US researchers have found that a nasal spray of a key brain hormone might eliminate sleepiness, without any apparent side effects.
The study on monkeys, conducted by Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and team, have developed a nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A, which reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests.
Orexin A is a promising candidate to become a "sleep replacement" drug.
"The treatment is a totally new route for increasing arousal, and the new study shows it to be relatively benign. It reduces sleepiness without causing edginess," Wire News quoted Siegel, as saying.
In the study, the monkeys were deprived of sleep for 30 to 36 hours and then given either orexin A or a saline placebo before taking standard cognitive tests.
The analysis found that the monkeys given orexin A in a nasal spray scored about the same as alert monkeys, while the saline-control group was severely impaired.
The researchers found orexin A not only restored monkeys' cognitive abilities but made their brains look "awake" in PET scans.
Siegel said that orexin A is unique in that it only had an impact on sleepy monkeys, not alert ones, and that it is "specific in reversing the effects of sleepiness" without other impacts on the brain.
Dr. Michael Twery, director of the National Centre on Sleep Disorders Research, said that while research into drugs for sleepiness is "very interesting," he cautioned that the long-term consequences of not sleeping were not well known.
Both Twery and Siegel contemplated that it is unclear whether or not treating the brain chemistry behind sleepiness would alleviate the other problems associated with sleep deprivation.
The study has been published in The Journal of Neuroscience.