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Biotech Science

Snortable Drug 'Replaces' Sleep For Monkeys In Trials 236

sporkme writes "A DARPA-funded research project at UCLA has wrapped up a set of animal trials testing the effects of inhalation of the brain chemical orexin A, a deficiency of which is a characteristic of narcolepsy. Monkeys were deprived of sleep, and then given a shot of the compound. 'The study ... 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.' Researchers seem cautious to bill the treatment as a replacement for sleep, as it is not clear that adjusting brain chemistry could have the same physical benefits of real sleep in the long run. The drug is aimed at replacing amphetamines used by drowsy long-haul military pilots, but there would no doubt be large demand for such a remedy thanks to its apparent lack of side-effects."
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Snortable Drug 'Replaces' Sleep For Monkeys In Trials

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  • by Wicko ( 977078 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @03:50AM (#21846718)
    How can this replace sleep? Muscles need to rest, too. I guess it would be useful for us that need to sleep with one eye open. A drug for the paranoid.
  • by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @03:52AM (#21846734) Homepage Journal
    This sort of thing looks just like the same kind of "quick fix", I'm really skeptical of this one too. IIRC, most of our self-repair functions happen when we sleep, so this probably has long-term implications that won't be caught in an 18 month trial.
  • by n1000 ( 1051754 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @04:05AM (#21846778)
    ..."No apparent side effects"

    More research needs to be done before we can have a worthwhile discussion of this as a "sleep replacement."

    Also, this would not be a permanent replacement, so no trying to bash this study with the 'The human body needs sleep' argument.
  • by PinkyGigglebrain ( 730753 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @04:07AM (#21846782)
    "Thanks to modern chemistry sleep is now optional"

    This sort of stuff creeps me out. As BWJones commented, we don't know enough about exactly how sleep works and what its function is in our mental health to start eliminating it by messing with the brain's chemistry. This will likely end up being abused by someone, be it the military, commercial pilots, or students trying to cram for a test, or some sicko as part of a brain washing regime, it doesn't matter, it will happen and it won't be pretty.

    I'll stick with coffee thank you very much.
  • In related news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @04:22AM (#21846826)
    ...Sysadmins have recently discovered they can improve uptime by eliminating routine maintenance.
  • by cp.tar ( 871488 ) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Saturday December 29, 2007 @04:32AM (#21846856) Journal

    I do wonder if it can be applied as a quick fix.

    It would have to work nearly instantly, though... imagine a sleepy driver. The car's computer can detect the drowsiness, make a surprising, loud noise to snap the driver awake, and spray a mist of this drug in his face. Enough to get home safely, but not enough to hamper the real sleep he'll get when he gets home.

  • Re:Speculation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @04:34AM (#21846862)
    my bet is that they go insane before anything else. supressing the urge to sleep is very different to replacing sleep, in the same fashion that being constipated is not a replacment for taking a shit.
  • by name*censored* ( 884880 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @05:25AM (#21847004)
    Like you've implied, if we DID ever find a way to avoid sleep, we'd simply end up filling our new-found time with more work. All we'd be doing is making ourselves physically/emotionally exhausted, with precious little time to even rest. Add this to the fact that we'd be taking some horrible drug that would no doubt make people feel uneasy due to the loss of their circadian rhythm, and you've got yourself one miserable world to live in.

    Will it become a requirement that we take the drug to work for a certain company?
    Any sensible company which required 24 hour staffing would still resort to shift workers, unless there was some major advantage to compensate the natural loss of efficiency of people working ridiculously long shifts. The company would need to pay much more to compensate the single workers' efforts and drug-taking than it would have to pay 2 or 3 shift workers. The only way that a society of sleeplessness could occur is if there was suddenly a massive shortage of jobs, and people had to sacrifice to get a job (which seems to be getting more unlikely - the "baby boomer" population is retiring and there are scarcely enough people to fill the jobs). It's much more likely that once a sizeable population starts taking the drug, society will simply expect more of people (in terms of social status/affluence), and people will take these pills to out-compete each other in the EXTRA-CURRICULAR field(s) (which may extend to the work environment).
  • The new norm.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Unlikely_Hero ( 900172 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @06:42AM (#21847266)
    If this works there's a good chance that sleep won't become optional, it will become a dream. Computers promised the same thing, paperless office, more productivity, but they brought their own issues. I love computers, don't get me wrong, but the fact remains that the promise of lots more leisure time was an empty promise.
    Free time will be filled with more work to do. In a world where sleep is optional, some people will be willing to work 20 hours a day or more. Slowly, this will become expected.

    This tech is here to stay; trying to change that would just be silly. If, as posters above have said, this isn't really a sleep replacement then it's only a matter of time, the tech will come.
    Some people will try to call it "unnatural" or "evil", it won't make a difference.
    The question is,
    how will you react when it happens and you're asked to come in for an 18 hour workday instead of your normal 8-12 to "stay competitive".
    Is it that crazy of an idea that maybe people should /relax/ with their freetime instead of adding work?...
    *sadly goes off and reads a book*
  • Re:2 am post (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GuruBuckaroo ( 833982 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @06:57AM (#21847318) Homepage
    No it isn't.
  • by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @07:49AM (#21847490) Homepage
    Cool. Let me know when all you PETA morons line up to be in those "we didn't use any animals at all so we have no way of knowing what this drug will really do to you" clinical trials.

    What's that? No, you can't back out. Think of the animals!
  • by phillips321 ( 955784 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @08:50AM (#21847768)
    The way I always see it is like this:
    Our human body's through evolution have become very advanced and have developed some fantastic biological systems. If we consider that we sleep for a 3rd of our 24hours day and this is the best that evolution can do for us then there are obviously some very important processes/actions that happen when we're sleeping. If sleep wasn't such an important factor then us as animals would have surely evolved enough to not need sleep, with no sleep we would have more time to follow the necessities of life, survival, eating drinking, (and if your lucky enough) Reproduction!
  • Re:Pilots on meth? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @01:31PM (#21849574) Homepage Journal

    The amphetamines used by pilots are very slow-acting (by amphetamine standards) so they don't produce quite as much of the "jittery high" that is usually associated with their more common forms. [...] I'd much rather have pilots with nukes alert at the end of a 20-hr flight than dozing off.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1956983.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    mourning at a ceremony for the four soldiers killed by US "friendly fire" in Afghanistan. A US F-16 dropped a 227-kilogram bomb on the men while they were taking part in a live-fire training exercise near Kandahar.
  • by uncoveror ( 570620 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @02:18PM (#21849886) Homepage
    The military has been looking for a pill that makes a 24/7 soldier by replacing sleep for a long time. Most of the experiments I have read about did not work as planned. After a while, no pill can stop a sleep deprived individual from suffering a psychotic break from reality as dream images inject themselves into reality.

    This could lead to a so-called super soldier who doesn't need sleep going on a rampage and killing his comrades because he thought he saw the enemy. You can't just replace sleep with a pill. That's a nut we aren't going to crack. That's my two cents.
  • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @12:13PM (#21856912) Homepage

    Yeah, leave it to science to try to replace the one part of my life that I really, unconditionally adore.

    "Science" isn't trying to replace that, people are trying to do that. Science is just the tool used to accomplish it.

    If you want to blame anything, blame the motivation people have to sleep less and less. The research is funded by the military for pilots, but the interest from the rest of the public comes from that.

Loose bits sink chips.