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What is Zaleplon?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2016
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Zaleplon, also sold in the US by the brand name Sonata®, is a medication used primarily to aid sleep when people suffer from difficulties getting to sleep or staying asleep. It is part of a group of medications called non-benzodiazepines, which were initially created to offer some of the benefits of benzodiazepines without quite the same structure or adverse effects like increasing drug tolerance or continued sedation the next day. Other medications in this class include the sleep medicines Ambien® and Lunesta®.

Typically, zaleplon is prescribed for short-term relief of sleep problems, and use tends not to exceed more than five weeks. This may not always be the case and some people routinely take this medication for a much longer time period. Though the drug is billed as being non-habit forming when used for a shorter time, reviews in the literature suggest it can become habitual over longer periods of use, or when people are prone to addictions of other sorts. This does not necessarily mean use isn’t justified; it simply means more caution would need to be taken at point of drug withdrawal.

Some of the cited advantages of zaleplon include that it doesn’t tend to interfere with normal sleep patterns and it usually won’t cause sedation the next day. People do need to be wary of this second advantage when they are first taking the medication. An adjustment period should be expected.

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Like all medications zaleplon has specific dosage amounts. In elderly people, some side effects may be more observable, so standard dose tends not to exceed five milligrams. Others may take as much as 10 milligrams. Higher amounts are often associated with purposeful abuse and could be dangerous. The drug has a tendency to cause a form of amnesia that makes it difficult to remember recent actions, creating strong likelihood for overdose.

Some people who take this medicine will experience side effects, which may diminish in time or remain the same. Commonly observed negative effects include stomach discomfort, migraine or other headaches, muscle or joint aches and pains, and rash. Allergic reaction to zaleplon is rare but symptoms of itchy rash or hives, swelling of face, tongue or throat, and difficulty breathing should receive immediate medical attention. Another set of side effects that should be reported right away are changes to mood that include increases in anxiety, depression, mania, or suicidal thinking.

Zaleplon can interact with other drugs in a variety of a ways. Before accepting a prescription for this medicine, people should let doctors know all medications, over the counter, herbal, or prescribed, that they take to make certain no dangerous interactions occur. It is particularly unwise to add this drug to other medicines that might cause sedation, like tranquilizers, other sleeping pills, antihistamines, or over the counter sleeping aids.

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