While Ambien and Belsomra both help get a restful night of sleep, each medication induces sleep in different ways. Learn about the differences between each medicine.

Belsomra and Ambien are both prescription sleep medications. Both medications are very effective at treating sleep disorders, but each has the potential for addiction and misuse.

Belsomra, the brand name for suvorexant, was approved in 2014. Being less than five years old, medical professionals have minimal experience with Belsomra. Ambien, however, was approved in 1992 and has been available as generic zolpidem for several years.

Both medications are approved only to treat insomnia, a disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Sometimes, insomnia is a mixture of both of these symptoms. Other symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Anxiety, depression or irritability
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Still feeling tired after a night’s sleep
  • Waking in the middle of the night
  • Waking up before you intend to

Insomnia has major impacts on the quality of life and happiness of people who suffer from the condition. Proper treatment can help someone lead a healthier and happier lifestyle. Unfortunately, the most effective sleep medications also have the potential for addiction or misuse. Do not mix them unless directed by your doctor, and keep in mind that too much sleep can cause as much damage as insomnia.

Article at a Glance:

Ambien and Belsomra are medications that treat insomnia

Ambien works by increasing the chemical signal (GABA), promoting sleepiness

Belsomra blocks orexin, a chemical our brain cells use to wake up

Do not mix Belsomra and Ambien — they will not work better together

Mixing these drugs will cause excessive sleepiness and sometimes more serious effects, such as sleep-driving

Similarities of Belsomra and Ambien

Belsomra and Ambien are both used to treat insomnia. They should each be taken once per day, about 30 minutes before bed.

Both medications have the potential for addiction and misuse. Both drugs are schedule IV medications, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), meaning they have a recognized medical use and some potential for misuse.

Addiction to sleep medication can cause withdrawal symptoms like insomnia, irritability, and anxiety. Withdrawal is more likely in cases of chronic drug use, but it can happen whenever sleep medications are misused.

Belsomra Compared to Ambien

Ambien works by increasing the effects of the chemical messenger (GABA) that is found in brain cells. GABA is sent between brain cells and slows down some messages. Ambien enhances the GABA messages that are sent, causing it to stick around longer with a stronger effect.

Ambien starts working in about 30 minutes and leaves the body in about eight to 10 hours — a normal night’s rest. Ambien has been known to cause sleepiness during the next dose, especially in people who are taking it for the first time or taking too high of a dose.

Different formulations of the generic zolpidem include:

  • Ambien
  • Ambien CR (controlled release)
  • Edluar (sublingual tablets that dissolve under the tongue)
  • Intermezzo (fast-acting low dose)
  • Zolpimist (oral spray)

Belsomra blocks chemical signals in the brain that cause you to wake up. Brain cells make a group of chemicals called orexin and these chemical signals are used to wake up the brain and turn off the sleep process. Belsomra stops orexins from finding their targets in brain cells, keeping a person asleep even if orexins are released.

Belsomra starts working about 30 minutes after it is taken and it stays in the body for several days afterward. Some people have reported that Belsomra left them feeling too drowsy to drive the next day.

What Happens if You Take Belsomra and Ambien Together?

Belsomra and Ambien should not be taken together. Mixing them will not provide better treatment for insomnia and can increase the chances of negative side effects. Your doctor should not be prescribing both medications at the same time, due to the negative consequences it can have on your health.

Side Effects of Belsomra and Ambien Together

Taking both medications together greatly increases the chances of these side effects:

  • “Drugged” feeling
  • Difficulty keeping balance
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sleepwalking or sleep driving
  • Tiredness
  • Unsteady walking
  • Unusual dreams

If you or someone you know is misusing sleep medications, The Recovery Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment options that can work well for your situation. 

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

Consumer Reports. “DRUGFACTSBOX ® BELSOMRA (SUVOREXANT) BE[…]for Insomnia.” 2014. Accessed June 18, 2019.

Mayo Clinic. “Insomnia – Symptoms and Causes.”>&l[…];s[…]s and Causes.” 2016. Accessed June 18, 2019.

MedlinePlus. “Zolpidem: MedlinePlus Drug Information&l[…];s[…]t: 400;”>.” 2019. Accessed June 18, 2019.

National Institute of Health. “DailyMed – AMBIEN- Zolpidem Tartrate Tablet, Film Coated.” 2019. Accessed June 18, 2019.

National Institute of Health. “DailyMed – BELSOMRA- Suvorexant Tablet[…] Film Coated.” 2018. Accessed June 18, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.