Half of all Americans have trouble sleeping at one time or another. It may be caused by lifestyle changes such as a new home or job, jetlag, pain from arthritis or headaches, stress or anxiety, or use of certain medications.
Sonata's manufacturers say the drug offers short-term treatment of insomnia without the grogginess often associated with sleeping aids. However, users must be able to stay in bed for four or more hours to avoid that cloudy feeling.
Sonata works within 30 minutes, and those who take the drug can be active again in only four hours without feeling sleepy or suffering from "rebound insomnia" - insomnia that gets worse after a drug is discontinued.
Another advantage of the drug is that it can be taken "as needed," such as during an airplane flight or at 3 a.m. In other words, it isn't necessary to anticipate when the drug will be needed. But doctors do not recommend taking Sonata with a high-fat or heavy meal because it might delay the drug taking effect.
Side effects of the drug include dizziness, drowsiness, and a headache, but overall the medication is very safe. However, the makers caution people that they should not plan to engage in activities that require mental alertness for the first time it's taken. The drug can react differently in different people, so it's important to gauge what side effects, if any, are felt.
Ambien, the nation's most widely prescribed sleeping pill, is still an excellent choice. What sets Ambien and Sonata apart from older types of sleep medications is that they are not benzodiazepines, meaning that they don't interfere with the natural sleep cycle. Benzodiazepines do interfere with this cycle. Sonata works more quickly than Ambien, so it may work better in certain situations like a transatlantic plane flight.
The FDA recommends that adults take Sonata for a period of seven to ten days. Sonata is for short-term, occasional use, not for chronic sleeping problems.
Some specialists say that Sonata may reduce people's fears of becoming dependent because they would not be tempted to take it every night as a precaution. It can be taken when someone wakes up in the middle of the night and knows he or she cannot get back to sleep.
Sonata should hit the pharmacy shelves in about a month.
The price of Sonata has not been set yet, although a company official said it will be "competitively priced." Ambien has an average wholesale price of $1.65 to $2.14 per pill, depending on the dosage.
Sonata was approved in Europe this summer. It is being sold in Germany, Sweden and Denmark.