If you have been having trouble sleeping, chances are your doctor has recommended a prescription sleep aid to help you with your insomnia. Two of the most popular sleeping prescriptions are Lunesta and Ambien. But which drug is the right one for you? Here, we’ll look at the pros and cons of each of these popular prescription medicines.
Ambien, which is also known by the generic name zolpidem, has been used in the United States for more than a decade to treat mild-to-moderate cases of insomnia. Ambien works quickly, causing many people to fall asleep within 15-30 minutes of taking the pill. Ambien can be taken on an empty or a full stomach, although it may take longer to work if taken on a full stomach. The drug is meant to be taken for a short period of time (less than two weeks usually), and has not been approved for long-term use. Users should know that Ambien is meant to help you fall asleep, but it does not do much to prevent you from waking after you fall asleep, and thus may not be as effective for people who have problems with waking during the night. Because Ambien is available as generic zolpidem, the cost of getting a prescription filled is usually minimal for those with some form of health insurance.
Lunesta, on the other hand, has only been approved for use in the United States for a few years. Like Ambien, Lunesta acts quickly to help you fall asleep, but Lunesta can also help keep you from waking in the middle of the night. Lunesta must be taken on an empty stomach–in my experience, the pill will not work if it is taken when there is food in the stomach. Lunesta is also approved for long-term use for up to six months if needed. Lunesta is a brand-name prescription only, so some insurance companies may not cover it unless you try a cheaper option first, and the co-pay will almost definitely be higher than with generic zolpidem.
In terms of side effects, I didn’t experience significant problems with either drug. I had zero side effects with Ambien, and the only side effect I had with Lunesta was a slight bitter taste in my mouth the morning after taking the drug which quickly went away on its own. Some people say they feel groggy the day after taking one of these medications, but actually woke up feeling more refreshed and alert than I normally would. Both medications can be habit forming, so it is important to take them exactly as prescribed and for the smallest amount of time possible. Some studies indicate that Lunesta may be less addictive than Ambien, but so far these have been inconclusive and more research is needed.
In terms of which medicine is better, for me I would have to say it is Ambien. I like not having to worry about what I eat at night, knowing it won’t affect the effectiveness of my sleep aid. I also like that it is a relatively cheap medicine, and has a long track-record of safe use. Lunesta and Ambien both help me sleep about the same, so the rest of those factors “tip the scales” towards zolpidem. Only a doctor can help you decide which sleep medicine is the right one to try, but the information in this article can give you some idea of the kinds of questions you’ll want to ask in order to find a medication that works for you.