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Insomniacs Might Be Helped by New Pill

The main measure in the study was sleep efficiency, which is the percentage of time a person slept for an eight hour sleep night

November 29, 2012- A new study says that suvorexant, an experimental sleep medication by Merck helps people with insomnia to fall asleep quicker and to remain asleep longer.

The study’s leader said the data the study produced and confirmed in a later study is that the new sleep drug helps insomniacs wake less and sleep faster. The researchers also said the drug is well tolerated and effective in the long term.

The study used 60 people who were given a range of doses in a lab for their insomnia to see if the medication tested better than a placebo pill that was inactive. Study participants were not aware of which pill was the drug or which the placebo was and they took one or the other for four consecutive weeks, then switched and took the other for four more weeks.

The main measure in the study was sleep efficiency, which is the percentage of time a person slept for an eight hour sleep night. At the start, the average sleep rate for the participants was 66%. Participants were awake on average for 101 minutes during the eight hour night after falling asleep and then waking up.

A whole range of results was generated, but the sleep efficiency generally improved from 5% to 13% versus the placebo. Patients also had between 21 to 37 minutes less time they were awake during the eight hours.

That amount might not seem like much, but it means a great deal to someone suffering insomnia, said one of the doctors involved in the study. The doctor said patients with insomnia tend to feel better as well as function more efficiently when they have only 15 to 20 minutes of additional sleep each night.

Researchers said the suvorexant does not function like the other sleeping medications. Current drugs for insomnia enhance brain functions that make someone sleepier. Suvorexant on the other hand, inhibits orexin, the hormone that acts to increase wakefulness.

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