Zaleplon | Side Effects, Dosage, Uses & More
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Generic Name:

zaleplon, Oral capsule

All Brands

  • Sonata
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Highlights for zaleplon

Oral capsule
1

Zaleplon is used to treat insomnia (trouble sleeping) in adults. It can help you fall asleep faster, but it won’t increase the total amount of time you sleep. It also won’t decrease the number of times you wake up during the night.

2

Zaleplon is available as a brand-name drug called Sonata. It’s also available as a generic drug. It comes in the form of a capsule you take by mouth.

3

Zaleplon is a controlled substance. That means it can only be used under a doctor’s close supervision. This drug is only used for short-term treatment (no more than 30 days).

4

The more common side effects of this drug include drowsiness, which can occur the next day. They also include lightheadedness, dizziness, feelings of “pins and needles” on the skin, and trouble with muscle coordination.

5

In some cases, zaleplon can cause serious side effects. These can include getting out of bed while asleep and doing things you don’t remember. They can also include abnormal thoughts and behaviors, or severe allergic reactions.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Abnormal thinking and behavior

Zaleplon may cause you to have abnormal behavior during sleep that you don’t remember. This can include driving, preparing and eating food, making phone calls, or having sex. This drug can also worsen depression, including causing suicidal thoughts. These thoughts and behaviors may be signs of mental illness, which can occur even if you don’t have a history of mental illness. If you have these thoughts or behaviors, call your doctor right away.

Withdrawal symptoms

Do not suddenly stop taking zaleplon. If you do this after taking the drug consistently (every day), you may have withdrawal symptoms. These can include stomach and muscle cramps, vomiting, sweating, and shakiness. Rarely, it can even cause seizures. You may also have more trouble sleeping the first few nights after zaleplon is stopped.

Severe allergic reactions

Some people may have a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include swelling of the tongue or throat, trouble breathing, or nausea and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.

What is zaleplon?

Zaleplon is a prescription drug. It’s also a controlled substance. This means it can only be used under a doctor’s close supervision. This drug is only used for short-term treatment (no more than 30 days).

Zaleplon comes in the form of a capsule you take by mouth.

Zaleplon is available as a brand-name drug called Sonata. It’s also available as a generic drug. Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases, they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand-name version.

Why it's used

Zaleplon is used to treat insomnia (trouble sleeping). Zaleplon decreases the length of time it takes to fall asleep. However, it doesn’t increase the total amount of time you sleep, or affect the number of times you wake up during the night. Zaleplon can cause drowsiness, so you should only take it if you have time for a full night’s sleep.

How it works

Zaleplon belongs to a class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics (sometimes called hypnotics). A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

More Details

How it works

Zaleplon belongs to a class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics (sometimes called hypnotics). A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

Receptors in the brain cause certain effects in the body. Zaleplon binds to receptors that reduce anxiety, relax muscles, and reduce anti-seizure effects. This makes you feel sleepy.

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zaleplon Side Effects

Oral capsule

More common side effects

The more common side effects of zaleplon can include:

  • drowsiness

  • lightheadedness

  • dizziness

  • feelings of "pins and needles" on the skin

  • trouble with muscle coordination

  • feeling drowsy the next day

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 9-1-1 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Getting out of bed while asleep and doing things you don’t remember. Examples can include:

    • driving a car
    • making and eating food
    • talking on the phone
    • having sex
    • walking
  • Abnormal thoughts and behavior. Symptoms can include:

    • being more outgoing or aggressive than usual
    • confusion
    • hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
    • worsening depression or thoughts of suicide
    • memory loss
    • anxiety
Pharmacist's Advice
Clinical Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy

Zaleplon may cause abuse or dependence (addiction). When you stop taking it, you may feel withdrawal symptoms. These can include stomach and muscle cramps, vomiting, sweating, and shakiness. Rarely, they can even include seizures. You may also have more trouble sleeping the first few nights after zaleplon is stopped.

Zaleplon may also cause drowsiness.

  • This can occur in the hours after you take it. You should only take this drug when you know you’re able to get a full night’s sleep before you have to be active again.
  • Drowsiness can also occur the day after you take this drug. You should not drive or do other dangerous activities after taking zaleplon until you feel fully awake.
Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
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zaleplon May Interact with Other Medications

Oral capsule

Zaleplon can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.

To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Food interactions

Don’t eat a high-fat or heavy meal right before taking zaleplon. This can make it harder for your body to absorb this drug. If this drug isn’t absorbed well, it may not work as well to help you fall asleep quickly.

Alcohol interaction

Do not drink alcohol while taking zaleplon. Zaleplon can cause abnormal thinking and behavior changes. Using drinks that contain alcohol while taking this drug raises your risk of these side effects. If you drink alcohol, talk to your doctor about whether this drug is safe for you. 

Medications that might interact with this drug

Drugs that increase the risk of side effects

Increased side effects from other drugs: Taking zaleplon with certain medications raises your risk of side effects from those drugs. Examples of these drugs include:

  • Antidepressants such as imipramine or thioridazine.
    • Increased side effects can include being less alert, or having problems with balance and coordination.
  • Diphenhydramine or doxylamine.
    • Increased side effects can include drowsiness. 

Increased side effects from zaleplon: Taking zaleplon with certain medications raises your risk of side effects from zaleplon. This is because the amount of zaleplon in your body may be increased. Examples of these drugs include: 

  • Erythromycin, clarithromycin, ketoconazole, posaconazole, voriconazole, ritonavir, or indinavir.
    • Increased side effects can include drowsiness, trouble concentrating, or anxiety. Your doctor probably won’t need to adjust your dosage of zaleplon, but you should watch for these side effects.

Drugs that can make zaleplon less effective

When used with zaleplon, these drugs can make zaleplon less effective. This means it won’t work as well to treat your condition. This is because the amount of zaleplon in your body may be decreased. Examples of these drugs include:

  • Promethazine, prochlorperazine, perphenazine, or fluphenazine.
    • Your doctor may adjust your doses of these drugs or your zaleplon. They may also switch you to different medications.
  • Antiseizure drugs such as phenobarbital, phenytoin, or carbamazepine.
    • Your doctor may switch you from zaleplon to a different sedative-hypnotic if needed.
  • Rifampin, rifabutin, or rifapentine.
    • Your doctor may switch you from zaleplon to a different sedative-hypnotic if needed.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.
Zaleplon warnings
liver problems
People with liver problems

Your body may not be able to process this drug very well. This can increase the levels of zaleplon in your body and cause more side effects.

Pregnant women
Pregnant women

Zaleplon is a category C pregnancy drug. That means two things: 

  1. Research in animals has shown adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. There haven’t been enough studies done in humans to be certain how the drug might affect the fetus. 

Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. This drug should only be used if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus. 

breast-feeding
Women who are breast-feeding

A small amount of zaleplon passes into breast milk and may cause side effects in child who is breast-fed.

Talk to your doctor if you breast-feed your child. You may need to decide whether to stop breast-feeding or stop taking this medication.

seniors
For seniors

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects, such as problems with muscle coordination or memory.

children
For children

This medication has not been studied in children. It should not be used in people younger than 18 years.

call the doctor
When to call the doctor

Call your doctor if:

  • Your insomnia doesn’t improve after 7–10 days of zaleplon use. This may be a sign that a medical condition is causing your insomnia.
  • You become pregnant while taking this drug.
allergies
Allergies

Zaleplon can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:

  • swelling of your tongue or throat
  • trouble breathing
  • nausea and vomiting

If you have an allergic reaction, call your doctor or local poison control center right away. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room. 

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).

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How to Take zaleplon (Dosage)

Oral capsule

All possible dosages and drug forms may not be included here. Your dosage, drug form, and how often you take the drug will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What are you taking this medication for?

Insomnia

Generic: zaleplon

Form: Oral capsule
Strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg

Brand: Sonata

Form: Oral capsule
Strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)
  • Typical starting dosage: 10 mg right before bedtime, or after you’ve gone to bed and are having trouble falling asleep. 
  • Dosage increases: In some cases, your doctor may increase your dose to 20 mg. You should never increase your dose unless your doctor instructs you to.
  • Maximum dosage: 20 mg per evening.
Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)

It has not been confirmed that zaleplon is safe and effective for use in children. Don’t use this drug in people younger than 18 years.

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

Your doctor may start you on a lower dose or a different dosing schedule. This can help keep levels of this drug from building up too much in your body. Your doctor may start you at a dose of 5 mg. Don’t take more than 10 mg per day.

Special considerations

Liver disease: If you have mild or moderate liver disease, your doctor will likely prescribe 5 mg of zaleplon.  If you have severe liver disease, you should not take zaleplon.  

Low body weight: Your doctor may start you on a dose of 5 mg. 

Cimetidine: If you’re taking the drug cimetidine, your doctor will likely prescribe 5 mg of zaleplon.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Clinical Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy

Zaleplon comes with serious risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you stop taking the drug suddenly or don’t take it at all

If you stop taking zaleplon suddenly, you might feel withdrawal symptoms. These can include stomach and muscle cramps, vomiting, sweating, and shakiness. In rare cases, they can include seizures. You may also have more trouble sleeping the first few nights after zaleplon is stopped.

If you don’t take this drug at all, your sleep problems may continue or get worse.

If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule

Your medication may not work as well or may stop working completely.

If you take too much

You could have dangerous levels of the drug in your body. Symptoms of an overdose of this drug can include:

  • confusion
  • lack of energy
  • low blood pressure
  • loss of consciousness
  • slow breathing
  • loss of muscle mass and strength

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

What to do if you miss a dose

Take your dose as soon as you remember, but only if you have time for a full night’s sleep. Never try to catch up by taking two doses at once. Taking two doses at once could result in dangerous side effects.

How to tell if the drug is working

You should fall sleep faster.

Zaleplon is used for short-term treatment.

It should not be used for longer than 30 days.

Don’t take zaleplon with a meal, or right after a meal

Food can make it harder for your body to absorb zaleplon. Wait at least 2 hours after eating to take zaleplon.

Take this drug at the right time for best effects

Take zaleplon right before you go to bed, or after you’ve been in bed and have trouble falling asleep. Don't take it more often.

Store this drug carefully

  • Store zaleplon at room temperature between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C).
  • Keep this drug away from light.
  • Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.

A prescription for this drug may be refillable

You should not need a new prescription for this medication to be refilled unless six months have passed after the original prescription. Your doctor will write the number of refills authorized on your prescription.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry your medication with you. When flying, never put it into a checked bag. Keep it in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport x-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
  • You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled box with you.
  • Don’t put this medication in your car’s glove compartment or leave it in the car. Be sure to avoid doing this when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Clinical monitoring

You and your doctor should monitor certain health issues. This can help make sure you stay safe while you take this drug. These issues include:

  • Liver function. Blood tests can check how well your liver is working. If your liver isn’t working well, your doctor may decide to lower your dose of this drug.
  • Mental health and behavioral problems. You and your doctor should watch for any unusual changes in your behavior and mood. This drug can cause new mental health and behavior problems, or worsen problems you already have.
  • Daytime alertness. This drug can make it hard for you to stay alert during the day. You and your doctor should watch for any unusual changes in your daytime alertness. Tell your doctor if you notice any of these changes.
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How Much Does zaleplon Cost?

Oral capsule

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These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for zaleplon on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on December 7, 2015

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
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