What are they? Available by prescription only, Ambien and Sonata represent the newest class of sleep medications.
How long can you take them? Generally, seven to ten days.
Do they work? Yes. Ambien and Sonata act on the same parts of the brain as benzodiazepines, but for shorter periods of time and with fewer side effects. They bring sleep patterns closer to normal, says Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at the VA Medical Center in Houston, and have eliminated most problems with hangover effects. Sonata typically lasts about three hours and is prescribed to help people who have trouble falling asleep; it can also be taken in the middle of the night with little risk of next-day grogginess. Ambien lasts longer and is taken before bed. These drugs are still recommended only for short-term use, a problem that may be solved by new drugs in the pipeline, including Estorra, which is likely to be approved for longer-term use.