Ambien's Dosage: What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Brittany A. Duke, PharmD, RPh

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While taking Ambien or Ambien CR, complex sleep behaviors may occur. These behaviors can occur while you are not fully awake. Further, you may not remember doing them the next day. These behaviors include:
• sleepwalking
• driving while sleeping
• cooking and eating food
• having phone conversations
• having sex

In some people, these behaviors have caused serious injuries, including death.

Tell your doctor immediately if you think you’ve had complex sleep behaviors while taking Ambien or Ambien CR. They’ll likely recommend that you stop taking this medication.

Ambien: Introduction

Ambien and Ambien CR are brand-name prescription medications that contain the active drug zolpidem. They belong to a class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics. Both Ambien and Ambien CR are available in a generic form.

These medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat insomnia in adults. Specifically, Ambien is approved to treat insomnia caused by problems falling asleep. Ambien CR is approved to treat insomnia caused by problems falling asleep or staying asleep. Both medications are approved for short-term use.

In this article, you’ll find information about the dosages of Ambien and Ambien CR. You’ll also find details on how to take these medications. For a comprehensive overview of Ambien and Ambien CR, view this article.

Finding a healthcare professional

If you’re interested in taking Ambien or Ambien CR, search here to find a doctor who might prescribe it.

This article describes typical recommended dosages for Ambien and Ambien CR. These dosages are provided by the drug’s manufacturer.

Your doctor will prescribe the dosage of Ambien or Ambien CR that’s best for you.

Ambien: Dosage

Commonly recommended dosages for Ambien and Ambien CR are shown below. However, your doctor will prescribe the dosage that’s right for you.

Ambien’s forms and strengths

Ambien comes as a tablet that you swallow. Similarly, Ambien CR comes as an extended-release tablet that you swallow. (Extended release means the active drug is released into your body slowly over time after the medication is taken.)

Ambien is available in strengths of 5 milligrams (mg) and 10 mg.

Ambien CR is available in strengths of 6.25 mg and 12.5 mg.

Typical recommended dosages

Usually, doctors will prescribe the lowest dosage of Ambien needed to treat insomnia. If your symptoms don’t lessen, they may increase your dosage.

Ambien dosage for insomnia caused by problems falling asleep

Below is an overview of Ambien’s recommended dosage for insomnia caused by problems falling asleep. Your doctor will prescribe the dosage of Ambien that’s right for your condition.

  • Starting dosage for females: 5 mg, taken once per day before bedtime
  • Starting dosage for males: 5 mg or 10 mg, taken once per day before bedtime
  • Maintenance dosage: 5 mg or 10 mg, taken once per day before bedtime
  • Maximum dosage: 10 mg, taken once per day before bedtime

For each dose, consider the time you’ll need to wake up. Then, take your dose at least 7 hours to 8 hours before that time.

Note: Sex and gender exist on spectrums. In this article, use of the terms “male” and “female” refers to sex assigned at birth.

Ambien CR dosage for insomnia caused by problems falling asleep or staying asleep

Below is an overview of Ambien CR’s recommended dosage for insomnia caused by problems falling asleep or staying asleep. Your doctor will prescribe the dosage of Ambien CR that’s right for your condition.

  • Starting dosage for females: 6.25 mg, taken once per day before bedtime
  • Starting dosage for males: 6.25 mg or 12.5 mg, taken once per day before bedtime
  • Maintenance dosage: 6.25 mg or 12.5 mg, taken once per day before bedtime
  • Maximum dosage: 12.5 mg, taken once per day before bedtime

For each dose, consider the time you’ll need to wake up. Then, take your dose at least 7 hours to 8 hours before that time.

Length of treatment

Doctors typically don’t prescribe Ambien or Ambien CR as a long-term treatment. Instead, they usually prescribe them for a short time to treat insomnia.

Ambien: Overdose

If you take more than the recommended dosage of Ambien or Ambien CR, serious effects can occur. Do not take more Ambien or Ambien CR than your doctor prescribes. 

Ambien dose that could be lethal

Ambien’s recommended maximum dosages are:

  • Ambien: 10 milligrams (mg), taken once per day before bedtime
  • Ambien CR: 12.5 mg, taken once per day before bedtime

Taking more than the recommended maximum dosage of Ambien or Ambien CR may cause serious side effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about your prescribed dosage.

Read below about symptoms of overdose and what to do in case of overdose.

Symptoms of overdose

Symptoms that an overdose of Ambien or Ambien CR could cause include:

  • extreme sleepiness
  • loss of consciousness
  • trouble breathing
  • dangerously low heart rate or blood pressure
  • coma
  • in rare cases, death

What to do in case of overdose

Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much of this drug. Also, you can call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use its online tool. However, if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or a local emergency number. Or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

Ambien: Common questions about dosage

Below are some common questions related to Ambien’s dosage.

Is a certain Ambien dosage recommended for females?

Yes, a certain dosage is recommended for females* when starting Ambien or Ambien CR. In females, the body takes longer to metabolize (break down) Ambien or Ambien CR. For this reason, the drug is eliminated more slowly, which can affect mental alertness.

The recommended starting dosages for females are:

  • Ambien: 5 milligrams (mg), taken once per day before bedtime
  • Ambien CR: 6.25 mg, taken once per day before bedtime

See the “Ambien: Dosage” and “Ambien: How to take” sections for more details on taking Ambien or Ambien CR. If you’d like more information about dosages of either drug for females, ask your doctor.

* Sex and gender exist on spectrums. In this article, use of the term “female” refers to sex assigned at birth.

What’s the highest dosage of Ambien a person can safely take?

The highest dosage of Ambien a person can safely take depends on several factors. These include gender, age, liver damage, and central nervous system drugs the person may be taking.  

In general, the recommended maximum dosages of Ambien are:

  • Ambien: 10 mg, taken once per day before bedtime
  • Ambien CR: 12.5 mg, taken once per day before bedtime

For each dose, a person should consider the time they’ll need to wake up. Then, they should take their dose at least 7 hours to 8 hours before that time.

Your doctor can give you more information about dosages of Ambien or Ambien CR.

Do doctors prescribe 2.5 mg as a normal dose of Ambien?

Ambien is available in a 5-mg tablet. The manufacturer has not stated whether it’s safe to cut, break, or split the tablet in half. However, because the tablet is not scored, it cannot be divided accurately into equal parts.

Ambien CR is an extended-release tablet and should not be cut, crushed, or chewed. (Extended release means the active drug is released into your body slowly over time after the medication is taken.) If the tablet were cut, crushed, or chewed, the drug might be released into the body all at once.

Talk with your doctor if you have questions about your dosage of Ambien or Ambien CR.

Ambien: Dosage considerations

Your doctor will consider several factors when prescribing the dosage for Ambien or Ambien CR. These factors include:

  • your age
  • the severity of your condition
  • other medications you take
  • how well your liver functions

Your prescribed dosage also may vary based on other medical conditions you have.

Recommended adjustments in dosage

Your doctor may prescribe a lower dosage of Ambien in certain situations. These include if you are age 65 years or older or have liver problems.

Check with your doctor if you have concerns about your Ambien or Ambien CR dosage.

Ambien: How to take

Both Ambien and Ambien CR come as tablets. For either medication, you’ll take one tablet by mouth per day, just before bedtime. Do not take Ambien or Ambien CR with food or right after a meal. Both medications should be taken on an empty stomach.

Your doctor may recommend you take Ambien or Ambien CR at the same time each day. Doing so will help maintain a consistent amount of the drug in your body. This can help Ambien or Ambien CR work effectively.

With that in mind, for each dose, consider the time you’ll need to wake up. Then, take your dose at least 7 hours to 8 hours before that time.

The manufacturer of Ambien does not state whether it’s safe to cut the tablets in half. On the other hand, it advises not to cut, crush, or chew Ambien CR tablets. If you have difficulty swallowing tablets, view this article. It provides suggestions on how to take this form of medication. You also can talk with your doctor or pharmacist about taking your medication.

ACCESSIBLE DRUG LABELS AND CONTAINERS

If you find it challenging to read the label on your prescription, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Certain pharmacies provide medication labels with large print or braille. They also may offer labels containing a scannable code that your smartphone can convert from text to speech. If your pharmacy doesn’t provide these choices, your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend a pharmacy that does.

If it’s difficult for you to open medication bottles, ask your pharmacist if they can dispense Ambien in an easy-open container. They also may recommend ways to help make it easier to open the bottles.

Ambien: Missing a dose

If you miss a dose of Ambien or Ambien CR, skip the missed dose. Then, take your next dose at the usual time. Do not double up on doses to make up for a missed dose.

View these medication reminder options to help avoid missing doses. You could also set an alarm or download a reminder app on your phone.

Ambien: Misuse

Misuse of a drug means it is taken in a way other than how it was prescribed. If you’ve had problems with drug or alcohol misuse in the past, you may have a higher risk of misusing Ambien or Ambien CR. You also could be at risk of addiction with Ambien or Ambien CR.

Tell your doctor if you’ve ever had problems with alcohol or drug misuse or harmful use. If you have, your doctor likely will monitor you more closely if they prescribe Ambien or Ambien CR.

Ambien: Withdrawal and dependence

If you take Ambien or Ambien CR, it’s possible your body may develop a dependence on it. (With dependence, your body needs a drug or substance to function like usual.) Your risk of dependence may be greater if you’ve ever had problems with drug or alcohol misuse.

People taking sedative-hypnotics have had withdrawal symptoms after abruptly stopping their treatment. (Keep in mind that Ambien and Ambien CR are sedative-hypnotics.) Withdrawal symptoms occur from suddenly stopping a medication on which your body is dependent.

The withdrawal symptoms typically go away after a few days. Symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • stomach cramps
  • flushed feeling
  • lightheadedness
  • uncontrolled crying
  • panic attack or nervousness

If you’re considering stopping Ambien or Ambien CR, it’s important to talk with your doctor about it. They can help you stop Ambien or Ambien CR safely. They may taper your dosage slowly over a few days to help decrease possible withdrawal symptoms.

Ambien: What to discuss with your doctor

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist for additional information about the dosage of Ambien and Ambien CR. Keep in mind that the dosages presented in this article are typical dosages provided by the drug’s manufacturer. Your doctor will recommend the dosage of Ambien or Ambien CR that’s right for you and your condition. Always follow the dosage that your doctor prescribes for you.

As with any medications you’re taking, do not change your Ambien or Ambien CR dosage without a recommendation from your doctor.

In addition to discussing Ambien or Ambien CR with your doctor, you may find the following articles helpful in learning more.

  • Overview of Ambien. For comprehensive details on Ambien and Ambien CR, see this article.
  • Drug comparisons. To learn how Ambien and Ambien CR compare with Lunesta, read this article.
  • Information on side effects. If you’d like to know about possible side effects of Ambien or Ambien CR, view this article.
  • Details about insomnia. To learn more about insomnia, which Ambien and Ambien CR are used to treat, see this article.

Disclaimer: Healthgrades has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.


Medical Reviewer: Brittany A. Duke, PharmD, RPh
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 7
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