By Samir Kadri

Last updated: 28 July 2023 & medically reviewed by Dr. Lindeman

Zaleplon, more commonly known by the brand name Sonata, is a hypnotic sleep medication prescribed to people suffering from insomnia. In this article, we look at its uses, dosage, side effects, risks, and abuse potential.

Key takeaways:

  • The recommended dose of Sonata is 10mg orally once a day immediately prior to going to sleep.

  • Sonata can cause an array of mental and physical side effects, which vary in rate of occurrence and severity.

  • Sonata may present comparatively lower levels of risk for addiction than other drugs licensed for the short-term management of insomnia. However, research recommends that caution should be shown by medical professionals when prescribing sonata to vulnerable patients e.g. recreational drug misusers, inmates, or people with psychiatric comorbidities.

Zaleplon (Sonata)

Understand Zaleplon (Sonata)

Zaleplon, also known as Sonata, is a sleep medication used in the treatment of insomnia on a short-term basis.[1] It belongs to the hypnotic, or soporific, class of drugs, and works by slowing activity in the brain to encourage sleep like other sleep medicines.[1]

Zaleplon brand names

Zaleplon is the generic name for the drug. In the USA, zaleplon is sold under the brand name ‘Sonata’.

When should Sonata be used?

Sonata should only be used as directed by your doctor following a consultation.[2] Do not take it in greater quantities or for longer than your doctor states. Excessive use of any drug puts you at risk of becoming physically or mentally dependent on it.[2]

Sonata comes with a medication guide which can prove helpful. Carefully take sonata in accordance with both the instructions within the guide and your doctor’s orders.[2]

Ensure you are able to get a full night’s sleep – 7-8 hours - after taking sonata. Otherwise, you may feel drowsy and experience memory issues when you wake up as the medication has not run its course.[2]

After seven to ten days, you should be sleeping well. If you continue to experience problems with your sleep after or during this period or notice any negative changes in your thoughts or actions, inform your doctor.[2]

Zaleplon Dosage

Zaleplon is taken orally and is available in 5mg or 10mg capsules. These typically come in a shade of green with 5mg or 10mg written with black ink on the body.[4]

Always consult your doctor before starting a course of any medication and follow their directions. They will take your age, medical history, and symptoms into account before determining your dosage.

Typical adult dose

The recommended dose is 10mg orally once a day immediately prior to going to sleep.[4]

The maximum dose is 20mg to be taken orally before bedtime.[4]

Typical geriatric or debilitated patient’s dose

The maximum dose for a geriatric or debilitated patient should be 10mg taken orally before bedtime.[4]

What to do if I forget a dose?

Sonata ought to be only taken at bedtime. If you are unable to sleep and you haven’t taken a dose, you may take the recommended dose if you are able to stay in bed for 8 or more hours afterward.[1]

Never take a double dose of zaleplon to make up for missed doses.[1]

If you plan on stopping zaleplon, you ought to taper the dosage down slowly in order to successfully wean yourself off.[4]

Sonata side effects

Medications, such as sonata, provide numerous benefits to aid in the management of symptoms and conditions. However, they are often accompanied by unsolicited side effects. Often the benefits are worth the risk of adverse effects, however medications affect everyone differently.

It is essential you discuss your situation and medical history with a healthcare professional before embarking on any course of treatment to minimize your risk of unwanted side effects.

Sonata can cause an array of mental and physical side effects, which vary in rate of occurrence and severity. Check with your doctor if any of the following side effects occur.

Common side effects

  • Drowsiness

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Increased sleepiness

  • Stuffy or runny nose[5]

Uncommon side effects

  • Anxiety

  • Artificial sense of wellbeing

  • Blurred or double vision

  • Breathing troubles

  • Chest pain

  • Confusion about your identity

  • Confusion about time or place

  • Feelings of sadness and emptiness

  • Fever

  • Hives

  • Increased irritability

  • Lack of appetite

  • Lightheadedness

  • Loss of interest in day-to-day activities

  • Problems with muscle- coordination

  • Shakiness

  • Tightness in chest

  • Trembling

  • Trouble focusing

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Unusual weakness or tiredness[2][5]

Rare side effects

  • Back pain

  • Bladder pain

  • Burning sensation when urinating

  • Bloody or cloudy urine

  • Black stools

  • Cold sweats

  • Delusions of persecution, mistrust, excessive suspicion

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Dizziness

  • False entrenched beliefs that cannot be changed by reason

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Loss of libido

  • Numbness of feet, hands, and around the mouth

  • Mood changes

  • Redness or other discoloration of the skin

  • Slurred speech

  • Swelling of eyelids or elsewhere on the face

  • Sores, ulcers, or white spots around the lips

  • Stomach pain

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Unusual bleeding

  • Vomiting

  • Yellow eyes or skin[2][5]

Sonata may cause other side effects too. Tell your doctor if you experience anything untoward whilst taking sonata.

In rare cases, patients taking sonata reported experiencing suicidal thoughts. If you experience any suicidal or self-harming thoughts, call a doctor immediately and tell them how you feel.

Is Sonata addictive?

Sonata is a schedule IV prescription medicine under The Controlled Substance Act. This means it has a low potential for abuse and a marginal risk of dependence.[3]

However, whilst considered a safer alternative to habit-forming benzodiazepines, Sonata has received academic scrutiny due to growing instances of abuse, dependence, and withdrawal issues.[6]

Sonata addiction

Sonata may present comparatively lower levels of risk for addiction than other drugs licensed for the short-term management of insomnia.[6] However, research recommends that caution should be shown by medical professionals when prescribing sonata to vulnerable patients e.g. recreational drug misusers, inmates, or people with psychiatric comorbidities.[6]

If you are on a prescribed course of Sonata, your doctor may elect to wean you off it by gradually reducing the amount you take, rather than stopping suddenly, to negate potential withdrawal symptoms.[2]

Zaleplon overdose

Seek emergency medical attention if any of the following symptoms of overdose occur while taking zaleplon:[7]

Mild cases

  • Clumsiness or unsteadiness

  • Confusion

  • Severe drowsiness

  • Low blood pressure

  • Lethargy

Serious cases

  • Ataxia

  • Hypotonia

  • Hypotension

  • Respiratory depression

  • Coma

  • Loss of consciousness

In rare cases, sonata overdose has led to fatalities. Research shows deaths resulted from a combination of sonata and additional CNS depressants like opioid painkillers or alcohol.[7][4]

Management of overdose on sonata centers around providing supportive treatment, including gastric lavage and administration of IV fluids.[4]

Animal studies have indicated that flumazenil can be effective in counteracting the effects of Sonata, however there are no clinical trials assessing the use of flumazenil as a remedy to sonata overdose.[4][7]

You, or your doctor, may wish to contact the poison control helpline in the event of an overdose. Reach them at 1-800-222-1222.

If someone has collapsed, has had a seizure, cannot be roused, or is having breathing difficulties, immediately call emergency services at 911.[2]

How should sonata be stored?

The FDA recommends storing sonata at a controlled room temperature, 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F).[7]

Sonata ought to be kept in a safe spot out of reach of children. Due diligence ought to be taken when handling and storing medications at home. It is illegal to knowingly share medications with others.

Unused medication should not be flushed down the toilet or thrown in the garbage. Check with your medical provider or local pharmacy for information on best practices regarding the disposal of unused medications.

Signs of zaleplon abuse

It can be difficult to assess when someone is abusing sonata. Signs may include:

  • Using larger doses than prescribed

  • Taking sonata at a higher frequency than prescribed

  • Using it at random times rather than before bedtime

  • Combining sonata with other CNS depressants

  • Recurring instances of mental confusion

  • Recurring instances of memory loss

  • Recurring blackouts

If you suspect someone is abusing sonata, urge them to see a medical professional as soon as possible to receive help. Read here for more signs of sleeping pill abuse.

Sonata withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms can occur when you suddenly stop taking sonata.[1] Symptoms can start within a few hours, but they may also be delayed. In some cases, symptoms may start weeks after you stopped using the medication.[8]

Withdrawal symptoms may affect a sufferer physically or mentally. Physical symptoms stomach cramps, muscle cramps, vomiting, shakiness, seizures, shivering, and other circulation problems.[1]

Mental symptoms include trouble sleeping, anxiety, and restlessness. These can seem like the feelings that prompted the use of sonata in the first place. This may trigger a damaging cycle, whereby people use sonata to gain relief from the withdrawal symptoms caused by stopping the medication in the first place.[8]

To avoid withdrawal symptoms, it is essential you do not take larger doses of zaleplon, take it more often, or take it for longer than your doctor prescribes.[2]

Tapering off drug usage is a common approach suggested by medical professionals to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Gradually reducing the dose over a number of weeks before completely cutting out sonata can aid this process.[8]

Zaleplon FAQs

These are some of the most regularly asked questions about zaleplon and Sonata.

Is zaleplon a controlled substance?

Yes, zaleplon and Sonata are scheduled under The Controlled Substance. Read here to find out more about zaleplon's controlled substance status.