01/03/2014 10:55 EST | Updated 03/05/2014 05:59 EST

Drug maker lowers sleeping pill dosage to minimize risk of next day drowsiness

TORONTO - The maker of a type of sleeping pill is lowering the dose to minimize the risk of next-day drowsiness.

The drug, Sublinox, has been associated in the past with abnormal sleep behaviours.

In late 2011, Meda Valeant Pharma Canada warned that some people taking the drug had reported getting out of bed while not fully awake and performing activities they were unaware of doing.

Those activities including driving a car, eating and making phone calls

The drug company has lowered the recommended initial dose to five milligrams for women and either five or 10 milligrams for men.

The drug company says Sublinox should be taken immediately before bedtime, when the user will have the opportunity to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep.

People aged 65 and older should use the five mg dose, regardless of gender, the company says.

Meda Valeant Pharma Canada issued the new advice in conjunction with Health Canada.

The advisory says women metabolize the drug more slowly than men, and therefore have a higher chance of experiencing next-day drowsiness.

Sublinox — the brand name for the drug zolpidem — is a hypnotic. As with all drugs of this class, long-term use is not recommended. It should not be taken in the middle of the night or at any time other than bedtime, the statement says.

People who are newly prescribed the drug should be careful about next-day activities until they determine how the drug affects them. The company suggests new users should not drive a car or engage in hazardous activities that require complete alertness the morning after taking the drug for the first few times.

The 2011 advisory warned some people should avoid the drug entirely.

"People with a history of sleepwalking, either in the family or personal, people who drink alcohol with Sublinox or take certain drugs at the same time as Sublinox, or people who take Sublinox at higher doses than those recommended may be more at risk of complex sleep behaviours," the company cautioned.