The FDA has just approved a new insomnia drug called Belsomra. This new drug works differently than other sleeping pills. Belsomra is a selective antagonist for orexin receptors. Orexin is neurotransmitter found in the brain. The job of orexin is to help us stay awake. Because Belsomra is an antagonist for orexin it should block the effect of orexin.
Orexin signals wakefulness and arousal. Scientists identified the role of orexin in 1998. People who suffer from narcolepsy have a shortage of orexin-producing neurons.
The hope of Belsomra is that by blocking the brain signals that keep us awake it will instead promote sleep. This method is expected to have less side effects than traditional sedative sleeping aids that enhance GABA.
Benzodiazepine drugs such as valium, halcion and ativan, enhance the production of GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that slows activity in the brain. These drugs usually have a sedative effect and can help with relieving anxiety and promoting sleep.
One of the most popular sleep aids is the hypnotic Ambien. This is a non-benzodiazepine drug that also has an affect on GABA in the brain. The Ambien effect is more targeted and only affects specific parts of the GABA receptor. Ambien is known to be an effective sleep enhancer and has been touted by celebrities and big names. Even Colin Powell has mentioned taking Ambien for jet lag.
If you look up common side effects for Ambien you will get typical things like drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, tired feeling, upset stomach, headache and a few other uncomfortable sounding things. If you dig deeper, Ambien side effects can be anything from euphoria to anxiety to tiredness to insomnia. Apparently hypnotics affect people differently.
Now for the good stuff. We have all heard the horror stories of people who have been sleep driving and woke up in their vehicle, wearing pajamas, on the side of the road somewhere. Other people have discovered evidence that they went to the store the night before and purchased things like cigarettes and alcohol, yet they don’t drink or smoke and don’t have any memory of making the trip.
There are also the bizarre morning after discoveries of evidence that you may have had some type of strange sleep sex. Which you can’t remember, so you have to try and piece together what happened from the evidence strewn around your bedroom. These anecdotal stories aside, one of the most common side effects of Ambien is sleep walking and sleep eating.
Ambien users have reported mysterious weight gain that was puzzling until they set up cameras and found themselves sleep walking and sleep eating each night. Family members have also told users of seeing them just standing in front of the fridge and eating food items right out of the container. Probably the most common evidence of Ambien sleep eating is the crumbs in bed.
A large majority of people don’t eat in bed, because no one wants to sleep with crumbs in their sheets. Yet, many Ambien users have discovered mystery cracker and potato chip crumbs in their beds. Can Belsomra put an end to these mysterious crumbs and involuntary sleep eating? Merck, the second largest US pharmaceutical company in the US, is counting on it.