Zopiclone

Sounds like 'zop-i-klone'

Zopiclone is used to treat short-term sleep problems. Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Sleeping tablet
  • Belongs to a group of medicines known as hypnotics (medicines to help you sleep)
  • Arrow-Zopiclone®
  • Zopiclone Actavis®
  • Imovane®

What is zopiclone?

Zopiclone is used to treat short-term sleep problems or insomnia. It helps you fall asleep more quickly, and also helps stop you waking up during the night. It works on chemicals in your brain to make you relaxed and sleepy. Zopiclone is only used if other non-medication treatments aren’t working. Read more about ways to improve your sleep.

Zopiclone should be used at the lowest dose only for a short time (usually  for up to 5 to 10 days, and only 2 to 4 times a week). It should not be used every day and for long periods of time. This is because your body gets used to it quickly and after this time it's unlikely to have the same effect. Your body can also become dependent on it.  

It's best to continue to use relaxation techniques while you are taking zopiclone. Read more about insomnia, sleep and tips to improve your sleeping habits.  

Dose

In Aotearoa New Zealand zopiclone is available as 7.5 mg tablets.

  • The usual dose of zopiclone is 1 tablet at bedtime. 
  • A lower dose (half a tablet) is recommended in older adults (over 65 years of age). Taking this lower dose reduces your risk of falls and other side effects.
  • Zopiclone takes around 1 hour to work.
  • Your doctor will prescribe the lowest dose for a short time
  • Always take your zopiclone exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to take, how often to take it and any special instructions.

How to take zopiclone

  • Only use zopiclone if you have to. You do not need to take zopiclone every night.
  • Try to fall asleep first using sleep hygiene techniques and then use zopiclone only if you remain awake.
  • Swallow the tablet whole. Do not crush or chew it.
  • Take zopiclone with a glass of water.
  • Do not take zopiclone if you wake up from your sleep during the night.

Cautions while you are taking zopiclone

Extra care is needed when taking zopiclone because it can cause daytime sleepiness and affect your concentration leading to an increased risk of accidents.

Drowsiness

Zopiclone causes drowsiness but it can affect people in different ways. In some people, drowsiness can last 12 hours after taking the dose. This can feel like a ‘hangover’ with symptoms including sleepiness, co-ordination problems, dizziness and falls. 

Avoid alcohol

Drinking alcohol before or after taking zopiclone can cause severe drowsiness, breathing problems and you may find it difficult to wake up. 

Avoid driving or biking

Do not drive or use a bike until you know how zopiclone affects you. Read more about driving and taking medication.

Risk of falls

Zopiclone can increase your risk of falls because of its effect on concentration and sleepiness, and it can also cause muscle weakness.

Your risk of falls is greater if you:

  • are an older adult (over 65 years)
  • get out of your bed at night
  • are taking other medicines that also put you at risk of falls.

Read more about medicines and falls risk and preventing falls.

Don't stop taking zopiclone suddenly

If you have been using zopiclone for longer than a few weeks, do not stop taking it suddenly. It is best to reduce the dose slowly. Speak to your doctor about how to do this. Stopping suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and restlessness, and more sleep problems. 

Dependence (relying on it)

This is more likely to happen if you have been taking zopiclone for more than a few weeks. These symptoms include difficulty stopping, sleeping problems, headache, irritability and nervousness. Some people are more likely to develop dependence than others and seem to be very sensitive to the cravings. You may be at greater risk if you have mental health problems such as depression, or a history of substance abuse, including alcohol and recreational drugs.

To reduce your risk of dependence, use zopiclone on only 2 or 3 nights each week, rather than every night. Only use zopiclone if you have to – try to fall asleep first using sleep hygiene techniques and then use zopiclone only if you remain awake.

Taking other medicines and supplements

Zopiclone can interact with some medications, herbal supplements and rongoā Māori, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting zopiclone and before starting any new products.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, zopiclone can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. 

Side effects What should I do?
  • Feeling sleepy or drowsy during the day
  • Dizzy or tired the next day
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you.
  • These effects put you at risk of falls and injuries especially if you are an older person. Tell your doctor if you are concerned. 
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • A different taste in your mouth (usually bitter or metallic)
  • Dry mouth
  • These are quite common when you first start taking zopiclone and usually go away with time.
  • Try taking sips of water and keep some water by your bed at night. Try a mouthwash before bedtime.
  • Tell your doctor if these side effects bother you.
  • Unusual changes in mood or behaviour
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not real)
  • Delusions (thinking things that are not true)
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring Healthline 0800 611 116.
For more information on side effects, see the Medsafe consumer information leaflet Imovane. 

Did you know that you can report a medicine side effect to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM)? Report a side effect to a product.

Learn more

The following links have more information on zopiclone.

Imovane Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet, NZ
Zopiclone Patient Information NZ Formulary, NZ

References

  1. Zopiclone NZ Formulary, NZ May 2022
  2. Hypnotics NZ Formulary, NZ May 2022
  3. Zopiclone – indicated for short-term use only Medsafe, NZ June 2019
  4. Zopiclone and next-day impairment Medsafe, NZ June 2014

Additional resources for healthcare professionals

Hypnotics – safe prescribing Safer RX, NZ 2019
The ideal pharmacological approach for improving sleep BPAC, NZ, 2017
Overuse of benzodiazepines – still an issue? BPAC, NZ, 2021

Credits: Health Navigator Pharmacists. Reviewed By: Maya Patel, MPharm PGDipClinPharm, Auckland Last reviewed: 01 Jun 2022