Skip to main content

Lunesta vs Ambien: Main Differences and Similarities

Lunesta and Ambien are two oral medications indicated to treat insomnia. Both medications are classified as non-barbiturate hypnotics. They work by interacting with GABA receptors in the brain to produce sedative and anxiolytic effects. Both medications are on the BEERS list where caution should be taken in elderly individuals over 65 years of age due to potential risks and side effects. While both medications produce similar effects, they do have some differences.

Lunesta

Lunesta is the brand name for eszopiclone. It reaches peak concentrations in the body at approximately 1 hour after oral administration. This time can be delayed if the medication is taken with a big meal. Therefore, it is not recommended to be taken with food.

Because Lunesta is metabolized in the liver to its active metabolite, S-zopiclone-N-oxide, it should not be taken with certain drugs that affect liver enzymes.

The half-life of Lunesta is approximately 6 hours in normal adults. However, in the elderly population, the half-life is increased which may cause increased drowsiness.

Lunesta is supplied as an oral tablet with strengths of 1 mg, 2 mg, and 3 mg.

Ambien

Ambien is the brand name for zolpidem tartrate. Similar to Lunesta, it reaches peak concentrations in the blood at 1.5 hours after oral administration.

Because it is extensively metabolized in the liver, it should not be taken with certain medications due to the increase of potential adverse effects. Dosage adjustments may be necessary for those with liver impairment.

Oral tablets come in strengths of 5 mg and 10 mg. Unlike Lunesta, there is also an extended release form available which can come in strengths of 6.25 mg or 12.5 mg.

Lunesta vs Ambien Side by Side Comparison

Both Lunesta and Ambien are nonbarbiturate hypnotics that have several similarities and differences. These similarities and differences can be found in the comparison below.

Lunesta Ambien
Prescribed For
  • Insomnia
  • Insomnia
Drug Classification
  • Nonbarbiturate hypnotic
  • Nonbarbiturate hypnotic
Manufacturer
Common Side Effects
  • Unpleasant taste
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Anxiety
  • Somnolence
  • Hallucinations
  • Viral infections
  • Respiratory infection
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Grogginess
Is there a generic?
Is it covered by insurance?
  • Varies according to your provider
  • Varies according to your provider
Dosage Forms
  • Oral tablet
  • Oral tablet
  • Oral tablet, extended release
Average Cash Price
  • $541 (per 30 tablets)
  • $561 (per 30 tablets)
SingleCare Discount Price
Drug Interactions
  • CNS depressants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • CYP3A4 inhibitors
  • Sodium oxybate
  • Medications that may cause drowsiness
  • CNS depressants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • CYP3A4 inhibitors
  • Sodium oxybate
  • Medications that may cause drowsiness
Can I use while planning pregnancy, pregnant, or breastfeeding?
  • Lunesta is in Pregnancy Category C. Consult a physician regarding taking Lunesta while pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Ambien is in Pregnancy Category C. Consult a physician regarding taking Ambien while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Summary

Lunesta and Ambien are two medications that can treat insomnia. Although they work in similar ways, they do have some important distinctions. Ambien may be preferred because of its availability as a controlled-release formulation. This may help provide a longer sleep duration for individuals who wake up in the middle of the night, especially with the immediate release tablets.

Both Lunesta and Ambien are Schedule IV medications which may have the potential for abuse or dependence. For this reason, they should not be taken with other similar acting drugs that may cause drowsiness. Their use should also be cautioned in those with liver impairment due to their extensive metabolism in the liver. It is important to discuss your overall condition as well as other medications you take with a physician as one may be preferred over the other.