Zolpidem is an imidazopyridine, a chemically novel nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic agent which acts at the benzodiazepine omega 1-receptor subtype in the brain. With a rapid onset of action and short elimination half-life, it reduces the latency to and prolongs the duration of sleep in patients with insomnia, yet has no major effects on sleep stages when given in dosages of 5 to 20 mg nightly. Rebound effects on withdrawal of the drug have not been observed. Unlike benzodiazepines, zolpidem has no myorelaxant or anticonvulsant effects and its effects on anxiety appear to be minor. While zolpidem aids sedation, and may reduce memory or psychomotor function within the first 2 hours after administration of single oral doses, its use as a surgical premedicant remains to be established. Adverse effects are predominantly CNS and gastrointestinal in nature. Altered pharmacokinetics may lead to an increase in dose-proportionate adverse effects in the elderly and in patients with renal dysfunction. Limited evidence to date suggests that the dependence liability of zolpidem is minimal. Thus, zolpidem is an interesting alternative to benzodiazepines in the treatment of insomnia, with properties that potentially offer worthwhile advantages in this therapeutic area if they are confirmed with wider clinical experience.