Hormone containing nasal spray could one day replace coffee as morning pick me up

Millions of people across America battle daytime sleepiness. Whether due to a sleeping disorder or not having enough time in the day, few get the recommended eight hours of sleep each night.

A group of DARPA-funded scientists have developed a new nasal spray that could replace your morning coffee as a pick me up. Wired reports that the scientists say the nasal spray containing a hormone called orexin A is a promising candidate for sleep replacement therapy and likely treatment for the sleep disorder narcolepsy. Another study found that low levels of orexin A in the brain could be the main cause behind narcolepsy.

Dr. Jerome Siegel told Wired that orexin A is, “a totally new route for increasing arousal, and the new study shows it to be relatively benign.” Unlike other stimulants used to combat sleepiness from common caffeine containing drinks like sodas and coffee to drugs like amphetamines, the nasal inhalation spray containing orexin A reduces the feeling of sleepiness without causing users to be on edge.

The U.S. Military deems the discovery as a safer way to keep troops alert. The military funded research into the stimulant modafinil, also known as Provigil, to help troops stay awake and alert. DailyTech reported last week that Provigil is one of the new drugs being used as a sort of mental steroid to help keep users focused. One user of Provigil, a professional poker player, credits the drug with helping him win millions in prize money playing poker by allowing him to be more alert and concentrate better.

Currently the nasal spray is in animal testing. Researchers claim when used on 30 to 36 hour sleep-deprived monkeys the subjects perform as well on cognitive tests as monkeys who aren’t sleep deprived. A set of control monkeys was treated with a saline placebo and found to be severely impaired in the same cognitive tests.

Dr. Michael Twery, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research told Wired research into drugs for sleepiness is “very interesting.” However, Twery adds that the use of drugs to combat sleepiness may not alleviate other problems associated with sleep deprivation such as increased risk of metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Siegel says that, “…you'd have to be a fool to advocate taking this [orexin A] and reducing sleep as much as possible."

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