Sonata (Zaleplon) - Oral


Stop taking Sonata (zaleplon) immediately if you experience a complex sleep behavior. Complex sleep behaviors include sleepwalking, sleep-driving, and engaging in activities while not fully awake.

What Is Sonata?

Sonata (zaleplon) is a controlled prescription medication option for the short-term treatment of insomnia (sleeping troubles).

It is a nonbenzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic that is thought to work by attaching to certain receptor sites to slow activity in the brain.

A receptor is a binding site. A receptor complex is a binding site with accessory proteins. Sonata attaches to gamma-aminobutyric acid-benzodiazepine (GABA-BZ), a binding site with accessory proteins. Sonata also attaches to the omega-1 receptor, a binding site that sits on the GABAA/chloride ion channel receptor complex. The GABAA/chloride ion channel receptor complex is another binding site with accessory proteins.

Sonata is available in capsule form.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Zaleplon

Brand Name(s): Sonata

Administration Route: Oral

Drug Availability: Prescription

Therapeutic Classification: Nonbarbiturate hypnotic

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: N/A

Active Ingredient: Zaleplon

Dosage Form(s): Capsule

What Is Sonata Used For?

Sonata is a short-term treatment to help adults who have trouble falling asleep. However, it does not allow you to stay asleep longer or reduce the number of times you wake up throughout the night–other common insomnia symptoms. 

Adults usually need seven hours of sleep every night for good health. However, a third of adults in the United States tend to get less than this recommended amount of sleep. Not getting enough sleep is connected to many other medical conditions, including depression, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Sonata can be habit-forming and is categorized as a Schedule IV controlled substance. This means it can be abused or lead to dependence. However, it is not as habit-forming as scheduled I through III controlled substances.

Sonata (Zaleplon) Drug Information - Illustration by Zoe Hansen

How to Take Sonata

Take Sonata once nightly, right before bedtime. If you don’t take your medication right before bedtime, you can also take it after you tried to go to bed but have trouble falling asleep. Don’t take Sonata with or after eating a heavy and high-fat meal.

Sonata will make you feel very sleepy, so plan to go to bed right away and stay in bed for seven to eight hours after you take it. 


Since Sonata is a controlled prescription, your healthcare provider may only give you a limited number of refills from the originally written date. You and your healthcare provider may need to be in regular contact to provide the pharmacy with a new Sonata prescription.

After picking up Sonata from the pharmacy, store the medication at room temperature, which is between 68 degrees to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Protect Sonata from light by keeping it in a light-resistant container. Since Sonata is a controlled prescription, place it in a locked cabinet or a similar safe place.

Before traveling, take time to become familiar with the regulations of your final destination. Some countries may require that your healthcare provider document the medical necessity of Sonata on a letter with an official letterhead. Also, make a copy of your Sonata prescription and keep the medication in its original container—with your name on it—from the pharmacy.

How Long Does Sonata Take to Work?

People taking Sonata fell asleep 10 to 20 minutes faster than people who didn’t take the medication.

What Are the Side Effects of Sonata?

Similar to many medications, side effects are possible with Sonata.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your pharmacist or a healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at or 1-800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects with Sonata may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Muscle movement difficulties
  • Pins and needles feeling on skin

You may also develop withdrawal symptoms after you stop taking Sonata, which can include:

  • Unpleasant feelings
  • Stomach and muscle cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Seizures
  • Trouble sleeping

Severe Side Effects

Seek medical attention if you experience the following serious side effects:

Long-Term Side Effects

This medication is not meant to be used long-term. Sonata’s prescribing information recommends talking with your healthcare provider if your insomnia isn’t better or worsens within seven to 10 days. However, the medication has been used for up to five weeks in the clinical trials that support Sonata’s effectiveness.

Report Side Effects

Sonata may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your healthcare provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Sonata Should I Take?

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For oral dosage form (capsules):
    • For the treatment of insomnia:
      • Adults—5 or 10 milligrams (mg) once a day at bedtime. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed and tolerated. However, do not take more than 20 mg per day.
      • Older adults—5 mg once a day at bedtime.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by doctor.


Sonata is available in 5-milligrams and 10-milligram capsules.

Pregnancy or Breastfeeding

There is little effectiveness or safety data on Sonata in pregnant people. The manufacturer—Wyeth Pharmaceuticals—doesn’t recommend Sonata use during pregnancy. 

The low amount of Sonata present in human breast milk is unlikely to cause negative effects in older nursing babies. However, the manufacturer doesn't recommend breastfeeding while using Sonata due to limited effectiveness or safety data on Sonata in nursing babies.

People With Liver Concerns

Liver function may affect dosing. If you have mild to moderate liver impairment, you may be prescribed a Sonata dose of 5 milligrams nightly. If you have severe liver impairment, the manufacturer recommends avoiding Sonata altogether.

People With Depression

If you have depression, you may be given the lowest, most effective dose of Sonata.

People With Lung Conditions

Since Sonata may slow down your breathing, the manufacturer recommends close monitoring for people with lung conditions.

Missed Dose

If you miss a dose of Sonata, you might experience sleeping difficulties that usually disappear after one night.

If you have taken high doses of Sonata for long periods, talk with your healthcare provider. Suddenly stopping Sonata might lead to discontinuation (withdrawal) symptoms that may include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Profound sense of unhappiness
  • Seizures
  • Sleeping troubles
  • Stomach upset
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Sonata?

If you accidentally took too many Sonata capsules, immediately seek medical attention or call a poison control center. Symptoms of an overdose may include:

  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Problems with muscle movement and walking
  • Slow breathing rate
  • Tiredness

What Happens If I Overdose on Sonata?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on Sonata, call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).

If someone collapses, has a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can’t wake up after taking too much Sonata, call 911 immediately.


Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure this medicine is working properly and to check for unwanted effects.

If you think you need to take zaleplon for more than 7 to 10 days, be sure to discuss it with your doctor. Insomnia that lasts longer than this may be a sign of another medical problem.

Zaleplon may cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis and angioedema, which can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Call your doctor right away if you have a rash, itching, hives, trouble breathing or swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, mouth, or throat while you are using this medicine.

This medicine will add to the effects of alcohol and other central nervous system (CNS) depressants (medicines that make you drowsy or less alert). Some examples of CNS depressants are antihistamines or medicine for hay fever, other allergies or colds, sedatives, tranquilizers, or sleeping medicines, prescription pain medicine or narcotics, medicine for seizures or barbiturates, muscle relaxants, or anesthetics, including some dental anesthetics. Check with your doctor before taking any of the above while you are using this medicine.

This medicine may cause some people, especially older persons, to become drowsy, dizzy, lightheaded, clumsy or unsteady, or less alert than they are normally, which may lead to falls. Even though zaleplon is taken at bedtime, it may cause some people to feel drowsy or less alert on arising. Do not drive or do anything else that could be dangerous until you know how this medicine affects you.

If you develop any unusual and strange thoughts or behavior while using zaleplon, be sure to discuss it with your doctor. Some changes that have occurred in people using this medicine are like those seen in people who drink alcohol and then act in a manner that is not normal. Other changes may be more unusual and extreme, such as confusion, hallucinations (seeing, hearing, smelling, or feeling things that are not there), and unusual excitement, nervousness, or irritability.

This medicine may cause you to do things while you are still asleep that you may not remember the next morning. It is possible you could drive a car, sleepwalk, have sex, make phone calls, or prepare and eat food while you are asleep or not fully awake. Tell your doctor right away if you learn that any of these has happened.

Do not change your dose or stop using it without first checking with your doctor. Your doctor may want you to gradually reduce the amount you are using before stopping completely. Stopping this medicine suddenly may cause withdrawal side effects.

After taking zaleplon for insomnia, you may have difficulty sleeping (rebound insomnia) for the first few nights after you stop taking it.

If you think you or someone else may have taken an overdose of this medicine, get emergency help at once. Taking an overdose of zaleplon or taking alcohol or other CNS depressants with zaleplon may lead to breathing problems and unconsciousness. Some signs of an overdose include: clumsiness or unsteadiness, confusion, severe drowsiness, low blood pressure, unusual dullness or feeling sluggish, and troubled breathing.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Sonata?

Avoid Sonata if any of the following applies to you.

  • Alcohol use
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Prior history of a severe allergic reaction to Sonata or other ingredients in this medication
  • Prior history of complicated sleep behaviors—like sleep-driving—with Sonata
  • Severe liver impairment

What Other Medications Interact With Sonata?

In addition to alcohol, due to drug interactions, take the following medications with caution.

  • Aldehyde oxidase-inhibiting medications: Aldehyde oxidase is a protein in the liver that helps break down Sonata. If you take a medication—like Benadryl (diphenhydramine)—that prevents aldehyde oxidase from working as effectively, you might have a higher risk of side effects.
  • CYP3A4-influencing medications: CYP3A4 is another protein in the liver that helps break down Sonata. If you take a drug that prevents CYP3A4 from working as effectively, then you are at a higher risk of side effects. If you take a medication that encourages CYP3A4 to break down Sonata quickly, then low amounts of Sonata will not be as effective.
  • Sleep-inducing medications: Sonata has a common side effect of drowsiness and a serious side effect of abnormal behavior and thoughts. Sleep-inducing medications might worsen these side effects.

If you have any questions or concerns about these drug interactions, consider talking with your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

What Medications Are Similar?

In addition to Sonata, other sleep medications may include:

Since these medications are used to treat insomnia, they are not usually taken together. If you have any questions, please discuss them with your healthcare provider. 

The choice of sleep medication is dependent on the following factors.

  • Do you have trouble falling asleep?
  • Do you have trouble staying asleep?
  • Do you have trouble falling and staying asleep?

If you have trouble falling asleep, then Sonata is one of the possible options.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What if Sonata doesn’t work for me?

    Let your healthcare provider know if your insomnia isn’t better or worsens in seven to 10 days. There are other medication options to help you fall asleep, and your healthcare provider can help you choose.

  • Will Sonata affect my ability to drive?

    Don’t immediately drive after taking a Sonata dose. You may still feel drowsy the morning after your Sonata dose. Wait until you’re fully awake before driving.

  • Can I drink alcohol with Sonata?

    The manufacturer recommends avoiding alcohol altogether. Mixing alcohol with Sonata might worsen side effects—like drowsiness or abnormal behavior and thoughts.

  • Can I develop an addiction from Sonata?

    Like benzodiazepine and benzodiazepine-like hypnotics, Sonata is linked to substance abuse disorder (SUD). Therefore, Sonata is a schedule IV controlled substance. Sonata’s likelihood of causing SUD is less than scheduled I through III controlled substances. Sonata’s SUD potential, however, is more than a schedule V controlled substance.

    If you have a prior history of SUD, talk with your healthcare provider. If you have the following SUD-like symptoms, please also inform your healthcare provider.

    • Agitation
    • Anxiety
    • Appetite changes
    • Changes in behavior
    • Decline in home, school, or work performance
    • Irritability
    • Lack of personal hygiene
    • Mood swings
    • Relationship troubles
    • Sleeping troubles
    • Weight changes

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Sonata?

Experts recommend sleep hygiene. Although Sonata may help you fall asleep, consider the following to help you get a better night’s sleep and not ruin your sleep:

  • Have a scheduled time for going to bed and waking up.
  • Avoid eating large meals before bedtime.
  • Don’t drink coffee or alcohol before bedtime.
  • Avoid intense exercise right before bedtime.
  • Avoid smoking before bedtime.
  • Use your bed for only sleep.
  • Don’t read or watch TV in bed.
  • Don’t sleep in an uncomfortable environment that is too cold, too warm, or too loud.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and not intended as a replacement for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Food and Drug Administration. Sonata label.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and sleep disorders: data and statistics.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and sleep disorders.

  4. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). U.S. National Library of Medicine. Zaleplon.

  5. Sateia MJ, Buysse DJ, Krystal AD, Neubauer DN, Heald JL. Clinical practice guideline for the pharmacologic treatment of chronic insomnia in adults: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine clinical practice guideline. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2017;13(02):307-349. doi:10.5664/jcsm.6470

By Ross Phan, PharmD, BCACP, BCGP, BCPS
Ross is a writer for Verywell with years of experience practicing pharmacy in various settings. She is also a board-certified clinical pharmacist and the founder of Off Script Consults.