A large majority of sleep disorders presently do not have a specific
pharmaceutical treatment, and available treatments for the remainder are not
completely effective, according to a new report from Frost & Sullivan (F&S),
a Palo Alto-based market research company. The report also found that this
sleep disorder treatment vacuum has the potential to be widely exploited by
drug companies. 
“The most potent driving force of the sleep pharmaceuticals industry is the
large underserved market,” says Rasika Ramachandran, an F&S analyst.
“Although there are several treatment options available at present, there is
still a lot of room for new drugs that would have better side effect
profiles and that are not scheduled, as a majority of the presently marketed
drugs carry some abuse potential and are, therefore, not suitable for
long-term use.”
Many of the drugs in the current crop of treatments for sleep disorders are
GABA acting drugs which alter the REM to non-REM sleep ratio, but also
produce undesirable side effects. These side effects include somnolence, in
which the sleepiness effect is carried into the next day, and hampers
daytime functioning.
The report finds that there are a few promising drugs are on the horizon,
though. Neurim Pharmaceuticals, an Israel-based research and development
firm, is touting Circadin, a prolonged-release melatonin formulation.
Additionally, the Switzerland-based Actelion Pharmaceuticals is looking to
the brain’s orexin system as a potential sleep cure. Orexins are
hypothalamic peptides with an important role in regulating the sleep-wake
cycle and related hypothalamic functions.
Frost & Sullivan estimates that the direct and indirect cost of loss of
productivity due to sleep disorders translates to hundreds of billions of
dollars in the United States alone.