Zopiclone is a sleeping pill used to treat bad bouts of insomnia.
You can only get zopiclone on prescription. It comes as tablets.
Brand names include:
Uses of zopiclone
Zopiclone boosts the effectiveness of a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). It does this to improve sleep.
It helps you fall asleep more quickly and also helps to stop you waking up during the night.
Get emergency help
If you have serious side effects, take too much or have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), you need urgent help.
If you take too much
Emergency action required: Phone your GP or go to your nearest emergency department (ED) straight away if you:
- take too much zopiclone
Do this even if you do not feel any different.
Do not drive yourself to the ED. Get someone else to drive or call for an ambulance.
Take your remaining medication and any leaflets with you.
Serious allergic reactions
It's rare that zopiclone causes a serious allergic reaction.
Emergency action required: Call 999 or 112 or go to your nearest ED if:
- you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
- you are wheezing
- you get tightness in the chest or throat
- you have trouble breathing or talking
- your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling
Serious side effects
Urgent advice: Tell your GP as soon as possible if you:
- lose your memory
- see or hear things that aren't real
- fall over, especially if you're elderly
- think things that aren't true
- feel low or sad
- have difficulty breathing, including very slow or shallow breathing
- you sleepwalk or do other activities while asleep
Check if you can take zopiclone
You can take zopiclone if you are aged 18 and over.
Zopiclone is not suitable for some people.
Do not take zopiclone if you:
- have had an allergic reaction to any medicine
- have myasthenia gravis, an illness that causes severe muscle wasting
- have breathing problems or sleep apnoea
Check with your GP before taking zopiclone if you:
- have liver or kidney problems
- have had mental health problems
- have had issues with alcoholism or drug abuse
- are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding
Contraception and fertility
Zopiclone does not affect contraception. This includes the contraceptive pill and the morning after pill.
There is no evidence that zopiclone affects the fertility of men or women. But do not take zopiclone if you are trying to get pregnant.
Pregnancy and zopiclone
Do not take zopiclone if you are pregnant, as it may harm your baby. It can also cause side effects in newborn babies.
Talk to your GP if you are pregnant, think you may be pregnant, or are trying for a baby if you are taking zopiclone.
Zopiclone can increase the risk of your baby:
- being born early, before 37 weeks
- having a lower birth weight
Taking zopiclone right up to labour can increase the chance of your baby having withdrawal symptoms at birth.
Breastfeeding and zopiclone
Do not breastfeed while taking zopiclone. Zopiclone passes into breast milk in small amounts.
If you have to take zopiclone, talk to your GP or midwife about your feeding options.
When you start taking zopiclone
Zopiclone takes around 1 hour to work.
You might feel sleepy or confused in the first few days after taking zopiclone.
Do not drive a car, ride a bike, or use tools or machines until you know how zopiclone affects your ability to do these activities.
Talk to your GP or pharmacist if you are unsure if it is safe for you to drive while taking zopiclone.
Do not drink alcohol while taking zopiclone.
It can make you sleep very deeply. You might not breathe properly and can have difficulty waking up.
Do not drink caffeine-containing drinks while you are on zopiclone. This includes:
- energy drinks
Caffeine has the opposite effect of zopiclone in your body and stops it working.
How and when to take zopiclone
Always take zopiclone exactly as your GP has told you.
Usually you will take 1 dose, which is one 7.5mg tablet.
Follow the instructions on the label of your medicine. Check with your pharmacist or GP if you're unsure.
Your GP might ask you to take a tablet on only 2 or 3 nights each week, rather than every night.
Do not take more than your prescribed dose.
You can take zopiclone with or without food.
Swallow the tablet whole. Don't crush or chew it.
Take zopiclone just before you go to bed.
Your GP might recommend a lower dose to start with.
This is to reduce the risk of excessive sleepiness or other side effects if you:
- are over 65 years old
- have kidney or liver problems
How long you will take zopiclone
You will usually take zopiclone for between a few days to 2 weeks, and no longer than 4 weeks.
Your body gets used to this medicine quickly. This means it will not work as well the longer you take it.
Talk to your GP if you feel you need to take it for longer than 4 weeks.
They will be able to discuss your sleep problems and recommend other things that may help.
Stopping taking zopiclone
Do not suddenly stop taking zopiclone without telling your GP. You may get withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal can feel like all of the following symptoms:
- your insomnia returns more intensely than before
- you feel anxious, restless, have mood changes
- you become very sensitive to light, noise, and being touched
Your GP might suggest that you reduce your dose of zopiclone slowly. This will help prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Addiction and zopiclone
You are unlikely to become addicted to zopiclone if you just take it for a few weeks.
Your body is more likely to become dependent on zopiclone if you take it for longer than 4 weeks.
Talk to your GP or pharmacist if you have been taking zopiclone for a long time.
If you forget to take it
You may forget to take zopiclone by bedtime, but remember during the night. If you do, only take the missed dose if you are still able to have 7 to 8 hours uninterrupted sleep.
If this is not possible, skip the missed dose and take your next dose before bedtime the next night, as usual.
Never take 2 doses at the same time.
Never take an extra dose to make up for a forgotten one.
Side effects of zopiclone
Common side effects of zopiclone include:
- a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth or a dry mouth
- daytime sleepiness
- reduced alertness
- dry mouth
Not everyone will get side effects with zopiclone.
Talk to your GP or pharmacist if these side effects don’t go away.
See the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine for a full list of side effects.
Non-urgent advice: Find your patient information leaflet
Your patient information leaflet is the leaflet that comes with your medicine. You can find a digital version of the leaflet online.
Report side effects
You can report any suspected side effects to the the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA): report an issue - hrpa.ie
Sleepwalking and zopiclone
Some people become active while they are asleep after taking zopiclone. For example, sleepwalking, making food or phone calls.
If this happens to you, ask your GP for advice.
Zopiclone and other medicines
Tell your GP or pharmacist if you are taking any other medicines. This includes herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.
Some medicines and zopiclone can interfere with each other. This can increase your chance of side effects.
Talk to your GP or pharmacist if you are taking medicines for:
- schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
- surgery (anaesthetics)
- sleep problems, anxiety or to calm you
- hay fever, rashes, or other allergies that can make you sleepy
- pain such as codeine, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, pethidine, or tramadol
- infections, including the antibiotics erythromycin or clarithromycin
- fungal infections, such as ketoconazole and itraconazole
- HIV, such as ritonavir
Taking zopiclone with codeine, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, pethidine, or tramadol may increase the risk of side effects. This can lead to dependency.
It may also increase the risk of drowsiness and difficulties in breathing. This may lead to coma and could be life-threatening.
Herbal medicines and zopiclone
Do not take:
- any herbal remedies that make you sleepy while taking zopiclone.
- St John's wort, the herbal remedy for depression. It may reduce the effect of your hypnotic
Recreational drugs and zopiclone
Using cannabis or heroin with zopiclone will increase the drowsy effects. You could go into a very deep sleep and have difficulty waking up.
Talk to your GP if you think you might use recreational drugs while you are taking zopiclone.
This content was fact checked by a pharmacist, a GP, the National Medication Safety Programme (Safermeds) and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).