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Ambien, sometimes referred to as a “sedative-hypnotic,” or “anxiolytic” drug, shares some characteristics with benzodiazepines but is really in a sedative class of its own. Tapering Ambien is much safer and more predictable with compassionate help, and exact, strategic steps. We know how bad it can get. We have been there.
Do Your Symptoms
Alternative to Meds has refined Ambien tapering methods for over a decade and a half now. Our published evidence shows how successful the right approach can be. While some may experience easier Ambien titration than others, it is not uncommon that the person’s CNS has been compromised in an unhealthy way. Weaning off Ambien is assisted by protocols such as cleaning up toxic build-up in the body, making lifestyle changes, correcting the diet, supplementation, and many more. When the root cause of chronic sleep problems is addressed rather than masked with drugs, that is where success will be found.
15 Years Experience by Professionals Who Understand Your Journey.
The trap of relying on medication for sleep can develop several layers of complexity. Tapering Ambien properly can walk these back, but there are critical points to consider. First to consider is the underlying causes of why a person cannot sleep. There is no full resolution in simply taking a person off sleep medication without taking care of the underlying reasons for the original condition, as without the medication a person will return to their sleep-deprived state. Sleep is not a luxury. It is fundamental to health.18 In addition to the aforementioned, the overwhelm of Ambien withdrawals may introduce considerably more disorder to the situation. And there is the vital action of taking care of the safety of the person whether taking Ambien or during the tapering process. The FDA placed a black box warning on Ambien warning about potential injuries from sleepwalking or other actions that the person may engage in of which they will have no recollection.24
To investigate root causes, what are the factors that need to be addressed?. Are there stressors in life that are contributing to the problem? Is there alcohol or recreational drug use? Are there vitamin and mineral deficiencies? Food allergies? Toxic exposures? Is the sleeping environment conducive to a good night’s rest? Is the person taking multiple medications? When did insomnia start? There are many layers and they are going to be unique to each client. We are experts at untangling all the threads to straighten out the contributing factors, so that medication is now unnecessary.
Ambien Tapering Guidelines and Schedule
The guidelines below are intended to be discussed with your prescriber. Always seek medical supervision especially for reducing “Z” drugs like Ambien (zolpidem).
We recommend you learn about the many protocols used at Alternative to Meds Center, on our services page. Share this information with your out-patient prescriber if you cannot find inpatient help for Ambien tapering. Our inpatient program will take 2 months on average to complete and may be a better option for you. Do NOT attempt to taper Ambien on your own. Read more below.
Ambien Tapering Guidelines Include:
Get medical help and support for tapering safely. Don’t try it on your own. Anyone taking Ambien should be aware of the black box warnings and take the necessary precautions to prevent injuries from sleepwalking, sleep-driving, or other adverse events.24
Work out with your prescriber the best sequence for multiple medication withdrawal. (read more on this topic below)
Let the people around you know what your plans are.
Alcohol or other recreational drug use may interact with zolpidem and interfere with sleep and contribute to other unsettling symptoms and should be avoided.8,9,10,11
Energize your day with a solid protein-based breakfast. Over the day eat multiple small meals choosing foods that do not spike blood sugar. Proteins, vegetables, eggs, cheese, fermented foods are excellent food choices.16,17,18,35,36
Daily exercise provides a proven strategy for mental wellness and overall health.19,23,25,27
Whether insomnia is intermittent, or chronic, find out specific strategies that can help improve sleep quality. (read more below)
Be flexible in estimating the timeline for Ambien tapering. Your symptoms, how long you took Ambien, liver & kidney health, genetics, diet, poly-drug use, are some factors that will determine how long the taper should take.
Configuring dosage reductions and how long to wait before further cuts should be discussed with your physician as the taper progresses.
Inter-dosing withdrawal occurs when withdrawals emerge before the next scheduled dose. Speak with your prescriber about preventative strategies if this is occurring, such as switching over to an extended-release version of Ambien (zolpidem tartrate).20
Inform yourself of possible Ambien withdrawal symptoms so you can recognize them and discuss them with your doctor if they occur. These are described further below.
Realize that the end of the taper may be the most challenging. Learn about strategies that can help such as bridge medications like gabapentin you can discuss with your prescriber.
For “Z” drugs like Ambien, inpatient tapering programs are by far the most comfortable, and safest, but this may not always be possible. If you can, find a nutritional psychiatrist or holistic or integrative medical doctor in your area who is willing to help you. Have persons close to you help you and be able to prevent sleepwalking, sleep-driving, or other adverse events. Don’t take this journey alone.
Let those around you know what your plans are
If you inform those closest to you what you are planning, it may ease their worry.
If you have small children, it could be much easier on them, and on you, to enroll in an inpatient program. This will allow you to focus on your own healing.
Inpatient care is 24/7 at Alternative to Meds Center, so your family or loved ones do not have to worry about your safety.
Contributing factors of Insomnia
The following are examples of contributing factors that could contribute to insomnia:
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that is found in coffee, chocolate, ice cream, energy bars, black tea, diet sodas, some breakfast cereals, and energy drinks. Do not discount the effect of caffeine as a sleep disrupter. Surprisingly, an ounce of espresso has only 63 mg of caffeine compared with a cup of regular java which comes in at a whopping 96 mg. White chocolate contains less caffeine than dark chocolate. Best to skip them all if you are battling insomnia.12,13
Foods containing MSG and glutamate can be highly stimulating. While it is a natural chemical in the body, glutamate is classified as the most excitatory neurochemical in the entire body. Consuming foods (notably processed foods) that are high in glutamate and MSG (contains glutamate) can be devastating for insomnia sufferers. Read your processed food labels to eliminate glutamate as much as possible.14
A fascinating study by Maria Wong et al published in the Journal of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology describes a bidirectional effect between marijuana use and insomnia. Marijuana use was found to be more prevalent in persons with insomnia, and insomnia was found more prevalent in persons who used marijuana. 9,10,11
Like the chicken and egg dilemma, the researchers were unable to assign absolute cause and effect. However, increased insomnia was associated with increased marijuana use, and a decrease in insomnia was associated with decreased marijuana use. Another study by Kroon et al published in 2020 reports that while PTSD sufferers are apt to use marijuana to assist with sleep problems, marijuana use is also associated with paradoxical anxiety and psychosis effects.11 If marijuana use has become problematic, speak to your doctor about protocols that can help gently reduce and eliminate marijuana use as part of your overall zolpidem tapering plan.
Sleep, diet, and blood sugar
Diet is probably one of the easiest to overlook strategies to improve sleep. However, the positive impacts of a corrected diet are worth spending the time and effort to achieve. Simply omitting sugars and refined flour products, processed foods containing MSG or other excitotoxic chemicals, avoiding sugar and caffeine-laden drinks and foods all can improve sleep dramatically for the better. Blood sugar spikes and crashes can compromise your waking energy. Napping after a mid-afternoon blood sugar crash followed by using artificial sleep-inducing drugs at night does not successfully compensate for an inadequate diet over the long haul. Correcting these factors can boost your elan vital, give you a spring in your step, and the natural rhythm of sleep can be supported by healthier food choices. 16,17,18
The importance of exercise
According to Baron et al in their study/review published in the 2013 Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, insomnia affects 10-15% of the population and affects more women than men. A correlation between exercise and decreased use of medication was an important finding of the study. Other positive results were getting to sleep faster, and feeling more refreshed on waking after 3 sessions of aerobic exercise per week, over a period of 6 months. Not everyone is going to be ready for such intense exercise, but the study found that regular exercise over time produced significant improvements in sleep quality, duration, and generally improved energy levels.25
Get the lowest dose version of your medication prescribed to you
Ask your prescriber to help in configuring of lowered dosages as you progress through the taper.
You may need to combine even fractions of a pill, which your doctor can help you with.
If you have been using a timed-release version of Ambien, realize that if the pills are cut, they lose that extended-release mechanism. Get your doctor to help with these variations to ensure your lowered dosage is accurate.
Multiple medications and Ambien titration
Many persons who have relied on sleeping pills for a period of time have also been prescribed other medications to compensate for the need to wake up and function during waking hours. Some persons who suffer from depression have been prescribed antidepressants. Some who have suffered anxiety have been prescribed anti-anxiety medications. The result can be a bit of a puzzle when it comes to how to taper off Ambien while taking multiple medications.
Your prescriber can help design your taper to progress in the best way. It may be more efficient to taper the stimulant-type drugs first, followed by Ambien weaning, as an example. Each person’s situation is unique and requires a personalized plan.
How long will my Ambien taper take?
In a controlled setting like Alternative to Meds Center, generally, we would expect that the taper could be successfully done within 8 weeks. But this is not a cookie-cutter program. At ATMC, the first step is to build the person up with nutriceutical support, IVs and oral supplementation, and a corrected diet. Before making reductions we also test for and remove toxic accumulations from the body, to start the process of rehabilitating neurochemistry naturally. This sequence of actions has been found to actually speed up the tapering process, as the preparation steps make the body less prone to complications of Ambien withdrawal.
An outpatient setting is likely to take a little longer, based on an average of cutting 5% – 10% per week, or until any withdrawals settle out. It is important to leave enough time between these reductions for the person to rebalance before the next downward adjustment. We have observed that factors like genetics, lifestyle, liver and kidney efficacy are all going to play a part in elimination time. A toxic body burden can also contribute to long or protracted withdrawal which is why we address toxic elimination before tapering.
Become informed of Ambien withdrawal syndrome
Half-life is an important tool in understanding and predicting emerging withdrawals.28 The half-life of Ambien CR is an astonishingly low 2.8 hours. Tapering Ambien can result in Ambien withdrawal syndrome.29,30,31 Some of the features of this withdrawal syndrome may overlap with drug side effects and can include some of the following.
loss of consciousness
Ambien tapering may be most difficult near the end of the process
It is not uncommon for the last reductions, for instance, less than half of the original dosage, to be the most problematic in medication tapering. Take the time needed to let withdrawals subside before the next cut. The body needs time to reorganize and re-establish normalcy.
For some instances of intolerable withdrawal symptoms, your prescriber may consider using bridge medications, for example, Gabapentin, Trileptal, or Trazodone. Your doctor may provide bridge medications as an option, to help you get through an impasse in tapering Ambien.
Ambien Alternatives and Ambien Withdrawal Links
Please feel free to review and share the information on our Ambien alternatives page with your prescriber. Many resources and tips are there to help negotiate successfully through a medication taper.
Ambien: A Drug of Potential Nightmare
Sleep deprivation is a serious problem for millions of people. Due to the failure to investigate further, drugs have become a popular “quick-fix.” Drugs are really no cure and can further ruin already compromised health. Drug-induced sleep is not a natural sleep. However, for drugmakers, Ambien has become an incredibly profitable product. But for the desperate insomniac, Ambien can literally become your worst nightmare … except that the unwitting person may be completely unaware of their actions while under its influence. These characteristics make close monitoring particularly necessary for both taking and tapering Ambien safely.
This unpredictable drug can literally take over a person’s actions which can become outside their own volitional control. This can lead to not only sleep-walking but “sleep-texting,” “sleep-driving,” “sleep-cooking,” and any manner of odd behaviors, of which the person will have no memory. The drug creates euphoric effects. along with zombie-like after-effects that linger until the next dose. Ambien can easily become addictive both physically and psychologically.29
Ambien dependence has been “re-branded” as a form of mental illness named “sedative, hypnotic or anxiolytic substance use disorder.” 32 Tragically, drug companies have become prone to re-naming observably drug-induced injuries as “mental illness.” This would be almost laughable if it were not for the level of harm so caused. During weaning off Ambien, Do not despair because it is possible to mitigate these reactions using holistic methods.1
Tapering Ambien Allows Better Solutions
Sleeping pills offer only a fake solution to insomnia. It would be far better to seek to find the root causes of one’s sleep difficulties before resorting to heavy drugs. A person using Ambien regularly becomes at high risk for physical dependence. Once a person begins taking it more often than this, any semblance of quality sleep will likely become impossible without it.
In fact, the FDA cautions that Ambien, and drugs like it, should never be taken for more than a few weeks at the absolute outside.2 And even after such a short time, careful Ambien weaning and titration from Ambien are important. Holistic solutions are available for repairing sleep issues. Yet, many have been continuously prescribed for much longer, many years in some cases. That is usually a result of never attempting to discover the root causes of sleep problems, nor making any dietary, lifestyle, or other changes that could have lessened, if not eliminated the problem before resorting to high-powered knock-out type drugs such as Ambien.
Over time, the body builds up accumulated neurotoxic material. The presence of toxic load can be assessed via lab testing. Removal can be achieved in gentle but effective measures. Mercury from dental amalgams, other heavy metals, residues from pesticides, water and air pollution, and food additives are not at all uncommon. Drug residues can also lodge in fatty tissues where they will stay until purged.
Using low-temperature sauna, nebulized glutathione treatments, mineral baths. ionic foot baths and targeted nutrients that convert toxins to water-soluble form are all actions that allow these harmful substances to be cleared out. The use of low-temperature sauna is particularly helpful as it allows the removal process to bypass the liver and kidneys, so as to avoid negatively impacting these and other vital organs, especially when they may have already been drug-compromised.
A keto-based diet that supports brain health (omit sugars, refined carbs, chemical preservatives)3,4,12-17
Lifestyle changes, counseling, that could begin to help regulate sleep.34
Mild to moderate exercise as can be tolerated, preferably outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air.19,23,25,27
Arrange a stay at a competent, inpatient facility with 24-hour monitoring and medical oversight.*
FDA warns never to attempt abruptly stopping Ambien or doing so without monitoring due to risks and complications that may occur.
Overcoming Sleep Deficiency Without Drugs
While coming off toxic drugs is a wise choice, it would be cruel to do so just to leave the person suffering from the very symptoms that led to taking prescription drugs in the first place. Sleeping pills are no different. Sleep deficiency is a destroyer of health, personal relations, job efficiency, anything in life can suffer relentlessly. It is possible to repair the factors that are contributing to poor sleep or the inability to get adequate rest. Women at the age of menopause have particular challenges, such as changes in hormones, mood shifts, and many others.4
CBT or cognitive-behavioral counseling has been found effective in treating sleep quality, and other facets of insomnia.34 Repairing gut health by correcting the diet is a proven remedy for many suffering from disordered sleep or other symptoms.35,36 Whether you are a woman suffering from menopause-related sleep issues,5 or a person stuck in a hamster wheel of stress and exhaustion or any combination of life factors that have affected your sleep, these can all be addressed holistically without resorting to drug-based “treatments” that are perhaps needed in a crisis but are not designed to actually cure anything.
Find Out More About Alternative to Meds Ambien Tapering Programs
At the Alternative to Meds Center we have been helping people from all walks of life, all ages, genders, and backgrounds for over 15 years to improve health and achieve natural mental health. Our Ambien tapering programs can provide the tools you have been searching for to get to your health improvement goals safely, gently, and effectively.
21. Harris J B, Blain P G, Correspondence to Professor John B Harris, “Neurotoxicology: What the neurologist needs to know.” , Chemical Hazards and Poisons Division, Health Protection Agency, Wolfson Unit, Faculty of Medical Sciences Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4 AA [online] [cited 2021 April 28]
28. Hallare J, Gerriets V. Half Life. [Updated 2020 Oct 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554498/ [cited 2021 April 30]
36. Wagner-Skacel J, Dalkner N, Moerkl S, Kreuzer K, Farzi A, Lackner S, Painold A, Reininghaus EZ, Butler MI, Bengesser S. Sleep and Microbiome in Psychiatric Diseases. Nutrients. 2020 Jul 23;12(8):2198. doi: 10.3390/nu12082198. PMID: 32718072; PMCID: PMC7468877. [cited 2021 April 30]
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.
Diane is an avid supporter and researcher of natural mental health strategies. Diane received her medical writing and science communication certification through Stanford University and has published over 3 million words on the topics of holistic health, addiction, recovery, and alternative medicine. She has proudly worked with the Alternative to Meds Center since its inception and is grateful for the opportunity to help the founding members develop this world-class center that has helped so many thousands regain natural mental health.
Medical Disclaimer: Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.