Two new drugs, one already on the market, and a second still in the testing stage, may be the answer.
The drug, Rozerem, (Ramelteon)was approved in 2005. Rozerem claims to have two major differences to other sleep medications - it works on the brain in a whole new way, and it's not addictive.
Rozerem, manufactured by the Japanese drug company, Takeda, is said to work by stimulating the melatonin receptors in the brain. Melatonin is the hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain in response to darkness, and has been linked to regulation of circadian rhythms. Takeda claims the drug will help you drop off to sleep faster than existing drugs.
Researchers also claim the drug leaves no after effects and is unlikely to cause any addiction. However, some adverse side effects may occur, including a bad taste in the mouth, dizziness and nausea.
There is less control over this drug than over other sleeping preparations, so it's easier to obtain. It's also approved for long-term use. Rozerem should be taken half an hour before bedtime and should not be taken immediately after a high fat meal. People with a liver disease should not take Rozerem. This could alter the way Rozerem is absorbed into the bloodstream.
Be sure to tell your doctor about other drugs you may be taking. Rozerem interacts unfavorable with several different drugs.
Orexin RA-1, another new drug this one currently being tested by the UK biotech company, Actelion, may reach beyond insomnia. Orexin is a hormone known to control eating and regulate sleep. It's also associated with narcolepsy.
Orexin, tests reveal, is not addictive and could be a first in a new class of sleep medication. Other medications tend to reduce the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. This is the stage where we dream. Orexin RA-1, on the other hand, increases the dream stage.
Testing done on rats revealed that the animals increased dreaming time, and, when awakened, performed better in mazes and other tests. This suggests that the use of Orexin RA-1 may also improve memory.
Sleep deprivation leads to weight gain. If sleep is increased with the use of this drug, then it should follow that weight should drop. However, Orexin is involved in the feeding process, and blocking this drug could mean the person eats less.
Is this beginning to sound like yet another wonder drug? Hold on. There is a drawback. Orexin is also involved in the sleep disorder, narcolepsy. It is possible a person taking this drug might end up with a narcoleptic reaction. Care would have to be taken to prevent this.
Orexin RA-1 is in the second phase of testing, and, so far, has only been tried on rats. It must be tested on people before there is any hope of it being licensed for use, and may not be approved until 2012.