Study: People on Rx Sleeping Pills May Sleep through Fire Alarm

sleep cycle

Half the participants in a study investigating the main class of prescription sleeping pills, which includes Ambien and Halcion, slept through a fire alarm–but a new study by Japanese scientists contends that a new class of sleeping pill allows users to awaken in response to a threat, according to a release. Japanese scientists report that mice given DORA-22, an experimental hypnotic drug, woke when threatened as quickly as drug-free sleepers did, and then fell back asleep as quickly as those given standard sleeping pills.

The authors of the study, titled  “Orexin Receptor Blockade-Induced Sleep Preserves the Ability to Wake in the Presence of Threat in Mice,” say this is due to the different methods that sleeping pills use to put a person to sleep. The main class of sleeping pills, known as benzodiazepines, use GABA-A receptor activation, which induces widespread central nervous system suppression. DORA-22 (DORA stands for dual orexin receptor antagonist), on the other hand, specifically targets sleep/wake pathways through antagonism of orexin receptors 1 and 2.

Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., told WholeFoods in an email that poor sleep is a huge problem, causing “fatigue, pain, and immune suppression, as well as contributing to 16% of fatal car crashes.”  That said, he contends that another DORA called surovexant, which has regulatory approval in Japan, the USA and Australia, “is a horrible alternative to benzodiazepines, being minimally effective, over $12/pill, and with an unknown long-term toxicity.”

Instead of drugs, Dr. Teitelbaum recommended natural alternatives. “Natural oils—such as lavender and ravensara, mandarin, and lemon balm—found in combination in Terrific ZZZ by Terry Naturally—and herbals/natural mixes such as valerian, passion flower, lemon balm, 5HTP, theanine, and hops—found in Revitalizing Sleep Formula by Nature’s Way/Enzymatic Therapy—are safe, low-cost, and outstanding for insomnia.”