New Drug Promises Better Sleep for the Jet-Lagged

Substance works a lot like today's popular but unregulated melatonin supplements
By Rebecca Smith Hurd,  Newser User
Posted Dec 7, 2008 2:32 PM CST
Nelly Su, of Miami, rests in the arms of her sleeping boyfriend Mike Thomas, as Satish Venkat, rear, also tries to nap before their flights out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.   (AP Photo/John Amis, File)
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(Newser) – A new drug promises to put an end to jet lag and enable better sleep for travelers, swing-shift crews, and insomniacs, the Economist reports. Tasimelteon works a lot like today's popular but unregulated melatonin supplements, bonding with brain receptors to stimulate melatonin production and REM sleep. The distinction is significant because the drug is not acting as a mere sedative.

“We want to treat the underlying cause of jet lag or shift-work disorder: the misalignment of the inner circadian clock with the external environmental time,” says the drug’s lead researcher. More than 400 people successfully shifted their sleep patterns by 5 hours in two clinical trials. If further tests prove effective, an even simpler remedy for sleeplessness—such as wearing orange-tinted sunglasses at night—may be forthcoming.