Objective: To describe the association of amnestic nocturnal eating behavior with use of zolpidem for insomnia.
Background: Sleep-related eating disorder is increasingly recognized in relationship to other diagnosable sleep disorders. Many of these disorders, like restless legs syndrome (RLS), give rise to complaints of insomnia. Zolpidem is the most commonly prescribed drug for insomnia complaints, and although it has sometimes been associated with side effects of transient amnesia and sleep walking, an association with sleep-related eating has not been previously emphasized.
Methods: Consecutive case series of five patients who were using zolpidem and evaluated with nocturnal eating behaviors.
Results: We evaluated five patients over 11 months with problematic amnestic nocturnal eating associated with zolpidem used for complaints of insomnia. All five patients had RLS, three had obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, two had sleep walking, and one had psychophysiologic insomnia. With discontinuation of zolpidem and effective treatment of their sleep disorders, nocturnal eating resolved.
Conclusions: Zolpidem, at least in patients with underlying sleep disorders that cause frequent arousals, may cause or augment sleep-related eating behavior. This report demonstrates the importance of arriving at a specific diagnosis for insomnia complaints, and alerts the sleep practitioner to this unusual side effect of zolpidem.