Millions of people struggle with sleep issues and sleep disorders worldwide, severely impacting their health, wellbeing, and performance at work and school. Despite trying many sleep recommendations such as getting regular exercise, eating better, or avoiding digital screens before bedtime, none of these have worked. What has proven successful to many people, however, is the use of sleeping aids.
Medications meant to treat sleep problems like insomnia has grown in popularity thanks to their fast-acting effects. However, people have grown to depend on these medications, leading to substance abuse.
Lunesta vs Ambien
Two of the most popular sedatives are Lunesta and Ambien, which are oral medications classified as non-barbiturate hypnotics. They interact with GABA receptors in the brain to induce sleep, decreasing its activity, and producing a sense of calm and relaxation in the body. Users are then lulled to sleep thanks to their sedative and anxiolytic effects.
As both medications are prescribed for short-term use, they should be taken with caution, mostly when prescribed to individuals over 65 years of age because of their potential side effects.
While Ambien and Lunesta are similar medications commonly used to treat insomnia, they have fundamental differences. Ambien is available in 5 mg and 10 mg immediate-release oral tablets and 6.25 mg and 12.5 mg extended-release oral tablets, known as Ambien CR. It is typically preferred because of the controlled-release formulation. It typically provides a longer sleep duration, which is incredibly helpful for those who keep waking up in the middle of the night.
Meanwhile, Lunesta is available only in immediate-release oral tablets in 1 mg, 2 mg, and 3 mg. It’s useful for longer, allowing people who struggle with staying asleep to enjoy a full night’s rest. Lunesta is a better option than Ambien’s immediate-release form for people with this particular problem. However, Ambien’s extended-release variant may be more effective in helping you stay asleep for much longer.
Another notable difference between Lunesta and Ambien are the common side effects. Taking Lunesta may induce feelings of dizziness, rashes, anxiety, a dry mouth, an unpleasant taste, hallucinations, viral or respiratory infections, and anxiety. On the other hand, Ambien’s common side effects are drowsiness, dizziness, grogginess, lightheadedness, nasal irritation, euphoria, ataxia, nausea, tiredness, an upset stomach, and diarrhea.
Both Lunesta and Ambien are classified as Schedule IV medications, which means that they carry the potential for abuse or dependence by its users. Due to its potent effects, they must not be taken with other similar drugs that induce drowsiness, whether as its primary purpose or a side effect. It may also cause complications in those with liver impairment since they require extensive metabolism in this organ. They also should not be taken with anti-anxiety medications, allergy medications, narcotic pain relievers, muscle relaxants, medications for cough and colds that may cause drowsiness, and other similar medicines.
Both medications can interact with other medicines that cause many other side effects, like slowed breathing when taken with pain medications or cold variants. It can also interact with drugs like chlorpromazine, itraconazole, ketoconazole, or rifampin. Neither Lunesta nor Ambien should be taken with alcohol.
Ambien and Lunesta are distinguishable from each other based on the recommended dose. Adults are usually advised to take 10 mg as conventional tablets or spray for the immediate-release tablets. If they prefer extended-release tablets, the dosage is at 12.5 mg. However, the recommended dose for Lunesta starts at 1 mg, which the user must take with a full glass of water. It isn’t recommended to take Lunesta within an hour of eating a heavy meal because the body will struggle to absorb the medication.
What is Ambien?
Ambien is the brand name sedative for zolpidem tartrate. It takes 1.5 hours for it to reach peak concentrations in the blood when taken orally. Since the liver extensively metabolizes it, users should not combine it with some types of medication to prevent adverse effects, especially in those with liver problems.
Ambien is intended only for short-term use and was developed to achieve the same effectiveness as benzodiazepines like Xanax without creating the same dangerous dependence associated with these drugs. The manufacturers of Ambien have marketed it as the less addictive option to benzos, especially for those with acute insomnia. However, the medication remains to be an addictive substance.
People experience the Ambien high within 30 minutes of taking the drug. Since it is a depressant and not a narcotic, it makes the body feel more relaxed. However, once an individual has begun to abuse Ambien by snorting or injecting it, the effects will occur more frequently and intensely. Users will start to hallucinate, which may include visual, auditory, or tactile psychosis.
Ambien Side Effects
As mentioned earlier, Ambien’s side effects include drowsiness even during the daytime, dizziness, tiredness, and nasal irritation. It can even cause a rapid heartbeat, a loss of appetite, and impaired vision. However, long-term side effects include digestive problems, frequent headaches, chronic fatigue, and chronic poor motor coordination.
Like Ambien, Lunesta is a prescription drug formulated to treat insomnia. Its generic name is eszopiclone. Lunesta is also meant to be a short-term medication, so its prescription is intended only for a few weeks. Patients must take Lunesta once a day before going to bed. However, when misused, Lunesta can cause users to depend on the drug and even go through withdrawals once they stop taking it. These sleeping pills are also known as “sleepeasies,” “zombies,” and “sleepers.”
Also similar to Ambien, Lunesta replicates the effects of benzodiazepines without the same high addiction potential. However, it is still possible to abuse the drug, although its risks of addiction are low.
The high of taking Lunesta is relatively different from other types of drugs. While it leads the user to have impaired thinking, they get drowsy after taking it, spending at least 7 hours blissfully asleep.
Lunesta Side Effects
Since Lunesta is available in low doses, it is less likely to lead to any health complications. Apart from the side effects mentioned earlier, taking Lunesta can lead to chills, difficulty concentrating, sleep-talking, or sleep-walking. A few Lunesta users have reported performing complex activities while asleep, such as cooking meals and making phone calls.
Since the risk of developing a Lunesta addiction are low, very few people experience withdrawals. However, people may experience amnesia and euphoria from taking excessive amounts of the drug, making it possible to abuse Lunesta. However, these people eventually get used to Lunesta’s effects, motivating them to take more and risking an overdose. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, tremors, sweating, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and strange dreams.
Meanwhile, people are more likely to experience withdrawals from Ambien, as the drug produces a hypnotic high that can make its consumption addictive. Withdrawal symptoms include sweating, abdominal cramps or discomfort, delirium, flushing, rebound insomnia, uncontrolled crying or depression, irritability, anxiety, and mood swings.
Overdosing on Lunesta is entirely possible, especially for those who consume more than their prescribed amount. However, there is no documented case of an overdose of Lunesta only or a Lunesta overdose causing a fatality. Still, taking the drug with other medications can lead to a fatal overdose. Symptoms include intense tiredness, slipping into a coma, losing consciousness, and difficulty breathing.
People generally take a higher dosage of Ambien than Lunesta, so overdosing on the drug can be incredibly fatal, especially when mixed with alcohol. An Ambien overdose’s symptoms include a slowed heart rate, a coma, loss of consciousness, confusion, abnormal breathing, extreme drowsiness, and irrational thoughts.
Lunesta and Ambien are two similar drugs with the same intention of treating insomnia. However, they have marked differences that make them appropriate for specific situations. It’s essential to take them only as prescribed to avoid any adverse effects that can compromise your health and safety.