Orexin A Sleep Surrogate

Orexin A, a naturally occurring brain hormone, has been successfully used to reverse the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys. Use of Orexin A allows these monkeys to endure all-nighters and then perform as well on cognitive tests as well-rested monkeys.

Researcher Jerome Siegel, professor of psychiatry at UCLA, remarked that Orexin A is "a totally new route for increasing arousal, and the new study shows it to be relatively benign... It reduces sleepiness without causing edginess."

In the DARPA-funded experiments, monkeys were deprived of sleep for 30 to 36 hours. The animals were then given either orexin A or a saline placebo before taking standard cognitive tests. The monkeys given orexin A scored about the same as alert monkeys, while the saline-control group was severely impaired.

The study was published in the December 26 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers found orexin A not only restored monkeys' cognitive abilities but made their brains look "awake" in PET scans.

Siegle discovered that the absence of Orexin A seems to cause narcolepsy; administration of Orexin A to narcoleptics will be one of the first tests to be performed on humans, when the research reaches human trial stage.

Siegel and other caution against using Orexin A as a long-term substitute for sleep. "We have these other precedents, and it's not clear that you can't use orexin A temporarily to reduce sleep," said Siegel. "On the other hand, you'd have to be a fool to advocate taking this and reducing sleep as much as possible."

I feel like I've read about this before. Orexin A sounds a lot like the sleep surrogate that Robert Heinlein wrote about in 1941.

Mary Sperling woke at her usual hour the next day. She got up quietly to keep from waking Lazarus, ducked into her 'fresher, showered and massaged, swallowed a grain of sleep surrogate to make up for the short night...
(Read more about Heinlein's sleep surrogate)

If you want to get a good night's sleep, and are looking for technological aid, you might want to try Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

Via Snorting a Brain Chemical Could Replace Sleep.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/30/2007)

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