New sleeping pill helps patients get back to sleep

April 5, 2012 1:36:06 PM PDT
Relief could be coming to the millions of Americans who wake up in the middle the night and can't get back to sleep. For the first time, a sleeping pill has been designed just for them.

Nearly half of all Americans say they wake up in the middle of the night, and nearly one in three has trouble falling back asleep. And they are more likely to be women.

The reasons for these middle of the night awakenings can range from sleep apnea to anxiety. But the tiny tablet, called Intermezzo, may finally help insomniacs get some much needed shut eye.

Intermezzo is being marketed as the only FDA-approved drug for people who wake up in the middle of the night want get back to sleep, but don't want to be knocked out for hours.

"It is like hitting the snooze button, a pill that helps you sleep for four more hours," said Dr. Steven Scharf, of the University of Maryland Medical Center. "This is meant for the patient who, say, gets up at 3 o'clock in the morning and just cannot go back to sleep...They can take this, which would help them go back to sleep, as a fairly rapid onset."

Intermezzo contains same active ingredients as the popular drug Ambien, but it is a lower dose. It also is absorbed under the tongue, so it enters the body faster and works sooner.

Doctors say medications should always be a last resort

"We prefer to handle insomnia in the middle of the night with behavioral changes," Dr. Scharf said.

It may not be the magic answer, but millions of sleepless women are desperate for something.

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