Pharma company Merck announced results at a sleep conference recently from a large clinical trial on its new sleeping aid called suvorexant. These results demonstrated that the new drug allowed people with chronic insomnia to get to sleep faster and sleep longer than those taking a placebo.
In one study, after 3 months of treatment, suvorexant allowed subjects to sleep 19 minutes longer over the course of a nighttime than those who received placebo. Overall, subjects slept one hour longer on suvorexant treatment compared to their pretreatment insomniac condition. Sleep experts explain that this is quite a significant addition to sleep time, if you calculate the gain over a long period of time like weeks and months.
Suvorexant is a new type of sleeping pill, not yet approved by the FDA for use. It blocks a substance called orexin that is responsible for keeping people alert and awake during the daytime and early evening. In chronic insomniacs, some experts believe, there is a condition of hyperarousal, in which there may be excessive orexin activity.
Older types of sleeping pills such as Ambien worked differently – by inducing sedation and relaxation through the benzodiazepine neurotransmitter system. These type of sleeping aids, however, cause a hangover effect and dependence in some patients which can be worrisome, especially in the elderly and in potential substance abusers.
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