Feature Archive

The Sleep-Easy Pill

Sonata treats insomnia without next-day grogginess.

WebMD Feature

For years Sandy Abrao has thrashed in her sheets. It's two in the morning, it's three, even four, but sleep just won't come.

"I'm up constantly, I just can't get to sleep," says Abrao, a 50-year-old office manager near San Francisco who must be at work by 8:30 a.m. "When you don't sleep, you're aggravated so much -- by things at work, by things at home."

New Drug

A new medicine on the market might give Abrao and millions like her some relief. Called Sonata, the drug is a sleeping pill with a short "half-life," or period of influence in the body: Its sedating effect only lasts one to three hours. Most sleeping pills make users sleepy for at least eight hours.

Sonata's short life span makes it beneficial for people who struggle to fall asleep but don't have trouble staying asleep, say sleep experts. It may also be a good option for someone who occasionally wakes up in the night and can't fall back to sleep. But because Sonata is short-lasting, it isn't appropriate for people who wake up repeatedly throughout the night and need help staying asleep. And some experts fear it will still be abused.

"With Sonata, you can take it in the middle of the night and not feel groggy in the morning," says psychologist Derek Loewy, a director at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic in Palo Alto, Calif. "It's not so good for people with a strong sleep maintenance problem, people who wake up often in the night."