A new sleeping pill has shown success in clinical trials by doing what competitors like Ambien don’t—blocking the brain chemicals responsible for wakefulness.
The Huffington Post reported that the medication, called Suvorexant, functions like no other pill currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Research on the drug was presented at Sleep 2012, the annual conference of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.
The drug has built a buzz in the medical community because it works in a new way, blocking brain chemical messengers known as orexins, The Huffington Post reported. It would give people who experience insomnia another option for treatment, said Philip Gehrman, clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Everyone is so excited [about suvorexant] because different pills work for different people,” The Huffington Post quoted Gehrman, who was not involved with the new sleeping pill. “The more options we have that really act on different brain mechanisms, it really provides a whole new tool to our toolkit.”
Gehrman said its easiest to imagine the brain having a switch between sleep and wakefulness, The Huffington Post reported. Instead of knocking a patient out the way other sleep medications do, the new drug would stabilize the switch so the person taking it is either all awake or all asleep—an important advancement for those who suffer grogginess as a side effect to other medications.
“The orexin system seems to be one of the most important, if not the most important, systems for inducing wakefulness,” researcher Andrew Krystal told WebMD. “It seems to be the system that allows us to remain awake during the course of the day in a continuous chunk. We would fall asleep if it were not for the fact that orexin is being released in increasing amounts during the day.”