Why does Ambien make you hungry? (+3 factors)

In this article, we will discuss why Ambin causes hunger, What is the link between Ambien and hunger, What other factors contribute to it and how to manage hunger while taking Ambien. 

Why does Ambien make you hungry?

Ambien (zolpidem) can make you hungry because of the following reasons:

  • Effect on hormones that control appetite
  • Reduced activity of the prefrontal cortex

The exact reason is not fully understood but it may be due to the interaction of Ambien with neurotransmitters in the brain, potentially regulating hunger regulating hormones or altering the perception of appetite. However, an individual’s reaction to medication may vary and not everyone may experience hunger while taking Ambien. 

It is essential to discuss any unexpected side effects including changes in appetite with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.

What is the link between Ambien and hunger?

Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic that is primarily used to treat insomnia as it acts on the brain to produce a calming effect (1). It can sometimes trigger increased hunger and appetite as a side effect that may cause weight gain in some individuals (2). Ambien can cause these side effects due to the following mechanisms.

Hormone modulation

Ambien may interfere with the regulation of hormones involved in appetite control such as leptin and ghrelin. Leptin signals satiety, indicating a feeling of fullness.  Ghrelin, on the other hand,  stimulates hunger by signalling the brain. Disrupting the balance of these hormones could lead to hunger (3). 

Prefrontal cortex influence

The Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) is a region of the brain responsible for impulse control and decision-making plays a crucial role in regulating food intake (4). Ambien’s effect on this region can potentially diminish its ability to inhibit impulses making it more difficult to resist cravings and leading to increased snacking (5).

Histamine Antagonism

Ambien acts a histamine H1-receptor antagonist (6). Histamine is involved in appetite suppression and its antagonism with Ambien can contribute to increased hunger (7).

What other factors can contribute to Ambien-induced hunger?

Ambien may not be the sole cause of hunger in patients taking Ambien. Several other factors can contribute to this.

Disrupted sleep patterns: Ambien is a sleep aid. Disrupted sleep and changes in sleep patterns might affect the hormones like leptin and ghrelin leading to increased hunger (8). 

Metabolic changes: Changes in metabolism due to medication use or the body’s physiology can lead to altered eating patterns or increased hunger.

Individual sensitivity: Some patients might be more susceptible to experiencing increased hunger while taking Ambien. This may be due to genetic factors, body physiology or metabolic rate of the patient. Some patients taking Ambien might not even experience this side effect.

Psychological factors: Increased hunger due to Ambien could potentially occur in patients with psychological disorders. It might be influenced by the psychological factors relating to hunger such as stress or emotional eating.

Underlying health conditions: Underlying health conditions such as depression, anxiety, hormonal imbalance, diabetes, psychiatric disorders or obesity-related disorders can also contribute to the incidence of increased hunger in patients while taking Ambien.

How to manage Ambien-induced hunger?

Ambien-induced increased hunger requires a more comprehensive approach tailored to individual circumstances. The treatment requires consultation with your healthcare provider to get an individualized plan for treatment.

Consulting a healthcare provider

Initiate an open dialogue with your healthcare provider to evaluate the extent and impact of Ambien-induced hunger. A comprehensive assessment can help understand the possible cause of the effect.

Your doctor might adjust the Ambien dosage. Alternatively, exploring different treatment options such as zaleplon and eszopiclone, melatonin. Supplements or sedative antidepressants such as Trazodone or Mirtazapine may also work. In addition, adjusting the dosage schedule may help alleviate hunger-related side effects.

Regular monitoring of overall health during Ambien use is important. Schedule follow-up appointments. This will help you manage the unnecessary side effects of your medication.

Tips to manage hunger

Here are some tips to manage Ambien-induced hunger.

  • Adoption of a balanced diet and regular exercise regimen is essential. Lifestyle modifications can play a pivotal role in managing hunger and potential weight-related concerns.


  • Consume a light snack before taking Ambien. Opt for food high in protein and complex carbohydrates that promote a feeling of fullness such as a handful of nuts, a small bowl of yogurt or a piece of whole-grain toast. 


  • Take Ambien immediately before bedtime to minimize the window of time between taking the medication and going to sleep. This might help reduce hunger while awake.


  • If hunger strikes despite precautions, opt for low-calorie, nutrient-dense snacks like fruits or vegetables. Avoid high-sugar or high-fat foods. They can disrupt your sleep quality and may lead to weight gain.


  • Implement behavioural strategies such as mindful eating practice and stress reduction techniques. Understanding emotional triggers for eating aids in the management of these side effects. 

Managing Ambien-induced hunger is about finding a balance between ensuring the medication’s effectiveness in aiding sleep while addressing any associated hunger in a way that supports overall health. 

Final Words

In my opinion, Ambien can cause increased hunger in patients as a side effect due to various interacting mechanisms. The side effects might not appear in every patient taking this drug as several other factors contribute to it. If you are taking Ambien and experience any persistent side effects that interfere with your daily routine, consulting your healthcare provider is the best measure. 


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