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Ambien vs Rozerem

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Comparative Analysis


For patients who experience insomnia or other types of sleep disorders, certain medications that interact with the body's natural sleep-wake cycle can aid in establishing a regular sleeping schedule and combatting symptoms. Ambien (Zolpidem) and Rozerem (Ramelteon) are two such drugs typically prescribed for individuals struggling with sleep issues. They each impact different aspects of the body's mechanisms for inducing sleep but both have proven effective in managing disturbed sleep patterns.

Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic drug that works by slowing brain activity, thus helping users to fall asleep more quickly. It primarily affects levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter associated with inhibiting central nervous system activity.

On the other hand, Rozerem belongs to an entirely different class known as melatonin receptor agonists. It mimics the effects of melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by your body that signals it's time to go to bed. This makes it particularly useful for those having trouble falling asleep at night.

Ambien vs Rozerem Side By Side

Brand NameAmbienRozerem
ContraindicationsShould not be taken with alcohol or other medicines that make you sleepy. Not recommended for individuals with a history of substance abuse.Not recommended for people with severe liver disease. Should not be taken with alcohol or other medicines that make you sleepy.
CostFor brand name: $350 to $400 for 30 tablets (10 mg). For generic (zolpidem tartrate): starts as low as about $0.20 per day up to about $1.50 per day.For brand name: about $450 for 30 tablets (8 mg). For generic (ramelteon): daily costs may vary between about $2-$7.
Generic NameZolpidemRamelteon
Most Serious Side EffectComplex sleep-related behaviors such as sleep-driving, engaging in other activities while not fully awake, memory loss, worsening anxiety.Severe allergic reactions, unusual thoughts or behavior including suicidal ideation or actions, hallucinations, agitation, aggression.
Severe Drug InteractionsNot specified in the article, but generally, caution is advised when used with other CNS depressants, alcohol, or drugs affecting CYP3A4 enzymes.Not specified in the article, but as with many sleep medications, caution is advised when used with other CNS depressants or substances that can affect liver enzyme activity.
Typical Dose5-10 mg/day for adults, with a recommended starting dose of 5 mg for women and either 5 or 10 mg for men.8 mg taken by mouth immediately before bedtime.

What is Ambien?

Zolpidem (the generic name for Ambien) was one of the first non-benzodiazepine hypnotics approved by the FDA in 1992. It has emerged as a popular choice to treat insomnia, aiding patients with both sleep initiation and maintenance. Zolpidem works primarily by enhancing GABA, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that promotes sleepiness.

On the other hand, Ramelteon (Rozerem's generic name) is an entirely different class of drug known as melatonin receptor agonists. Rozerem was approved by the FDA in 2005 and uniquely functions by mimicking melatonin, a hormone our bodies produce to regulate sleep-wake cycles.

While both drugs aid in initiating sleep, only Zolpidem helps promote staying asleep throughout the night. In terms of side effects, Zolpidem may cause more serious ones such as memory loss or complex behaviors like "sleep-driving". Conversely, Rozerem's side effects are generally milder but can include dizziness or daytime drowsiness.

What conditions is Ambien approved to treat?

Ambien is approved for the treatment of various types of insomnia:

  • Short-term treatment of insomnia characterized by difficulties with sleep initiation
  • Long-term management and prevention of rebound insomnia
  • In some cases, it may be used in combination with other medications to manage more complex sleep disorders.

How does Ambien help with these illnesses?

Ambien aids in managing insomnia by increasing the action of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that inhibits brain activity. It does this by binding to GABA receptors, which enhances its inhibitory effects and results in sedation. GABA plays an essential role in reducing neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system, contributing to feelings of relaxation and sleepiness. In contrast, Rozerem works differently as it mimics the effects of melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by our body that regulates sleep-wake cycles. By activating melatonin receptors, Rozerem can help regulate your internal body clock and induce sleep. Both medications are designed to assist individuals with difficulty sleeping but work via different mechanisms within the brain.

What is Rozerem?

Rozerem, the trade name for ramelteon, works differently than Ambien by mimicking melatonin's action in the body. It is a melatonin receptor agonist that binds selectively to MT1 and MT2 receptors in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, rather than binding to GABA receptors like Ambien does. This means it helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle naturally without altering other neurochemical systems, leading to less potential for misuse or addiction compared with drugs like Ambien.

Ramelteon was first approved by the FDA in 2005 as a treatment for insomnia characterized particularly by difficulty falling asleep. As Rozerem has no effect on benzodiazepine receptors (which are associated with sedation), its side-effect profile is different from those of medications such as Ambien. Specifically, it doesn't typically cause next-day grogginess or memory problems—common issues seen with other sleep aids—and it isn't classified as a controlled substance due to low evidence of abuse potential.

What conditions is Rozerem approved to treat?

Rozerem is approved by the FDA for the treatment of:

  • Insomnia characterized by difficulty with sleep onset Unlike many other sleep medications, Rozerem does not carry a risk of physical dependence or substance abuse issues. It works differently from Ambien and other sedative-hypnotics, as it targets melatonin receptors in the body to help regulate your natural sleep-wake cycle.

How does Rozerem help with these illnesses?

Melatonin is a hormone that plays crucial roles in sleep regulation, helping to establish our circadian rhythm and signal to our bodies when it's time for bed. Rozerem works by mimicking the effects of melatonin in the brain, contributing towards the induction of sleep. Unlike Ambien which operates primarily as a sedative-hypnotic drug acting on GABA receptors, Rozerem acts specifically on the MT1 and MT2 receptors in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the brain - these are key regulators of sleep-wake cycles. This specificity can result in less likelihood of dependency or disruption to normal sleep architecture compared with other insomnia treatments like Ambien. Therefore, Rozerem may be chosen if patients do not respond well to drugs like Ambien or wish to avoid their potential side effects.

How effective are both Ambien and Rozerem?

Both zolpidem (Ambien) and ramelteon (Rozerem) are well-established medications used in the treatment of insomnia, though they were approved by the FDA several years apart. They work through different mechanisms: while Ambien acts as a sedative primarily by enhancing GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, Rozerem works by mimicking melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles.

The efficacy of both drugs in treating insomnia has been researched extensively. A double-blind clinical trial conducted in 2005 reported similar effectiveness between Rozerem and placebo for long-term use over six months. On the other hand, multiple studies have demonstrated that Ambien can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and lengthen total sleep duration significantly compared to placebo.

A review from 2013 emphasized that Ambien is effective at inducing sleep quickly after administration but also pointed out its potential side effects such as dizziness or daytime drowsiness. Despite these side effects, it remains one of the most commonly prescribed sleeping aids globally due to its rapid onset and overall efficacy.

In contrast, a 2016 meta-analysis highlighted that while Rozerem may not be as potent at inducing immediate sleep like Zolpidem is known for; it still contributes positively towards improving total sleep time without causing significant adverse events typical with hypnotic drugs. Moreover, because of its unique mechanism targeting melatonin receptors rather than acting on GABA pathways like many other sleeping agents do - including Ambien - there's less risk of dependency which makes it suitable for longer-term usage.

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At what dose is Ambien typically prescribed?

Oral doses of Ambien typically range from 5-10 mg/day for adults, with a recommended starting dose of 5 mg for women and either 5 or 10 mg for men. For people over the age of 65 or those with hepatic impairment, it is advised to start at a lower dosage due to increased sensitivity. Conversely, Rozerem has a standard dose of 8 mg taken within half an hour before going to bed. In both cases, if there is no response after several days, your healthcare provider may adjust the dosage accordingly. However, exceeding the maximum recommended daily limits - that's above 10mg in case of Ambien and more than two tablets (16mg) per day for Rozerem - could potentially lead to adverse effects.

At what dose is Rozerem typically prescribed?

Rozerem treatment typically begins with an 8 mg dose, taken by mouth immediately before bedtime. It is important to understand that this medication should be taken only when you are preparing for a full night's sleep, as it may impair memory, alertness and coordination. If the initial dosage doesn't provide adequate relief from insomnia after several days of use, your healthcare provider might consider increasing the dose or switching to another therapy. Unlike other sleep medications, Rozerem does not have a risk of physical dependency and therefore has no maximum duration of usage or gradual reduction in dose required upon discontinuation.

What are the most common side effects for Ambien?

Common side effects associated with Ambien and Rozerem include:

  • Drowsiness, tiredness
  • Headache, dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unusual dreams or nightmares
  • Dry mouth or throat irritation
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Anxiety, nervousness, restlessness
  • Changes in appetite (increased or decreased)

It's important to note that these medications may cause other side effects not listed here. If you experience unusual symptoms after starting one of these medications, consult your healthcare provider promptly.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Ambien?

While both Ambien and Rozerem are medications used for insomnia, they do have potential side effects that you should be aware of. In rare cases, the use of Ambien has been associated with:

  • Complex sleep-related behaviors such as sleep-driving or engaging in other activities while not fully awake
  • Abnormal thoughts or behavior including aggressive behavior, confusion, hallucinations
  • Allergic reactions: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety can become worse

On the other hand, Rozerem may cause:

  • Severe allergic reaction symptoms like rash; itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat); severe dizziness; trouble breathing
  • Changes in behavior/mood (such as new/worsening depression)
  • Unusual urges (such as gambling urges)

If you experience any of these symptoms with either medication it is advisable to seek immediate medical attention.

What are the most common side effects for Rozerem?

Rozerem, while generally well-tolerated, can give rise to some side effects including:

  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Fatigue or grogginess during daytime
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Dry mouth
  • Unusual feelings of depression or anxiety
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Muscle weakness or aches Rarer but more serious side effects like severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing), chest pain, fast heartbeat should be immediately reported to your doctor. It's also important to note that Rozerem may cause you to fall asleep without any warning even after you are up and about in the morning. This could be felt as sudden drowsiness or a deep sleep where one cannot be awakened.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Rozerem?

Rozerem, like any medication, can cause side effects. Some of these may be serious and require immediate medical attention. These include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as trouble breathing or swallowing, hives, swelling in your face or throat
  • Unusual thoughts or behavior including suicidal ideation or actions
  • Hallucinations, agitation, aggression
  • Worsening of depression and/or severe anxiety
  • Memory issues or confusion especially if used for extended periods
  • Uncontrolled body movements (tremor), unusual sensations in the mouth (such as a bitter taste)
  • Menstrual changes in women; decreased libido and potential fertility issues in men.

If you notice any of these symptoms while using Rozerem it is crucial to stop taking the drug immediately and contact your healthcare provider right away.

Contraindications for Ambien and Rozerem?

Both Ambien and Rozerem, like most other sleep medications, can cause complex behaviors such as 'sleep-driving' or performing other activities while not fully awake. If you experience any unusual behavior changes or memory problems, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Ambien nor Rozerem should be taken if you are consuming alcohol or taking other medicines that make you sleepy. Always inform your healthcare provider about all the medications you are taking; some may interact in a way that could increase side effects.

Rozerem is not recommended for people with severe liver disease. For those with mild to moderate liver disease, it's advised to start on a lower dose of Rozerem due to slower drug clearance from the body.

Ambien has potential for abuse and dependency; therefore individuals with a history of substance abuse should use this medication cautiously.

Although both drugs aid sleeping disorders, they work differently: Ambien helps initiate sleep quickly whereas Rozerem aids in adjusting body’s internal clock and assists in maintaining long term consistent sleep patterns.

How much do Ambien and Rozerem cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 30 tablets of Ambien (10 mg) averages around $350 to $400, which works out to approximately $11.60–13.30/day, depending on your dose.
  • The price for 30 tablets of Rozerem (8 mg) is about $450, working out to roughly $15 per day.

Thus, if you are in the higher dosage range for Ambien (i.e., 10mg/day), then brand-name Rozerem is more expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Please note that cost should not be a primary consideration in determining which sleep aid medication is right for you.

For the generic versions of Ambien (zolpidem) and Rozerem (ramelteon), costs are significantly lower:

  • Zolpidem tartrate (10 mg tablet) comes in packs ranging from 5 up to possibly hundreds with approximate costs starting as low as about $0.20 per day up to about $1.50 per day depending on quantity purchased upfront and dosage taken.
  • Ramelteon can also come in various pack sizes with prices being relatively more expensive compared to zolpidem; daily costs may vary between about $2-$7 based on dosing requirements and purchase volume.

Popularity of Ambien and Rozerem

Zolpidem, available in generic form and under brand names such as Ambien, was estimated to have been prescribed to about 9 million people in the US in 2019. Zolpidem accounted for a significant portion of prescriptions for sleep aid medications that year. Known predominantly as a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic agent or "z-drug," zolpidem has held steady in prescription numbers over the years despite some controversy due to its potential side effects including unusual behavior during sleep.

On the other hand, ramelteon (Rozerem) is another type of sleep medication but it works differently than zolpidem. It's classified as a melatonin receptor agonist and is used primarily for difficulty falling asleep. In comparison, Rozerem had significantly fewer prescriptions with approximately 500 thousand people receiving this drug across America in 2019 - just over 5% compared to zolpidem's numbers. This can be attributed largely due to its relatively recent arrival on the market, having received FDA approval only back in 2005.


Both Ambien (zolpidem) and Rozerem (ramelteon) have been extensively used in the management of insomnia, with numerous clinical studies indicating their effectiveness over placebo treatments. Sometimes these drugs may be alternated based on a patient's response or side effects, but this is subject to careful consideration by a physician as they also work differently. Ambien works primarily by enhancing GABA, a naturally occurring chemical in the body that helps induce sleep, while Rozerem acts specifically on melatonin receptors to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

Ambien is generally considered first-line treatment for insomnia due to its rapid onset of action and strong sedative effect. On the other hand, Rozerem would usually be prescribed for patients who have difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep due to circadian rhythm disruption or those who prefer not using controlled substances like Ambien.

Both medications are available in generic form which offers significant cost savings especially for patients paying out-of-pocket. Both drugs may require an adjustment period during which full benefits might not be immediately noticeable.

The side effect profile differs between the two drugs: while both are generally well-tolerated; Ambien has been associated with complex behaviors such as "sleep-driving" more so than Rozerem. For both medications, it’s important that patients monitor their symptoms closely when starting treatment and contact their healthcare provider if they experience unusual side effects or changes in behavior.