What’s Zaleplon?

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Zaleplon is a non-benzodiazepine medication used to promote sleep, but caution should be taken when using it for longer periods as it can become addictive. It has specific dosages and can cause side effects and interact with other medications.

Zaleplon, also sold in the United States under the brand name Sonata®, is a medication used primarily to promote sleep when people have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. It is one of a group of drugs called non-benzodiazepines, which were initially created to offer some of the benefits of benzodiazepines without the same structure or adverse effects such as increased drug tolerance or continued sedation the next day. Other medications in this class include the sleep medications Ambien® and Lunesta®.

Typically, zaleplon is prescribed for short-term relief of sleep problems and use tends not to exceed five weeks. This may not always be the case, and some people take this drug regularly for a much longer period of time. While the drug is classified as non-addictive when used for a shorter time, reviews in the literature suggest that it can become habitual over longer periods of use or when people are prone to other addictions. This does not necessarily mean that the use is not justified; it simply means that more caution should be taken when withdrawing from the drug.

Some of the cited benefits of zaleplon include that it does not tend to interfere with normal sleep patterns and does not usually cause sedation the next day. People need to be wary of this second benefit when taking the drug for the first time. There should be an adjustment period.

Like all medications, zaleplon has specific dosages. In older people, some side effects may be more noticeable, so the standard dose tends not to exceed five milligrams. Others may require up to 10 milligrams. Higher amounts are often associated with intentional abuse and could be dangerous. The drug has a tendency to cause a form of amnesia which makes it difficult to remember recent actions, creating a strong likelihood of overdose.

Some people taking this medicine will experience side effects, which may lessen over time or stay the same. Commonly seen adverse effects include stomach upset, migraine or other headaches, muscle or joint pain, and skin rashes. Allergic reaction to zaleplon is rare, but symptoms of an itchy rash or hives, swelling of the face, tongue or throat, and difficulty breathing should receive immediate medical attention. Another set of side effects that should be reported right away are mood changes that include increases in anxiety, depression, mania or suicidal thoughts.

Zaleplon can interact with other medications in a variety of ways. Before accepting a prescription for this medicine, people should tell their doctors about all medications—over-the-counter, herbal, or prescription—that they take to make sure that dangerous interactions aren’t occurring. It is not particularly wise to add this medication to other medications that may cause sedation, such as tranquilizers, other sleeping pills, antihistamines, or over-the-counter sleeping pills.

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