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Your guide to medication Zopiclone

Zopiclone is a medication that can be used to treat insomnia and sleep problems.

Medication name: Zopiclone ("ZOP-i-cloan")
Brand name: Zimovane¬ģ ("ZI-mo-vayn")
Medication type: Non-benzodiazepine hypnotic medicine (also sometimes called a ‚ÄėZ drug‚Äô)
Ways to take it: Tablets (3.75mg and 7.5mg strengths are available)

What can it be used for?
If you are 18 or over, the doctor can prescribe zopiclone for you as a licensed medicine if you have difficulty getting to sleep.

There is less research about its use and effectiveness in young people under 18. Even so, specialists might prescribe it 'off-label' if they believe it is the best medicine for you.

Read our guide to sleep problems

About zopiclone

How zopiclone works

The brain naturally releases calming chemicals. One of these chemicals is called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA.)

Zopiclone works by boosting the effects of GABA and this helps to calm the brain, enabling you to get to sleep.

Sleep problems and mental health

Zopiclone and everyday life

Frequently asked questions

Zopiclone starts to work very quickly in your body. You should start to feel sleepy soon after taking it.

Your weight should not be affected by zopiclone.

You may want to let your family and friends know you are taking zopiclone so they can support you and help you look out for side effects.

For guidance on this, check out our page on getting support with your medication.

Zopiclone can affect your recent memory, especially if you do not go to bed just after taking it, or if your sleep gets interrupted.

Make sure that you can get seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep if you are going to take zopiclone.

Some people have reported doing things like walking, preparing food, making phone calls, having sex and even driving while they were not fully awake. They do not remember doing these things after they wake.

If you take zopiclone with alcohol, or with other medicines for mental health conditions like antidepressants, this is more likely to happen.

If this happens to you, go back to your doctor to try another medicine.

Alcohol

Do not drink alcohol while taking zopiclone, as combining the two might make you go into a deep sleep where you find it difficult to wake up.

If you need to drive a car or ride a bike, or use machines at work, taking alcohol and zopiclone together could be dangerous to yourself and other people.

Street drugs 

It is very easy, and serious, to overdose with any combination of zopiclone and drugs.

Using cannabis with zopiclone could make you feel sleepier. You could go into a deep sleep and find it is harder to wake up.

Cannabis and other drugs may have their own side effects on your mental health, like anxiety or psychosis. For more information, have a look at our drugs and alcohol page.

Using heroin or methadone with zopiclone may make you feel sleepier. You could go into a deep sleep and find it harder to wake up.

The effects of some other medicines can be changed when you take them together with zopiclone.

Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any other medicines.

Try not to drink caffeine drinks while you are taking zopiclone.

Caffeine has the opposite effect of zopiclone in your body and could stop it from working so well.

Caffeine can cause anxiety and sleep loss - stopping these drinks might help to improve your symptoms.

The tablets may not be suitable for you if you have problems eating some sugars or dairy (milk-based) foods, as they contain lactose. Some zopiclone tablets (certainly the Zimovane brand) contain wheat starch. People with coeliac disease can take these tablets, but people who have an allergy to wheat cannot take them.

Do not drive a car or ride a bike just after you start taking zopiclone.

Taking zopiclone may make you feel tired or confused, and may give you double vision when you start taking it, even on the following day

These effects are made much worse if you take zopiclone with alcohol.

This could affect you if you drive a car, ride a bike, or do anything else that needs a lot of focus. It might be best to stop doing these things for the first few days, until you know how it affects you.

Do not worry - most people drive as normal while taking zopiclone.

Pregnancy

When deciding whether or not to take zopiclone during pregnancy it is important to weigh up how necessary zopiclone is to your health against the possible risks to you or your baby, some of which will depend on how many weeks pregnant you are.

There does not seem to be a higher risk of malformations or miscarriage when the usual doses of zopiclone have been taken.

Post-natal

If you take zopiclone every day in the weeks before delivery your baby is likely to be checked for any breathing difficulties, muscle weakness and low blood sugar. Such problems have been reported with similar drugs.

Breastfeeding

Zopiclone is passed to the baby through breast milk. Amounts are small but higher than those of zolpidem.

You should discuss the risks and benefits of breastfeeding with your midwife or doctor.

Remember that it is important for you to remain well while you are bonding with and looking after your baby. For this reason, it may be best to take medicine for your mental health when breastfeeding.

Make sure that your doctor, nurse, or health visitor checks your baby for any side effects.

If your baby was premature or has health problems, then you will need to be extra careful about taking medicines while breastfeeding.

Sex

Zopiclone can have side effects that might affect your sex life, including:

  • not feeling like you want to have sex
  • having a headache or a dry mouth

These effects should pass after the first couple of weeks. If they do not, and this is a problem for you, go back to the doctor and see what else you could try.

If it works for you, zopiclone may have a positive effect on your sex life as your symptoms settle, and you can concentrate on your relationships.

Fertility

There is no evidence that zopiclone affects fertility.

If you and your partner are trying to have a baby, you should go back to the doctor to talk through the options (see below for further information). Promethazine is usually the first choice.

Zopiclone is not a banned substance in sport.

Zopiclone can cause side effects, however, that might make you less able to take part in sports that need a lot of focus.

These side effects include feeling sleepy, confused and having double vision.

The good effects of zopiclone may have a positive impact on your sporting performance as you sleep better.

Try not to start or stop zopiclone just before your exams.

Zopiclone can make you feel tired or confused and may give you double vision when you first start taking it, even on the following day.

You should talk to your doctor about any future exams if you are starting zopiclone. You might decide together to delay starting it until you have done them.

If they are more than a month away, however, you might find that it is better to start zopiclone to improve your motivation to study.

Do not worry - most people take exams as normal while taking zopiclone.

Your doctor should know

  • You need to talk to your doctor or¬†pharmacist¬†before starting treatment with zopiclone if any of the following apply to you:

    • you have myasthenia gravis (a problem that causes severe muscle weakness)
    • your lungs do not work properly (respiratory disease)
    • you have sleep apnea (a problem where you stop breathing for short periods at night)
    • you have severe liver problems

    You also need to talk to your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following apply to you:

    • you have any liver problems
    • you have any kidney problems
    • you suffer from mild breathing problems
    • you have ever been dependent on alcohol or drugs
    • you have been told by a doctor that you have a personality disorder
    • you have had mental health problems
    • you have recently taken zopiclone or other similar medicines for more than four weeks
    • you think you might struggle to stop taking zopiclone or other medicines

Uses, warnings, safety and side effects

Taking zopiclone

How long will I need to take zopiclone for?

You and your doctor should talk about how long you need to take zopiclone.

Usually zopiclone is not taken for more than two to four weeks.

Some people take zopiclone for a very short time (two to five days).

People can become dependent on the effects of zopiclone if they take it for more than a month, and then when they stop, they are more likely to get withdrawal symptoms.

You should only take zopiclone as agreed with your doctor

Make sure that you know your dose. If it is not written on the label, check with your pharmacist or doctor.

Zopiclone should be taken at the lowest dose possible for the shortest possible time.

You may agree with your doctor not to take it every night, but perhaps every other night (alternate nights), so you do not get into the habit of taking it.

You should take zopiclone just before going to bed.

If you can make sure that you get seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, you will probably experience fewer side effects the next day (such as poor memory).

Zopiclone should be swallowed whole with a glass of water.

Your doctor might suggest ways to improve sleep naturally (called the ‚Äėsleep hygiene approach‚Äô) by changing some habits such as:

  • stopping daytime naps
  • reducing the intake of caffeine and alcohol
  • having a regular sleep-wake routine
  • making sure your sleeping area is as comfortable and quiet as possible

What if I miss a dose?

If you forget to take a dose, then just take it on the next night.

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

Do not take a double dose.

What will happen if I forget to take my zopiclone?

If you forget to take your tablets for a few days, and you have only been taking them for less than one month, you should not get any withdrawal symptoms. If you are thinking about not taking them again then talk to your doctor.

You could get your old symptoms back and have difficulty getting to sleep.

Stopping the use of zopiclone

Stopping zopiclone too quickly may cause withdrawal or rebound symptoms.

You can stop taking zopiclone safely and gradually with the support of your doctor.

Zopiclone is not likely to give you withdrawal symptoms if you have been taking it for less than four weeks, but some people do experience this.

You might get any of the following symptoms:

  • rebound sleeplessness
  • muscle pain or aches or cramps
  • anxiety
  • shaking
  • sweating
  • feeling agitated or confused or panicky or irritable
  • headache
  • fast heartbeat
  • feeling strange or having nightmares or hallucinations (sensing things that are not there)
  • uncomfortable feelings in your stomach and gut

In serious cases you could also get the following:

  • feeling unreal in yourself
  • feeling apart from who you really are
  • feeling very sensitive to certain sounds
  • numbness and tingling of fingers and toes
  • being very sensitive to light, noise and physical contact
  • hallucinations
  • having seizures (fits)

Even when zopiclone is stopped gradually, you may get some ‚Äėrebound‚Äô symptoms:

  • your original sleeplessness may return
  • you might feel mood changes
  • you might feel anxious
  • you might feel restless

If you suffer from any of these symptoms, go back to your doctor for advice.

Warnings and safety

Safety headlines

If you have taken more zopiclone than the dosage recommended by the doctor who prescribed it to you, you must get medical help immediately ‚Ästeven if you do not feel any different.

Zopiclone can cause rare but serious side effects. These include allergic reactions (difficulty breathing, swelling of your face or throat, itching skin lumps) and you should go to a hospital if you get any of these symptoms. Take your medicine with you.

Other rare but serious side effects include amnesia (poor memory) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not real). You should tell your doctor as soon as possible if either of these problems appear.

Stopping zopiclone suddenly can cause serious side effects including a sudden return of your insomnia, pain in your muscles, shaking, sweating, feeling agitated or irritable, confusion, headache, a fast pulse, nightmares, hallucinations (seeing things that are not there), and feeling anxious or panicky. You should talk to your doctor if you want to stop taking zopiclone or if you are having these effects.

You might feel sleepy or confused in the first few days after taking zopiclone. Do not drive a car, ride a bike or operate machines until you see how this affects you.

If you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor, as zopiclone may affect the developing baby.

When to go to the hospital

Zopiclone has some serious side effects, and if you get them you will need a doctor’s help.

Go to a doctor or hospital straight away if you get any of the following symptoms:

  • a rash
  • swallowing or breathing problems
  • swelling of your lips, face, throat or tongue ‚Äď this might be an allergic reaction

When to see your doctor

Tell your doctor as soon as possible if you get any of the following side effects:

  • amnesia (memory loss)
  • delusions or hallucinations (believing, seeing or hearing things that are not real)
  • depression

Side effects

Side effects

Not everyone will experience side effects with zopiclone. 

If you are experiencing a problem that might be a side effect, but that is not listed here, please take a look at the patient information leaflet that was in the medicine packet or speak to your pharmacist or doctor.

Some side effects that appear should get better after a few days. If you think you have a side effect that has not got better within a few days go back to your doctor.

Regular blood tests are not needed while you are taking zopiclone.

Very rarely zopiclone can affect your liver. If your liver is not working as well as usual, this would show up on a blood test as a change in your liver enzyme levels. You should tell your doctor that you are taking zopiclone if you are having a blood test.

Taking zopiclone

How long will I need to take zopiclone for?

You and your doctor should talk about how long you need to take zopiclone.

Usually zopiclone is not taken for more than two to four weeks.

Some people take zopiclone for a very short time (two to five days).

People can become dependent on the effects of zopiclone if they take it for more than a month, and then when they stop, they are more likely to get withdrawal symptoms.

You should only take zopiclone as agreed with your doctor

Make sure that you know your dose. If it is not written on the label, check with your pharmacist or doctor.

Zopiclone should be taken at the lowest dose possible for the shortest possible time.

You may agree with your doctor not to take it every night, but perhaps every other night (alternate nights), so you do not get into the habit of taking it.

You should take zopiclone just before going to bed.

If you can make sure that you get seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, you will probably experience fewer side effects the next day (such as poor memory).

Zopiclone should be swallowed whole with a glass of water.

Your doctor might suggest ways to improve sleep naturally (called the ‚Äėsleep hygiene approach‚Äô) by changing some habits such as:

  • stopping daytime naps
  • reducing the intake of caffeine and alcohol
  • having a regular sleep-wake routine
  • making sure your sleeping area is as comfortable and quiet as possible

What if I miss a dose?

If you forget to take a dose, then just take it on the next night.

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

Do not take a double dose.

What will happen if I forget to take my zopiclone?

If you forget to take your tablets for a few days, and you have only been taking them for less than one month, you should not get any withdrawal symptoms. If you are thinking about not taking them again then talk to your doctor.

You could get your old symptoms back and have difficulty getting to sleep.

Stopping the use of zopiclone

Stopping zopiclone too quickly may cause withdrawal or rebound symptoms.

You can stop taking zopiclone safely and gradually with the support of your doctor.

Zopiclone is not likely to give you withdrawal symptoms if you have been taking it for less than four weeks, but some people do experience this.

You might get any of the following symptoms:

  • rebound sleeplessness
  • muscle pain or aches or cramps
  • anxiety
  • shaking
  • sweating
  • feeling agitated or confused or panicky or irritable
  • headache
  • fast heartbeat
  • feeling strange or having nightmares or hallucinations (sensing things that are not there)
  • uncomfortable feelings in your stomach and gut

In serious cases you could also get the following:

  • feeling unreal in yourself
  • feeling apart from who you really are
  • feeling very sensitive to certain sounds
  • numbness and tingling of fingers and toes
  • being very sensitive to light, noise and physical contact
  • hallucinations
  • having seizures (fits)

Even when zopiclone is stopped gradually, you may get some ‚Äėrebound‚Äô symptoms:

  • your original sleeplessness may return
  • you might feel mood changes
  • you might feel anxious
  • you might feel restless

If you suffer from any of these symptoms, go back to your doctor for advice.

Warnings and safety

Safety headlines

If you have taken more zopiclone than the dosage recommended by the doctor who prescribed it to you, you must get medical help immediately ‚Ästeven if you do not feel any different.

Zopiclone can cause rare but serious side effects. These include allergic reactions (difficulty breathing, swelling of your face or throat, itching skin lumps) and you should go to a hospital if you get any of these symptoms. Take your medicine with you.

Other rare but serious side effects include amnesia (poor memory) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not real). You should tell your doctor as soon as possible if either of these problems appear.

Stopping zopiclone suddenly can cause serious side effects including a sudden return of your insomnia, pain in your muscles, shaking, sweating, feeling agitated or irritable, confusion, headache, a fast pulse, nightmares, hallucinations (seeing things that are not there), and feeling anxious or panicky. You should talk to your doctor if you want to stop taking zopiclone or if you are having these effects.

You might feel sleepy or confused in the first few days after taking zopiclone. Do not drive a car, ride a bike or operate machines until you see how this affects you.

If you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor, as zopiclone may affect the developing baby.

When to go to the hospital

Zopiclone has some serious side effects, and if you get them you will need a doctor’s help.

Go to a doctor or hospital straight away if you get any of the following symptoms:

  • a rash
  • swallowing or breathing problems
  • swelling of your lips, face, throat or tongue ‚Äď this might be an allergic reaction

When to see your doctor

Tell your doctor as soon as possible if you get any of the following side effects:

  • amnesia (memory loss)
  • delusions or hallucinations (believing, seeing or hearing things that are not real)
  • depression

Side effects

Side effects

Not everyone will experience side effects with zopiclone. 

If you are experiencing a problem that might be a side effect, but that is not listed here, please take a look at the patient information leaflet that was in the medicine packet or speak to your pharmacist or doctor.

Some side effects that appear should get better after a few days. If you think you have a side effect that has not got better within a few days go back to your doctor.

Regular blood tests are not needed while you are taking zopiclone.

Very rarely zopiclone can affect your liver. If your liver is not working as well as usual, this would show up on a blood test as a change in your liver enzyme levels. You should tell your doctor that you are taking zopiclone if you are having a blood test.

About this information

The information on this page was reviewed by the College of Mental Health Pharmacy in March 2020.

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