Beyond Ambien

Adjusting to a new time zone after arriving at a destination can be a challenge for even the most energetic travelers. This month, however, the FDA may approve a new sleeping pill, Estorra, that could make the process easier. Like Ambien and Sonata, Estorra allows most people to drop off within 30 minutes. But unlike those drugs, which only help you fall asleep, it is formulated to help you stay asleep for up to seven hours. "People think that as long as they can fall asleep in a new time zone they'll be okay," says Dr. Andrew Krystal, director of the Sleep Research & Insomnia Program at Duke University Medical Center and the lead investigator on a study sponsored by Sepracor, Estorra's manufacturer. "But then they often wake up in the middle of the night." This is a particular problem for the 20 percent of people whose bodies are genetically programmed to struggle with time changes more than most. "A pill like this could be useful after arriving at a destination, especially if the time difference is greater than four or five hours," says Dr. David Hamer, a physician and researcher with the Boston University Center for International Health & Development who has worked extensively on travel health issues. But remember: you should test-drive any sleeping pill at home before taking it on a trip. Side effects, while not common, are by no means unheard of.

NOTE: After we went to press with this item, Sepracor changed the name of Estorra to Lunesta.