New Drug Offsets Sleep Deprivation

A drug called CX717 has been shown to temporarily offset the effects of sleep deprivation in a new study.

Drug offsets sleep deprivation effects, in monkeys (Reuters Health)

A drug dubbed CX717, made by Cortex Pharmaceuticals, Irvine, California, reverses the biological and behavioral effects of sleep deprivation, according to results of animal studies. In an article in the research journal PLoS Biology, Dr. Sam A. Deadwyler and his associates propose that CX717 would particularly benefit individuals affected by extended work hours or night shifts.

To test this possibility, they taught monkeys to perform a “delayed-match-to-sample task,” in which they were presented with a single image on a computer screen, then would use a cursor to identify that image in a group of several different images. During normal alert conditions, performance accuracy of the animals was improved from an average of 75 percent to 90 percent after an injection of CX717. The drug also shortened response times, suggesting that “CX717 also facilitated attentional processes related to speed of responding on successful trials.” When the monkeys were subjected 30-36 hours of sleep deprivation, average performance accuracy dropped to 63 percent, which was restored to 84 percent after CX717 treatment.

The distinct shifts in EEG recordings and changes in brain scans following sleep deprivation were also reversed by drug treatment. “The fact that (compounds like) CX717 can temporarily alleviate the effects of prolonged periods of sleep deprivation…indicates their potential applicability to many circumstances in which human performance is compromised by extensive sleep loss,” Deadwyler and his associates suggest.

They add that these new agents may be preferable to psychostimulants, caffeine or the relatively new anti-sleepiness drug Provigil, because these “may be limited due to their potential for addiction and/or their potent stimulant actions, which can distort cognitive and sensory processes at doses required to counteract the effects of sleep deprivation.”

Monkeys suffering from sleep deprivation can rest a little easier.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Leopold Stotch says:

    Related: Crystal Meth temporarily offsets the effects of sleep deprivation in rednecks.

  2. T. Jaxon says:

    There is already something like this out on the market, reportedly being used by the US Military for operations where our soldiers need to be awake and alert for 36+ hours at a time. Name is modafinil (marketed under the name Provigil). Used primarily to offset narcolepsy, its been co-opted by long distance truck drivers, second shift workers, and increasingly by college students who need to pull overnighters studying for exams.

    Personally I use it to offset my own biological clock when playing serious poker until all hours of the night. I’m a natural morning person and just start to lose all focus after 9pm at night. But when taking modafinil, you literally have no need to sleep and are extremely focused on whatever task you have at hand. My game improves measurably while on the drug. And when I want to sleep there are no problems doing so.

    More from another blogger on its use here: