How it works
What does zopiclone do?
The brain naturally releases calming chemicals. One of these chemicals is called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA.)
Zopiclone works by boosting the effects of GABA and this helps to calm the brain, enabling you to get to sleep.
How long does zopiclone take to start working?
Zopiclone starts to work very quickly in your body.
You should start to feel sleepy soon after taking it.
How long will I need to take zopiclone?
You and your doctor should talk about how long you need to take zopiclone.
Usually zopiclone is not taken for more than two to four weeks.
Some people take zopiclone for a very short time (two to five days).
People can become dependent on the effects of zopiclone if they take it for more than a month, and then when they stop, they are more likely to get withdrawal symptoms.
Your doctor needs to know if...
You need to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before starting treatment with zopiclone if any of the following apply to you:
- you have myasthenia gravis (a problem that causes severe muscle weakness)
- your lungs do not work properly (respiratory disease)
- you have sleep apnea (a problem where you stop breathing for short periods at night)
- you have severe liver problems
You also need to talk to your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following apply to you:
- you have any liver problems
- you have any kidney problems
- you suffer from mild breathing problems
- you have ever been dependent on alcohol or drugs
- you have been told by a doctor that you have a personality disorder
- you have had mental health problems
- you have recently taken zopiclone or other similar medicines for more than four weeks
- you think you might struggle to stop taking zopiclone or other medicines
You should only take zopiclone as agreed with your doctor
Make sure that you know your dose. If it is not written on the label, check with your pharmacist or doctor.
Zopiclone should be taken at the lowest dose possible for the shortest possible time.
You may agree with your doctor not to take it every night, but perhaps every other night (alternate nights), so you do not get into the habit of taking it.
You should take zopiclone just before going to bed.
If you can make sure that you get seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, you will probably experience fewer side effects the next day (such as poor memory).
Zopiclone should be swallowed whole with a glass of water.
Your doctor might suggest ways to improve sleep naturally (called the ‘sleep hygiene approach’) by changing some habits such as:
- stopping daytime naps
- reducing the intake of caffeine and alcohol
- having a regular sleep-wake routine
- making sure your sleeping area is as comfortable and quiet as possible
What if I miss a dose?
If you forget to take a dose, then just take it on the next night.
If you forget to take it by bedtime, just start again on the next night.
Do not take a double dose.
What will happen if I forget to take my zopiclone?
If you forget to take your tablets for a few days, and you have only been taking them for less than one month, you should not get any withdrawal symptoms. If you are thinking about not taking them again then talk to your doctor.
You could get your old symptoms back and have difficulty getting to sleep.
Stopping the use of zopiclone
Stopping zopiclone too quickly may cause withdrawal or rebound symptoms.
You can stop taking zopiclone safely and gradually with the support of your doctor.
Zopiclone is not likely to give you withdrawal symptoms if you have been taking it for less than four weeks, but some people do experience this.
You might get any of the following symptoms:
- rebound sleeplessness
- muscle pain or aches or cramps
- feeling agitated or confused or panicky or irritable
- fast heartbeat
- feeling strange or having nightmares or hallucinations (sensing things that are not there)
- uncomfortable feelings in your stomach and gut
In serious cases you could also get the following:
- feeling unreal in yourself
- feeling apart from who you really are
- feeling very sensitive to certain sounds
- numbness and tingling of fingers and toes
- being very sensitive to light, noise and physical contact
- having seizures (fits)
Even when zopiclone is stopped gradually, you may get some ‘rebound’ symptoms:
- your original sleeplessness may return
- you might feel mood changes
- you might feel anxious
- you might feel restless
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, go back to your doctor for advice.
The information on this page was reviewed by the College of Mental Health Pharmacy in March 2020.