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Sonata Helpful to Initiate Sleep

Hypnotic Drug Sonata Can Help Treat Insomnia


Updated September 19, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

The pharmaceutical drug Sonata (zaleplon) is a commonly prescribed hypnotic used to initiate sleep.

Uses of Sonata

Sonata is used to safely and effectively treat insomnia or acute insomnia. It helps to initiate or maintain sleep by acting directly on the receptors within the brain. It decreases sleep latency, but has little effect on total sleep time or on sleep architecture. It is especially useful for those with difficulties falling asleep because it begins to work quickly, but does not last long within the body.

How Does Sonata Work?

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that serve as messengers between nerve cells (neurons). Sonata works by binding to the GABA receptor, a special type of neurotransmitter receptor, promoting a calming effect.

Who Should Not Use Sonata?

Fortunately, the risk of tolerance or dependence with the use of Sonata appears to be low, especially when compared to benzodiazepines.

The medication should not be taken with alcohol or with other drugs that suppress the central nervous or respiratory systems, as it may slow or stop your breathing. It may not be the best drug to use if you have a history of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, depression, psychiatric disorders, lung, or liver problems. It should be used with caution in the elderly or debilitated.

What Are Common Side Effects of Sonata?

There are many potential side effects of any drug. At high doses, Sonata may cause rebound insomnia, meaning that your insomnia may return after the drug is stopped. It is less likely to cause amnesia (loss of memory) or next-day impairment when compared to other hypnotic medications, such as Ambien.

Although an individual would not be expected to experience most side effects -- and may indeed not have any of them -- some may include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness; lack of energy or strength
  • Impaired coordination
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Memory loss
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Eye pain
  • Painful menstruation
  • Tremor

What Are Potential Serious Reactions of Sonata?

Serious side effects of Sonata occur rarely, but can include:

  • Withdrawal after stopping the drug abruptly
  • Worsening depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Memory loss
  • Complex sleep-related behavior (such as doing activities while asleep)
  • Anaphylaxis (allergic reaction such as throat swelling and difficulties breathing)

What Safety Precautions Need to Be Taken With Sonata?

Sonata should be avoided in pregnancy and with breastfeeding. As above, certain individuals should use the medication with caution or not at all. There is no monitoring necessary with its use. If you experience any difficulties, you should be in close contact with your primary health provider.


Cooper, D.H. et al. The Washington Manual of Medical Therapeutics. 32nd edition, 2007. 14. Lippencott, Williams & Wilkins. New York.

Katzung, B.G. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology. 9th edition, 2004. 134-140. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. New York.

"Sonata." Epocrates Rx Pro. Version 2.90, 2009. Epocrates, Inc. San Mateo, California.

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