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Novel Pill Helps Older People With Insomnia

Estorra Helps Elderly Sleep Through the Night
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WebMD Health News

May 6, 2004 (New York City) -- A new medication can help the millions of elderly people who toss and turn all night long to sleep more soundly, new research shows.

In a study of more than 250 older people with insomnia, the new sleeping pill, called Estorra, significantly reduced the amount of time they lie awake in bed, reports W. Vaughn McCall, MD, professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The experimental drug, which slows brain metabolism and activity, also helped elderly people with insomnia fall asleep faster and cut down on daytime drowsiness, he says.

But the big benefit is its ability to prevent people from waking up once they have gone to bed, McCall tells WebMD.

"Young people have more trouble falling asleep but once asleep, will stay asleep," he explains. "But as you get older, there's a tendency to have more and more trouble with nighttime awakenings."

That's where Estorra, which McCall predicts could be on the market by early fall, comes in. Estorra's maker, Sepracor Inc., funded the study.

Less Tossing and Turning

Speaking here Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, McCall says that the drug shaved about 40 miserable minutes off the amount of time that elderly people with insomnia spent tossing and turning at night.

For the study, the researchers randomly assigned 265 people with insomnia, aged 65 to 85, to either Estorra or a placebo. At the start of the study, studies in a sleep lab showed patients lie awake an average of over 1.5 hours each night.

By two weeks later, those who were taking Estorra were tossing and turning an average of only one hour, compared with 73 minutes for those on placebo, McCall says.

There were other benefits too. Before the study began, it took about 45 minutes for the patients to fall asleep. Two weeks later, those given Estorra were dozing off in an average of 15 minutes, compared with a half hour for those taking the placebo, he says. Patients on Estorra also napped less and were more alert during the day.

Though McCall explains an equal number of patients in both groups suffered side effects such as headaches he says Estorra is "quite safe."

Insomnia Affects Attention, Memory

More than half of older Americans have at least one complaint about how well they can sleep. The ramifications are troubling: There can be problems with attention, memory, performance, and even a negative impact on overall quality of life.

In the study, though, patients who took Estorra showed improved quality of life on standardized tests, McCall says. "That's really important."

Currently, the FDA only allows most sleeping pills, such as Valium, to be prescribed for two weeks at a time. That's because after that, the patient builds up a tolerance and the drug works no better than placebo, he says.

But McCall says there's a chance that Estorra, which is taken 30 minutes before bedtime, may eventually be prescribed for longer periods. The reason: Another study showed that the drug continued to work better than placebo even after six months, he says.

"It's a major advance for the elderly," McCall says.

Thomas Roth, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, agrees.

"Estorra is effective for the elderly population," says Roth, who was not involved in the study but has studied the drug in younger persons. "Elderly people have difficulty maintaining sleep and this drug appears to help. It not only puts you to sleep, but keeps you asleep."

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You say you are able to function well with fewer than seven hours of sleep. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get too little sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia or other conditions affecting your sleep.

Sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get too little sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have difficulty sleeping, have insomnia, or have other sleep disorders.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

It's good that you usually do get more sleep, since sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. And if you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

You say you are able to function well with fewer than seven hours of sleep. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

It's good that you usually do get more sleep because sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. And if you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get less sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have difficulty sleeping or have insomnia or other sleep disorders.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Whether your sleep routine involves taking a warm bath, reading a book, or meditating, it's important to keep your bedtime and routine consistent every night and wake up around the same time every morning.

Click here to read more about the importance of sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and wake time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Since you usually sleep this amount, if you often aren't feeling your best, you should consider talking to your doctor. Could you have an underlying condition? Are you feeling anxious or depressed? Have you taken medication that disrupted your sleep? Do you or could you have sleep apnea? Or do you naturally require a little bit more sleep?

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can also have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and wake time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Since you usually sleep longer, if you often aren't feeling your best, you should consider talking to your doctor. Could you have an underlying condition? Are you feeling anxious or depressed? Have you taken medication that disrupted your sleep? Do you or could you have sleep apnea? Or do you naturally require a little bit more sleep?

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can also have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Whether your sleep routine involves taking a warm bath, reading a book, or meditating, it's also important to keep bedtime consistent and wake up around the same time every morning.

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and waking up at the same time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health.

Since you usually get less sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia, another sleep disorder, or conditions affecting your sleep.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health.

Since you usually get less sleep, talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia or another sleep disorder or conditions affecting your sleep.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Effect of short sleep duration on daily activities--United States, 2005-2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2011; 60:239.

Carskadon, MA, Dement, WC. Normal Human Sleep: An Overview. In: Principles and Practices of Sleep Medicine, Fifth, Kryger, MH, Roth, et al. (Eds), Elsevier Saunders, St. Louis, MO 2011. p.16.

Harvard University: "Sleep, Performance, and Public Safety."

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