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New solution for 'middle of the night' insomnia?

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A new pill may be able to battle 'middle of the night' insomnia -- without missing your morning shift.

Not keen on popping your pills? For those of us with sleeping problems, becoming reliant on medication can be a risky business.

Taking pills on a daily basis is nothing new in the West -- a culture heavily reliant on biomedicine. We have mini-pharmacies in the kitchen cabinet, and when we see a doctor, if nothing is prescribed, the common complaint is "they didn't even give me anything".

But when it comes down to conditions such as insomnia, becoming reliant on pills to get a good night's sleep carries the risk of missing your morning train, making sleep patterns worse, or in the worst case scenario, addiction.

However, Purdue Pharma recently announced the development of a new pill, Intermezzo, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and designed to combat those of us with 'middle of the night' insomnia.

Ambien, which was first approved for use in the U.S. in 1992, uses some of the same chemical compounds that Intermezzo has utilized -- but is recommended for those who have the option of sleeping for a full eight hours. For those of us with less time to try and get some shut-eye, using such medication will only mean problems in the morning -- generally consigning us to a few hours of poor-quality rest, or none at all.

According to the FDA, Intermezzo is designed to be a short-term alternative -- and its effects last only four hours as it carries lower dosages of normal sleeping pills. It dissolves under an individual's tongue in order to be fast-acting.

Robert Temple, M.D., deputy center director for clinical science in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said:

"For people whose insomnia causes them to wake in middle of the night with difficulty returning to sleep, this new medication offers a safer choice than taking a higher dose of zolpidem upon waking.

With this lower dose there is less risk of a person having too much drug in the body upon waking, which can cause dangerous drowsiness and impair driving."

Doctors warn that using such medication be used a last resort, as side effects may include sleep walking, driving impairment and mood swings. It is now available in pharmacies across the U.S., and can be prescribed by doctors.

Image credit: Jacopo Romei

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure