New drug `may offer novel approach to treat insomnia`

Washington: A new drug may bring help for people suffering from insomnia, researchers say.

The drug, suvorexant, blocks the chemical messengers in the brain called orexins, which regulate wakefulness. Other drugs for insomnia affect different brain receptors.

According to the study, taking the drug suvorexant increased the amount of time people spent asleep during the night.

The study involved 254 people ages 18 to 64 that were in good physical and mental health but had insomnia that was not due to another medical condition.

The participants took either the drug or a placebo for four weeks, and then switched to the other treatment for another four weeks. The participants spent the night in a sleep laboratory with their sleep monitored on the first night with each treatment and then again in the fourth week of each treatment.

While taking the drug, participants’ “sleep efficiency”, which reflects the total amount of time they slept during a fixed, eight hour time in bed, improved by 5 to 13 percent compared to those taking the placebo.

They also experienced 21 to 37 fewer minutes awake during the night after they had fallen asleep than those who took the placebo.

“This study provides evidence that suvorexant may offer a successful alternative strategy for treating insomnia,” study author W. Joseph Herring, a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said.

“Suvorexant was generally well-tolerated, and there were no serious side effects,” he said.

The study has been published online in Neurology.