Can Ambien Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Medically reviewed by Alan Carter, PharmD on October 24, 2017Written by Ann Pietrangelo on October 21, 2015

Ambien and erectile cysfunction

Zolpidem (Ambien) is a prescription drug used to treat insomnia. Insomnia can be a serious health problem, and Ambien is intended as a temporary solution. It works by slowing your brain activity so you can fall asleep easier and get a good night’s rest.

Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic drug, and it depresses your central nervous system. Because it can become habit-forming, it’s a federally controlled substance.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when you can’t get an erection or keep it long enough to have sex. Many things can contribute to ED, including medications. Is Ambien one of them?

Potential side effects of Ambien

Ambien can be very effective for people who have trouble falling sleep and staying asleep. It works better if you take it on an empty stomach right before you go to bed. You shouldn’t take it unless you’re able to stay in bed for the full night.

It can cause side effects, but they vary a lot from person to person.

Some common side effects of Ambien include drowsiness, dizziness, and diarrhea. When used for more than a few weeks, you’re more likely to feel groggy and drugged.

Ambien can make you less alert and less coordinated because it’s a central nervous system depressant. Impaired judgment and daytime grogginess may make you more prone to accidents and injury.

This medication can also cause changes in behavior. People taking Ambien have reported eating, having sex, and even driving while they were asleep. Often, they have no recollection of these activities when they wake up.

If you have depression, Ambien can make symptoms worse. It can even contribute to suicidal thoughts.

Ambien depresses the respiratory system, so you shouldn’t take it if you have pre-existing respiratory problems. If you have kidney or liver disease, tell your doctor before taking Ambien. You may need a different dose or a different medication.

There’s some risk of dependence, especially if you’ve had a substance abuse problem. If you suddenly stop taking Ambien, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

As with any medication, it’s possible to have an allergic reaction, which is most likely to include rash, faster sunburn if exposed to the sun, and itching. More severe allergic reaction is very uncommon with Ambien. If you have difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, or if you get a sudden, severe rash, seek immediate medical attention.

ED is not a common side effect of Ambien when it’s taken as directed, but what if you take more than directed or mix it with other substances?

How Ambien may contribute to ED

Ambien is a powerful medication. Taking it in larger doses or taking it for a long period can lead to serious problems. It may also contribute to ED.

Ambien can interact with other substances. It shouldn’t be taken with any central nervous system depressants or sedative-hypnotic drugs. These include benzodiazepine, opioids, and tricyclic antidepressants.

It’s also a bad idea to drink any amount of alcohol while taking Ambien.

Mixing these substances will intensify the effect of the drug, which may lead to ED. It can also cause dangerous side effects, like impaired motor skills and decreased mental alertness.

If you don’t get enough sleep, these effects can last well into the next day.

Causes of erectile dysfunction

A lot has to happen to achieve a good erection. It involves your central nervous system, hormones, muscles, and blood flow. It also requires physical or emotional arousal.

A problem in any of these areas can interfere with the ability to maintain an erection.

Sometimes, ED is the result of a psychological issue. Other times it’s a physical problem. It can even be a combination of things. That’s why it can be difficult to pinpoint the problem.

Some physical causes of ED include:

Other factors that can contribute to ED include:

  • smoking
  • substance abuse
  • certain medications
  • depression and other mental health disorders
  • stress
  • relationship issues

Talking with your doctor

Because so many things can cause ED, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor. That way, any underlying health problems can be addressed and ED can be successfully treated.

Ambien can interact with a wide variety of substances, so be sure you mention all the over-the-counter and prescription drugs and supplements you use.

When taking Ambien, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Never increase the dose on your own and don’t take it longer than directed. Report side effects right away.

If you have long-term sleep problems combined with ED, your doctor may want to reevaluate your diagnosis and treatment.

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