How Fast Does Ambien Work?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses how fast Ambien (zolpidem) works.

Mar 23, 2018

Newton asked

How fast does Ambien work?


Ambien (zolpidem) is a sedative hypnotic medication indicated for the treatment of insomnia. It is available as both an immediate release tablet (Ambien) and extended release tablet (Ambien CR). 

Ambien and Ambien CR should both be taken right before bedtime as the average onset of action for both the immediate and extended release tablets is 30 minutes. The onset can vary between individuals and may be delayed if the medication is taken with food. 

Ambien Onset Of Action

Ambien is an immediate release formulation of zolpidem.

  • Ambien will begin working about 30 minutes after taking by mouth.
  • Reaches peak concentration in the blood around 1.6 hours after taking (2.2 hours if taken with food)
  • Therapeutic effects typically last 6 to 8 hours

Ambien CR Onset Action

Ambien is an extended release version of zolpidem and the tablet contains two different layers. One layer dissolved immediately while the other layer releases zolpidem slowly over time.

  • Ambien CR will begin working about 30 minutes after taking by mouth.
    • Reaches peak concentration in the blood around 1.5 hours after taking (4 hours if taken with food).
    • Generally given if the desired therapeutic effects of immediate release Ambien do not last through the night.
    • Therapeutic effect generally lasts 7 to 8 hours

    Other Information Regarding Ambien

    The lowest effective dose of Ambien should be utilized to help prevent side effects as well as impairment after waking. Common side effects of both Ambien and Ambien CR include but are not limited to:

    • Drowsiness (outside of desired time)
    • Headache
    • Depression
    • Unusual thoughts
    • Grogginess
    • Dry mouth
    • Constipation
    • Dementia
    • Irregular heart rate
    • Skin reactions


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