Zopiclone

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:

  • Zileze
  • Zimoclone
  • Zimovane
  • Zopitan
  • Zorclone

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

Immediate 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.

Immediate 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

Warning

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.

Avoid alcohol

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.

Avoid caffeine

Do not drink caffeine-containing drinks while you are on zopiclone. This includes:

  • coffee
  • cola
  • 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.

Dosage

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.

Find out more about stopping taking zopiclone.

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.

Information:

See the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine for a full list of side effects.

You can report any suspected side effects to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

Sleepwalking and zopiclone

Some people become active while they are asleep after taking zopiclone. For example, sleepwalking, making food or phone calls.

This is more likely to happen if you take it with alcohol or other medicines for mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.

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
  • depression
  • epilepsy
  • 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.

Finding your patient information leaflet online

Your patient information leaflet (PIL) is the leaflet that comes in the package of your medicine.

Information:

To find your PIL online, visit the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) website

  1. In the ‘Find a medicine’ search box, enter the brand name of your medicine. A list of matching medicines appears.
  2. To the right of your medicine, select ‘PIL’. A PDF of the PIL opens in a new window.

You can also:

  1. Select the brand name of your medicine.
  2. Scroll down to the Documents section.
  3. From the Package Leaflet line, select PDF version. A PDF of the PIL opens in a new window.

If your PIL is not on the HPRA website, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) website opens in a new window when you select ‘PIL’.

You can find your PIL on the EMA website.

Finding your PIL on the EMA website

If your PIL is not on the HPRA website, you will be sent to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) website.

To find your PIL on the EMA website:

  1. In the Medicines search box, enter the brand name of your medicine and the word ‘epar’. For example: ‘Zoely epar’. A list of matching medicines appears.
  2. Select the ‘Human medicine European public assessment report (EPAR)’ for your medicine
  3. From the table of contents, select Product information.
  4. Select the EPAR – Product Information link for your medicine. A PDF opens in a new window. The PIL information is in Annex III of the PDF under ‘labelling and package leaflet’

This content was fact checked by a pharmacist, a GP, the National Medication Safety Programme (Safermeds) and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 24 September 2021
Next review due: 24 September 2024

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