More than a quarter century of the most prescribed sleeping pill: Systematic review of zolpidem use by older adults

Exp Gerontol. 2020 Jul 15;136:110962. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2020.110962. Epub 2020 Apr 30.


Zolpidem is widely used to treat insomnia of older adults despite that few randomized controlled studies were conducted in this group. We systematically reviewed the relevant literature on efficacy/effectiveness and safety of zolpidem use by elderly individuals in relevant databases completed with a manual search of key journals. Studies were required to include individuals aged ≥60 years under intervention with zolpidem compared to placebo or other hypnosedatives. Outcomes were either objectively- or subjectively-assessed improvements in specific sleep parameters and safety for clinical use. The 31 reports selected for review were mostly of low-quality. The evidence suggests that zolpidem is useful typically by reducing sleep latency and episodes of wake after sleep onset, and increasing total sleep time and sleep efficiency. Regarding safety and tolerability, analyses suggest a low risk of daytime sleepiness and of deleterious effects on memory or psychomotor performance, provided that recommended dosage and precautions are followed. Few retrospective studies associate zolpidem use with risk of falls, fractures, dementia, cancer, and stroke. Zolpidem appears effective at lower doses and for short-term treatment among the elderly. Rigorous, new clinical trials are warranted to further document the specific effects of zolpidem in older individuals.

Keywords: Aging; Insomnia; Intervention; Pharmacotherapy; Sleep disorders; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives* / adverse effects
  • Pyridines / adverse effects
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep Aids, Pharmaceutical* / adverse effects
  • Zolpidem


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Pyridines
  • Sleep Aids, Pharmaceutical
  • Zolpidem