A Japanese study with mice that was published January 8, 2019 in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience shows that most people probably will sleep through all kinds of alarms for fire, earthquakes, etc. if they take sleeping pills from the benzodiazepine family of drugs.
Mice were divided into three groups. One group received a benzodiazepine drug called triazolam. The other group of mice received a new DORA22 drug and the third group who were the control did not receive any sleeping medicines at all.
Mice did not Wake up in Response to Alarms and Dangerous Situations
Standard sleeping pills that are mainly from the benzodiazepine family of drugs kept mice asleep through all kinds of alarms, as the benzodiazepines interfere with the sleeping brain’s ability to wake them up when a threat is sensed. They slept through a noise as loud as someone vacuuming next to their cage, the smell of a fox, a high-pitched noise like a dog whistle and the shaking of their cage. The only time they woke up was when the level of oxygen was lowered in their cages and in fact, all three groups of mice woke up from the lack of oxygen. The researchers assume that humans taking benzodiazepine drugs for sleep may also be sleeping right through alarms.
New Dual Orexin Receptor Antagonists (DORAs) Drug did not Suppress the Alarm Centers in the Brain
Those mice that were given a new dual Orexin receptor antagonists (DORAs) fell asleep, but the DORA22 drug did not suppress their ability to wake up to alarms. Also, they fell back asleep quickly once the threat had passed. However, human studies are needed to confirm that DORA is safe for use in humans. There is one type of DORA drug Surovexant that has been approved for use in Japan, Australia and the United States, but its use has been limited by high cost and not enough clinical testing. Also, reports show that while it puts people to sleep, it causes a kind of hangover of drowsiness the next day.
In normal sleep the brain has the ability to respond to alarms and the person wakes up and after the danger passes can easily fall back asleep. The ideal safe sleeping pill should also retain the ability for people to wake up in response to alarms and dangerous situations such as earthquakes, fires, volcanic eruptions and the sounds of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, etc. Of course, it goes without saying, that for people who live alone it is absolutely crucial that they are able to wake up to alarms and dangerous situations.
What to do if your Loved one Lives Alone
If your loved one lives alone and takes sleeping pills from the benzodiazepine family of drugs, you should try to find a way to monitor alarms from afar by having a microphone installed in your loved one’s home that will send noises your way from smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors or to some kind of emergency center.
Assisted Living or Long-term Care
If your loved one is ready for assisted living or long-term care, you can rest a bit more peacefully knowing that the staff will wake your loved one in case of a fire or earthquake or some other dangerous situation. Choose a rehab like the Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey, that has a high rate of staff per resident.
Medicines to induce sleep have to be as safe and effective as possible. We can only hope that more research and human trials with these new DORA drugs will bring about a safer medical way to induce sleep than the current benzodiazepines.