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A Nasal Spray to Replace Sleep? DARPA Develops Brain Chemical to Replace Sleep

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    A Nasal Spray to Replace Sleep? DARPA Develops Brain Chemical to Replace Sleep
    January 02, 2008
    DARPA Develops Brain Chemical to Replace Sleep

    As the line between science fiction and reality becomes increasingly blurry, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has always led the pack in terms of cool, weird, wacky and frightening innovations. This time Darpa-funded scientists have found a drug that eliminates sleepiness with a nasal spray of a key brain hormone. The spray has worked well in lab experiments, with no apparent side effects. The hope is that the hormone will serve as a promising sleep-replacement drug in humans.

    The spray contains a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A. In tests, monkeys suffering from sleep deprivation were treated with the substance and were subsequently able to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. Darpa is no doubt interested in the spray for it’s promise of keeping soldiers awake and alert during battle, but for those suffering from narcolepsy, the discovery may offers a potential treatment. Even those with less severe sleep disorders may be interested. According to the National Sleep Foundation, than 70 percent of Americans get less than the generally recommended eight hours of sleep per night and consequently suffer some type of sleep-deprivation symptoms.

    The concoction is "a totally new route for increasing arousal, and the new study shows it to be relatively benign," said Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and a co-author of the paper. "It reduces sleepiness without causing edginess."

    The military routinely administers amphetamines to pilots flying long distances, and has funded research into new drugs like the stimulant modafinil and orexin A in an effort to help troops stay awake with the fewest side effects. However, Orexin A may be a safer alternative. Stimulants been used to combat sleepiness, can be addictive and often have side effects, including raising blood pressure or causing mood swings.

    In the study, monkeys were deprived of sleep for 30 to 36 hours (For the record, I feel really bad for those monkeys) and then given either orexin A or a saline placebo before taking standard cognitive tests. 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 study, published in the Dec. 26 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, found orexin A not only restored monkeys' cognitive abilities but made their brains look "awake" in PET scans, as well.

    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.

    The research came about after Siegel discovered that the

    how is this different than amphetamine? or a good snort? somebody's trying to make money


      the other question I have is...why? 90% of my best ideas come while I'm asleep. as an 18-20 something, I was convinced that if I could just stay up all night, I could pass that circuit analysis test with an A. Not so... it bought me nothing. the best way to solve problems is to stick them in your head right THERE...then play some relaxing mood music and sleep for six hours. For instance, right now I'm stuck on a binomial expansion problem on coursera for a calc class...I'm gonna sleep on it. I guarantee you tomorrow, I'll have the answer... why would i want to do some new wave cocaine and stay up all night/


        If we could make sleeping obsolete, the species would be much more productive provided there are no long-term cumulative side effects; like a major crash! Almost a third of our life is spent sleeping.