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Ambien Alternatives

This entry was posted in Sedative and tagged on by .
Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on December 20, 2023 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

It is vital to understand the role of natural Ambien alternatives in the context of medical oversight and care. Users of sedatives like Ambien® can suffer from disastrous reactions, prompting them to look for safer alternative treatments. Please remember that properly supported transitioning will avoid the elevation of sleep and anxiety problems associated with Ambien withdrawal.

Ambien alternative treatments need to be structured strategically and compassionately — something we know how to do at Alternative to Meds Center.

Do Your Sleep Issues Require Ambien?

successful ambien alternatives
Alternative to Meds Center has been navigating benzodiazepine withdrawal for over 15 years. You are invited to study our published evidence regarding our success. Insomnia treatment with Ambien is not only a temporary solution but can produce a host of unwanted side effects and dependency. At Alternative to Meds Center, we have made it our life’s work to approach these challenges in ways that are safe, effective, and sustainable for the long term.
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Why Choose Ambien Alternatives?

Though insomnia often develops into a long-term condition, the FDA guidelines recommend only short-term use of Ambien ( zolpidem tartrate ).2 Individuals may desire more natural alternatives to Ambien for insomnia treatment to avoid harsh side effects like sleepwalking or sleep-driving,45 tolerance (waning efficacy), and drug dependence. Zolpidem has sedative and hypnotic effects, similar to that of a benzodiazepine, but differing in its mechanism of action. Interestingly, though it is a non-benzodiazepine sedative, it binds to the same GABA receptor sites as benzodiazepine medications.2

At Alternative to Meds Center, we know there are Ambien alternatives and often better solutions for chronic insomnia and other health problems besides a lifetime of taking medications (aka becoming an “Ambien Zombie“). For people troubled by insomnia, or other conditions that have been unresponsive to Ambien, or who were unable to tolerate the side effects and the risks of physical dependence, Ambien alternatives could change your life. Alternative to Meds Center offers Ambien alternatives within a treatment program that allows people to taper off of this medication safely and comfortably and begin to use sustainable, holistic alternatives to Ambien.

22 Top Natural Ambien Alternatives

We have exhaustively researched and put into clinical practice the top Ambien Alternatives. Our published evidence supports that more than 76% of ATMC graduates report experiencing quality sleep patterns continuing six months to four years after residential care. This study compared people who came to the center on sleep medications to how they felt six months to four years after being medication free. The results of these studies have now been integrated into care and the next round of studies will likely improve these gains even further. The below list gives 22 examples of non-pharmaceutical Ambien alternatives. Alternative to Meds Center utilizes hundreds more to uniquely tailor programs for individuals as precisely as possible.

22 Proven Natural Ambien Alternatives Include:
  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) 15
  • Kava (Piper methysticum) and GABA 16
  • Taurine 17-19
  • Niacinamide 21
  • healthy ambien alternativesMagnesium 22,42
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) 23
  • Melatonin 24,42
  • Tryptophan 25,26
  • GABA and 5-HTP 27
  • Theanine 30,40
  • Valerian 32,33
  • Talk therapies, CBT, proven highly effective 7,34,42
  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, walnuts, seeds, and cod liver oil.29,43
  • Test for and correct vitamin and mineral deficiencies. 42
  • Reduce exposure to mold in the home, workplace, and diet 10,35
  • Eliminate aspartame© 28
  • Eliminate MSG, and limit other glutamate containing foods 11,36,37
  • Acupuncture 14
  • Exercise, out of doors in the sunshine where possible.39
  • Test for and cleanse heavy metals and other neurotoxic accumulations from the body 12,13,38
  • Reduce exposure to EMFs and Wi-Fi 8
  • Practice good sleep hygiene including blue light blocking, improvements in sleeping quarters, avoiding TV, internet, and WiFi close to sleep times, and other non-pharmacological interventions as outlined above.7-9,42

These alternatives are explained further in the following sections.

Supplements as Ambien Alternatives Include:

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)

An article published in the 2017 Sleep Science Journal, reported on sleep experiments using Passiflora conducted on male adult Wistar rats. EEG and other methods were used to determine sleep states during the nine hours before and another nine hours after administration. They found that Passiflora significantly improved the total sleep time The researchers concluded that Passiflora can be considered a sleep inducer.15

Kava (Piper methysticum) and Valerian

In 2001 Phytotherapy Research published a study involving 24 patients suffering from stress-induced insomnia. The participants were administered kava at 120 mg daily for six weeks. Then after a 2-week cooling-off period, the 19 returning subjects received valerian 600 mg daily for an additional six weeks. Though the evidence demonstrated comes out of a small study, the authors concluded that the administrations may be useful in the treatment of insomnia.16


Nature of Science and Sleep in 2010 investigated the effect of taurine using the fruit fly Drosophila. Taurine is a GABA receptor facilitator, and as such is considered inhibitory to neuronal firing. They found taurine to increase total sleep by 50%.17

Niacinamide, B Complex

Hospital News in 2005 concluded that a niacin variant (niacinamide) possesses anti-anxiety effects that compare similarly to benzodiazepines. Authors observed that niacinamide appears to exert this anti-anxiety phenomenon by modulating neurotransmitters that are typically unbalanced when a person is experiencing anxiety. Similarly, B-complex has shown helpful in clinical trials for improvements in sleep, notably over long-term use.21,42


An article published in the 2012 Journal of Research in Medical Sciences details a double-blind randomized clinical trial on the effectiveness of magnesium on sleep patterns in elderly people. 46 participants were randomly divided into the magnesium or a placebo group for 8 weeks. The magnesium group received 500 mg of magnesium. The magnesium supplementation experiment group demonstrated statistically significant increases in sleep time. Subjective measures for insomnia, sleep time, sleep onset latency, and early morning awakening all showed improvements compared to the placebo control group.22,42

Cannabidiol (CBD)

The Permanente Journal 2012 evaluated a retrospective set of case studies from 72 adults at a psychiatric facility regarding the application of CBD for anxiety and sleep complaints. Sleep scores showed demonstrable improvement during the first month in 48 patients (66.7%) but showed varied improvements long term.23


Published in Aging Clinical and Experimental Research in 2013, Garzon et al’s study covered the benefits of melatonin on the elderly. The study showed that melatonin performed better than a placebo sugar pill to boost sleep scores and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. The authors also noted that melatonin positively assists in the discontinuation of hypnotic medications.24


The Medicine Journal (Baltimore) published a 2016 study where 45 subjects were randomly divided into a tryptophan and control group during this 2-week study, with 24 taking tryptophan and 21 placebos. The outcomes were measured using the Athens Insomnia Scale score and the tryptophan group significantly performed better than the placebo group. Additionally, no serious adverse issues were reported for the duration of the study.25

The Journal of Psychiatric Research in 1982 reviewed 40 controlled studies concerning the effects of L-tryptophan on sleep in humans. The bulk of evidence showed that L-tryptophan at doses of 1 gram or more produced betterment in subjective sleep scores and a decrease in the time it took to get to sleep. The most positive results occurred in those with mild insomnia, or in subjects reporting difficulty falling asleep. They found the results for severe insomniacs to be mixed depending on the study reviewed.26

GABA and 5-HTP

The American Journal of Therapeutics published an article in 2010 regarding the effect of GABAdone© (a preparation containing both GABA and 5-HTP) on 18 patients with sleep disorders. The study was an outpatient, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. GABAdone decreased the time it took to fall asleep, increased the length and extent of sleep, and improved the overall quality of sleep.27


Theanine is an amino acid first discovered in green tea and has been well-established for its anti-anxiety and relaxation properties. A 2019 Pharmaceutical Biology study investigated the sleep effect of a GABA and theanine combination in rat models. They found that GABA+theanine produced a positive synergistic effect on the quality of sleep and went on to discuss the possible mechanisms.40

Nutrients in 2019 published a four-week long randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover, and double-blind trial in 30 adults to ascertain the effects of L-theanine administration on stress and sleep-related symptoms. Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) scores improved including a reduction in the time to fall asleep, increased quality of sleep, reduced sleep disturbance, and a reduction in the use of sleep medications after L-theanine administration as compared to the placebo controls.30


Acta Medica Portuguesa in 2011 noted that despite valerian being considered a world-renown herbal sedative, they could not fully authenticate the herb’s anxiolytic effects at this time despite some positive findings.32 The American Journal of Medicine in 2013 performed an extensive review of the literature and chose 16 eligible studies amounting to a total of 1093 patients. They claim that the majority of studies possessed challenging methodologic issues, particularly regarding valerian doses, preparation methods, and treatment duration varied considerably. Their systematic review does suggest that valerian may improve sleep quality but they stopped short of being definitive due to the methodological problems.33

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A recent study out of Oxford University found that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with better quality sleep. Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, these long-chain fatty acids help the body make melatonin, a key factor in regulating sleep.44

Talk Therapies for Insomnia

Clinical research studies published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine strongly recommend CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) for resolving sleep issues.7 The NIH (National Institutes of Health) describes CBT as “more effective at treating chronic insomnia than prescription sleep medication.” The benefits of CBT produced positive changes in patients’ ability to get to sleep and also stay asleep. These benefits were maintained even a year after CBT treatment concluded. NIH recommended that CBT should be used prior to medication noting that CBT is as good as medications like Ambien in the short-term relief of chronic insomnia, and even more effective than the medications long-term. They commented that hypnotic drugs like zolpidem (Ambien) have dependency issues, morning stupor, and drug tolerance effects, and can at times create rebound insomnia, especially when discontinued. CBT therapy benefits were found to last long after cognitive therapy was concluded.7,34

Natural Therapeutic Sleep Interventions Include:
  • Sleep restriction therapy 6
  • Reconditioning
  • Relaxation techniques
  • CBT-I (CBT applied to Insomnia) 6

Sleep restriction therapy and CBT-I may benefit individuals with insomnia who spend too much time in their beds trying to fall asleep unsuccessfully, according to the National Sleep Foundation.6 At first, a sleep restriction program may consist of allowing only a few hours of sleep at night. Sleep time is gradually increased until a normal night of sleep is achieved. Reconditioning is another therapy that can help people with insomnia by reconditioning them to only associate their bed with sleep. Clients at Alternative to Meds Center are given individualized programming based on their unique situation and needs.

Relaxation therapies provide another nonpharmacological regimen of Ambien alternatives help — a set of simple to learn behavioral techniques effective for sleep.

Non-pharmacologic treatments and effective techniques are used to reduce and eliminate body tension and anxiety.4,5

As a result of these therapies, the muscles relax, the individual’s mind is able to stop “racing,” and restful sleep can occur. It can take practice and proper instruction to effectively learn these techniques but is worthwhile to achieve effective relaxation.

Organic Mediterranean-Style Diet

Nutrients in 2020 discussed how diet and nutritional balance correlated to sleep. And while they mentioned a variety of diets that could achieve this, they specifically noted the Mediterranean Diet (high fiber plant-based foods with lean meats and the restriction of low-quality carbohydrates) has been shown to improve sleep quality for many.29

Toxic Mold Syndrome

Studies from Japan and around the world claim toxic mold exposure, allergens, and fungi in living or work environments can cause or contribute to anxiety and insomnia along with a long list of other symptoms.10 Many more fascinating details on the subject of toxic mold syndrome can be found by reading Mold Warriors: Fighting America’s Hidden Health Threat by Ritchie C. Shoemaker.35

Eliminate Aspartame

In a 2018 Nutritional Neuroscience article, researchers discuss the role of the artificial sweetener Aspartame® (α-aspartyl-l-phenylalanine-o-methyl ester) and its connection to mental health and cognitive problems. They discuss some of the neurophysiological symptoms associated with Aspartame including migraines, irritable moods, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. They believe the mechanism could be that aspartame elevates the levels of phenylalanine and aspartic acid which then affect the synthesis, modulation, and release of other neurochemicals in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Aspartame also elevates plasma cortisol levels, indicative of stress on the endocrine system and therefore the neurochemistry.28

Eliminate MSG, and Limit Other Glutamate Containing Foods

In 2015, published in the Biomolecules journal, researchers discussed the role of excess glutamate and how it relates to symptoms such as depression and anxiety, which they termed “glutamate dysregulation.” Glutamate is a component of MSG.11

In a 2013 Nutrition journal article, researchers sought to assess whether monosodium glutamate (MSG) intake is linked to sleep-disordered breathing. This Jiangsu nutrition study analyzed 1227 Chinese participants and found that MSG intake was associated with higher incidences of snoring and a high probability of sleep-disordered breathing, especially in those with body weight less than 23 Kg.36

The Excli Journal in 2018 found that even the lowest doses of MSG had toxic effects on both animals and humans and asked for consideration for its removal as a food additive.37

Acupuncture as an Ambien Alternative

The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine produced an article in 2009 discussing sleep and acupuncture treatments. Researchers reviewed a total of forty-six (46) randomized trials that were vetted for quality and acceptable design. The included studies possessed collectively 3811 patients in total. Their analysis showed a beneficial effect of acupuncture compared with no treatment or in other instances sham acupressure by demonstrating improved scores on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Surprisingly, acupuncture for insomnia was superior to medications regarding the number of patients who experienced a total sleep duration increase greater than 3 hours.14

Exercise as an Ambien (zolpidem) Alternative

In 2012, a systematic review was done on research regarding the effect of exercise on sleep and published in Clinics San Paulo. Their stringent inclusion criteria narrowed the studies down to five. They concluded that exercise training is effective at reducing sleep complaints and insomnia. And furthermore, the benefits from aerobic exercise are positive compared to those observed after using hypnotic medications like Ambien.39

Toxic Impairment and Insomnia

Toxins affect the functionality of neurochemistry in a negative way. The Alternative to Meds Center, as an environmental medicine facility, uses holistic and functional medicine to repair and clean up an accumulated toxic burden that may be interfering with the neurochemistry’s ability to self-regulate. The success of this approach, we feel, is more sustainable over the long term without the complicating side effects of adding drugs to the problem.

Testing and Removal of Heavy Metals to Improve Sleep


testing and removal of heavy metalsIn 2012, Professors Alfred Kobal and Darja Grum at the Department of Occupational Medicine in Slovenia discuss elemental mercury exposure and sleep disorders, among other symptomology, found commonly in miners so exposed.40 They attribute the symptoms of “mercury erethism” (abnormal mental excitation or irritation) to include irritability, mood instability, insomnia, and other neurobehavioral changes such as depression. While the aforementioned has been well-established, the exact mechanisms have yet to be described in the clinical and medical literature. The researchers drew a correlation to how mercury blocks presynaptic sodium and calcium channels, thereby inhibiting glutamate uptake. This then increases the concentrations of glutamate extracellularly on the surrounding neurons producing neurotoxic effects due to overstimulation (excitotoxicity). This increase in glutamate then can reduce the serotonin levels by way of tryptophan availability. Tryptophan is an amino acid precursor to serotonin, and it is serotonin that then makes melatonin. They theorize that glutamate, and the inflammatory cytokines that result from glutamate excess, activate a tryptophan metabolizing enzyme called indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase. A separate mechanism increases the production of nitrogen oxide. Both mechanisms can directly influence serotonin and melatonin levels and thus decrease sleep.12 We took the time to explain the technical aspects of this because Alternative to Meds has seen a strong correlation between mercury levels and a triad of symptoms: OCD-like ruminations, anxiety, and insomnia that present as being more or less constant. We truly feel that in those afflicted with that triad, and a body mercury load, the mercury burden has to be cleaned up in order to accelerate relief. Our experience leads us to consider that those experiencing insomnia, especially the constant and chronic type, should get evaluated for mercury burden.


In a 2015 Sleep article, blood lead levels were measured in a total of 665 children aged 3-5 years old, and sleep markers were assessed at 9-13 years of age. The researchers found significant positive correlations between increased blood lead levels and delays in sleep onset, sleep duration, and frequency of waking in the night. They found that those above 10.0 μg/dL blood lead levels were significantly associated with insomnia symptoms and also were correlated with a higher prevalence of using sleep medications to combat the symptoms.38

Sleep Hygiene:  Blue Light Filtering Glasses

Downie et al published research in 2019 on blue light’s potential effects on sleep, particularly evening exposure. Researchers found an association between evening use of electronic devices and adverse sleep quality and reduced daytime alertness. They concluded that blue light filters as in glasses designed to block blue light have significant implications for public health.9

Healthy Sleep Hygiene Habits Include:*
  • natural therapeutic sleepMake a strong habit of going to, and getting out of bed at the same time, including holidays and weekends.
  • Allow yourself to begin your sleep routine early enough so as to provide at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Only go to bed when sleepy.
  • If you cannot get to sleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
  • Create a pre-sleep routine that evokes relaxation.
  • Use the bed area for only sleep and sex. Consider not putting an office in your bedroom.
  • Design your bedroom to be a relaxing space, keeping it at a cool, but comfortable temperature.
  • Reduce any nighttime exposures to bright light.
  • Turn off home electronic devices such as phones, TV, internet, and Wi-Fi at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Do not consume large meals before bedtime, opting for a light healthy snack if hungry.
  • Get regular exercise, especially some active cardio, but avoid doing so just before retiring.42
  • Maintain a diet that is healthy, avoiding living off of carbs and sweets.
  • Discontinue late afternoon or evening caffeine.
  • No alcohol close to bedtime.
  • Do not drink a lot of fluids prior to getting to bed. (reducing waking to pee)
  • Clearing the home and sleep environment of molds, fungi, and allergens are recommended.10

* Source:  American Alliance for Healthy Sleep 8

Mixing Ambien and Alcohol, Other Substances

Those who take Ambien should be made acutely aware of the dangers of mixing Ambien and alcohol. Since both substances are CNS suppressors, their combined effect can result in over-sedation, which can be problematic for driving or operating heavy machinery. In fact, the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse states that mixing alcohol and medications can be deadly.3

Zolpidem overdose requires admission to an emergency ICU for life-saving treatment. Ambien users who concurrently use other drugs like mood stabilizers, antidepressants, or other types of CNS suppressants are at great risk for overdose even when these may have been prescribed.

At Alternative to Meds, we believe it is overall safer and more effective to utilize natural treatments for insomnia to avoid the negative impacts linked to prescription sleeping pills.

When Sleeping Pills No Longer Work

When sedative sleeping pills aren’t working or are causing significant problems, individuals may consider other options that treatment with Ambien alternatives can provide. In most cases, identifying and treating the underlying problems and causes including using specific behavioral techniques may significantly help to treat insomnia.

Insomnia may be a result of one or more underlying physical, psychological, or medical problems. In many cases, treating the root cause with various alternatives to Ambien can improve or eliminate the unwanted condition or symptoms. For example, identifying certain behaviors such as not exercising, eating poorly, compulsively drinking caffeine, smoking cigarettes, or drinking alcohol, which can worsen insomnia, and eliminating (or modifying) these behaviors may profoundly benefit a person during insomnia treatment. These are examples of how the reduction of symptoms can be done in a drug-free manner.

Alternative to Meds Center provides customized programs for each client, with individualized recommendations for diet, targeted supplementation, and nutritional needs. We aim to identify and correct the causes of the symptoms that led to a prescription of Ambien.1

Integrating Ambien Alternatives

ambien healthy alternatives sedona drug rehabAlternative to Meds Center’s Ambien alternatives program offers comprehensive help that includes using natural substances to support neurochemistry and removing neurotoxins accumulated in the individual’s system from the use of drugs, or from environmental exposure to toxins, etc. that will be identified by testing. Peer support can help significantly, as well as the beneficial effects of many therapies that are provided such as massage and spa services, physical exercise, acupuncture, sauna therapy, colon hydrotherapy, yoga, relaxation therapies, Qi Gong, Reiki, equine-assisted therapy, art and music therapy, and more. Please view the services overview page for more comprehensive descriptions of the services offered at the center.

Contact Alternative to Meds Center

We use scientific, natural approaches to balance the body and brain. The goal at Alternative to Meds Center is to provide relief that lasts, without drugs. The scientific methods used at Alternative to Meds Center have helped thousands of our clients achieve relief from insomnia and other mental health concerns, as well as end or reduce medication use, and stabilize neurotransmitter function.

To find out more, please call us today. Professional counselors are available to answer any questions you or your loved one may have regarding the Ambien alternatives that are part of the Alternative to Meds Center programs that promote mental health naturally.


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Originally Published Nov 12, 2019 by Lyle Murphy

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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