taste Nausea
Headache Dizziness
Dizziness Diarrhea
Dry mouth Headache
Rash Feeling agitated
Neuralgia Depression
Respiratory infection Behavioral changes
Anxiety or depression Abnormal thinking, including hallucinations

Older people and people with liver problems should use caution when taking Lunesta or Ambien. The recommended dose may be reduced to decrease the risk of side effects. The risk of withdrawal symptoms may be higher with long-term use of Lunesta or Ambien. These medications should only be discontinued under the guidance of a healthcare provider. 

Consult a medical practitioner for other possible warnings associated with Lunesta or Ambien.  

What Drugs Interact With Lunesta And Ambien?

The interaction of drugs may change how a drug works or increase the risk of severe side effects. Talk to your doctor regarding any over-the-counter or prescription medication you are taking.

Lunesta might interact with alcohol, ketoconazole, rifampin, antidepressants, or other medicines that make you drowsy or slow your breathing (such as pain medications, hard drugs, muscle relaxants, and prescriptions for seizures, depression, or Anxiety). 

Ambien may interact with antidepressants, alcohol rifampin, chlorpromazine, ketoconazole or itraconazole, or other medicines that make you drowsy or slow your breathing (such as muscle relaxants, cold medications, some analgesics, and drugs for depression, seizures, or Anxiety).

The symptoms of insomnia or sleep disorder may also return after you discontinue Ambien. These symptoms may seem to be worse than before you started taking Ambien. Ambien may also interact with chlorpromazine or itraconazole.

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solutions

The above comparative study concludes that Lunesta and Ambien are both effective for treating sleep problems. However, Lunesta has a longer half-life and may last longer than Ambien. Lunesta may also start producing maximum effects faster than Ambien. However, some studies show that Ambien may help you sleep more quickly, depending on the dosage prescribed.

  • Senior, Jennifer. "The Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Celexa, Effexor, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, Restoril, Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin, Haldol, Risperdal, Seroquel, Ambien, Lunesta, Elavil, Trazodone War." New York Magazine (2011). Obtain On 30/09/2022
  • Avril, Tom. "Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta get stronger warning from FDA." (2019). Obtain On 30/09/2022
  • Brielmaier, Benjamin D. "Eszopiclone (Lunesta): a new nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic agent." Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings. Vol. 19. No. 1. Taylor & Francis, 2006. https://doi.org/10.1080/08998280.2006.11928127 Obtain On 30/09/2022
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