Zopiclone is a medication primarily used to treat insomnia, a sleep disorder characterised by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. It belongs to a class of drugs known as the “Z drugs,” and it helps reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and increases overall sleep duration.

Zopiclone works by increasing the levels of a calming chemical called GABA in your brain. This chemical helps your central nervous system relax, which makes it easier for you to fall asleep.

Zopiclone is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and isn’t really affected by eating or drinking food. It takes between 3.5 and 6.5 hours to leave the system, so it helps maintain good sleep throughout the night.

By sticking to prescribed dosages and treatment durations of no more than four weeks, there is a much lower risk of dependency than similar medicines.

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What you should know about Zopiclone

Zopiclone is prescribed for the short-term treatment of insomnia. It helps individuals fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and improve their overall sleep quality.

Zopiclone enhances the efficiency of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA functions by inhibiting nerve transmission in the brain, resulting in a calming effect. Through its enhancement of GABA’s effectiveness, zopiclone promotes improved sleep quality.

Zopiclone takes about one hour to work.

Zopiclone should be taken exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. It is typically taken just before bedtime, with a full glass of water. Do not crush or chew zopiclone tablets.

No, zopiclone is a prescription-only medicine (POM), which means you need an NHS or private prescription before you can buy zopiclone.

No, unlike other medicines that can be purchased from online pharmacies after completing a questionnaire, zopiclone requires a phone or video consultation with a registered doctor specialising in sleep disorders. This is because, in addition to being a prescription-only medicine (POM), it is also a controlled drug (CD), which means there are additional controls relating to its supply.

Sleephelp does not sell zopiclone tablets but allows you to book an appointment to speak to the consultant psychiatrist, Dr Zak Taylor. If a private prescription for zopiclone is generated after the consultation with Dr Taylor, it is sent to the pharmacy we work with to dispense it.

If used for a duration of up to 4 weeks, the likelihood of developing an addiction to zopiclone is low. However, extended usage beyond this period may lead to dependency.

Consult your doctor or pharmacist for guidance on discontinuing zopiclone. They can assist in gradually tapering off the medication if you’ve been using it for an extended period or are concerned about dependency.

Do not abruptly discontinue the use of this medication without informing your doctor, as withdrawal symptoms may occur.

These symptoms may include a worsening of insomnia for several days or weeks, feelings of anxiety or restlessness, mood fluctuations, and heightened sensitivity to light, noise, and touch.

Discuss the discontinuation of zopiclone with your doctor. They may recommend gradually reducing your dosage over days or weeks to mitigate withdrawal symptoms.

However, if you’ve been using zopiclone for less than a month, the likelihood of experiencing these symptoms is low.

Zopiclone has a relatively short half-life, the time it takes for the concentration of zopiclone in the blood to reduce by 50%, typically ranging from 3.5 to 6.5 hours. However, age, liver function, and dosage may affect how long it remains detectable.

Zopiclone typically remains in your system for approximately 12 hours, but some individuals may experience residual drowsiness upon waking the following day.

If you encounter this, refrain from engaging in activities that require full alertness, such as driving, cycling, or operating machinery.

Specific individuals have reported engaging in activities such as sleepwalking, cooking, or making phone calls while asleep after taking Zopiclone. They have no recollection of these actions upon waking up.

This occurrence is more probable when zopiclone is combined with alcohol or other medications used to treat mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.

If you experience such episodes, you should consult your doctor for guidance.

Zopiclone does not interfere with the effectiveness of any form of contraception, including the combined pill and emergency contraception.

If zopiclone causes drowsiness, blurred vision, dizziness, clumsiness, or impairs your ability to concentrate or make decisions, refrain from driving a car, riding a bike, or operating machinery.

These effects may be more prevalent when initiating zopiclone treatment but can occur at any time, especially when starting another medication.

Driving a car while impaired is illegal, so it’s your responsibility to assess your capability to drive safely. If uncertain, abstain from driving.

Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure about driving while taking zopiclone. Visit GOV.UK for additional information on drug laws and driving.

Avoid consuming alcohol while taking zopiclone. Combining alcohol with zopiclone can induce excessive sedation, leading to impaired breathing and difficulty in awakening.

Refrain from consuming beverages containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola, or energy drinks, while taking zopiclone.

Caffeine counteracts the effects of zopiclone in your body, reducing its effectiveness.

The following is a list of the common side effects of zopiclone:

  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Dose-dependent amnesia
  • Hyperexcitability or nervousness
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bitter or metallic taste
  • Impaired vision

Combining cannabis with zopiclone intensifies its sleep-inducing effects, potentially leading to a profound, difficult-to-wake-up state.

Similarly, using heroin or methadone alongside zopiclone may enhance the sedative effects of both substances, resulting in a deep sleep state that is challenging to awaken from.

If you anticipate using recreational drugs while taking zopiclone, it’s crucial to discuss this with your doctor.

For further information on the side effects of certain recreational drugs, refer to the Frank website.

It may take up to 7-10 days before you may see an effect. If after this time you are still struggling to sleep, talk to your doctor about maybe increasing the dose if you started on the lower dose of 3.75mg. Otherwise, if there is no improvement in your sleep after 7-10 days of taking zopiclone, contact your doctor. This may mean your insomnia may have another cause that requires investigation.

If you suffer from any of the following, you should not take zopiclone:

  • severe lung disease or breathing problems
  • sleep apnoea (breathing problems during sleep)
  • severe liver or kidney disease
  • severe and uncontrolled myasthenia gravis (a neuromuscular condition).

No, zopiclone is not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Older adults may be more sensitive to the effects of zopiclone and may require lower doses to minimise the risk of side effects. It’s important to discuss the risks and benefits of zopiclone use with a healthcare provider, especially in older adults.

There are several strategies you can employ to alleviate insomnia and facilitate better sleep:

  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day.
  • Engage in relaxation techniques before bedtime, such as taking a warm bath or listening to calming music.
  • Create a conducive sleep environment by using thick curtains or blinds, wearing an eye mask, and using earplugs to minimise disturbances from light and noise.
  • Avoid consuming stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, heavy meals, and engaging in vigorous exercise in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  • Limit screen time before bed by refraining from watching TV or using electronic devices such as phones, tablets, or computers.
  • Avoid daytime napping to ensure better nighttime sleep.
  • Practice writing down worries and potential solutions before bedtime to ease your mind and promote relaxation.

While over-the-counter sleeping tablets available at pharmacies may offer temporary relief from insomnia, they are not a cure and may have undesired side effects. Limiting their use to 1 to 2 weeks and seeking advice from a pharmacist before taking them is advisable.

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