Belsomra for Insomnia: How Does It Work?
Belsomra is the brand name for the pharmaceutical agent suvorexant. It is FDA-approved to treat insomnia — a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling and staying asleep.
These sleeping pills treat insomnia by modulating a brain chemical known as orexin. Noteworthy, the drug carries potentially significant health risks and must only be used with a doctor’s prescription. Below, let’s learn more about the uses of Belsomra, its dosage, side effects, and other facts.
Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Consult a doctor to know how to overcome insomnia.
Indications of Belsomra
The FDA has approved Belsomra for the treatment of insomnia in adults only. As a prescription sleeping pill, Belsomra acts on the brain to improve sleep and reduce wakefulness. You’ll feel drowsy once you take the drug and fall asleep faster. A study comparing Belsomra and placebo indicated that suvorexant users fell asleep six minutes earlier than those who took a placebo. Similarly, Belsomra kept the patients asleep for up to 16 minutes on average more than individuals who ingested the placebo.
How to Use Belsomra
Take the drug by mouth as directed by your doctor, usually within half an hour before bed. You can take it with or without food. Do not use alcohol when taking Belsomra, as this might cause excessive sleepiness and slow, shallow breathing, which is potentially life-threatening.
You should have at least 7 hours of sleep when using this medicine. Otherwise, you might feel drowsy, putting you at risk of accidents, especially when driving or handling heavy machinery. Do not exceed the prescribed Belsomra dosage even if you feel it’s not working.
How Belsomra Works
Belsomra treats insomnia by antagonizing the orexin neurotransmitter. Orexin is a brain chemical that promotes wakefulness; sleep results when its activity is blocked. Belsomra binds to the OX1R and OX2R receptors, preventing their stimulation by orexin substances. This suppresses your ability to remain awake, causing sleepy effects.
Belsomra Side Effects
Like any other drug, Belsomra has potential undesired effects. Sleepiness is the most common side effect, but other adverse reactions that might occur with Belsomra use include:
- Lethargy and drowsiness
- Worsening depressive mood
- Behavior changes, including aggression and agitation
- Abnormal thinking and perception: confusion, memory loss, hallucinations
- Impaired coordination and reduced alertness
- Sleep paralysis, in which you are unable to move during sleep transitions
- Breathing problems
- Complex sleeping behaviors such as sleepwalking, sleep driving, and performing other activities that you might not remember upon waking up
- Temporary leg weakness
- Suicidal thoughts
The symptoms of insomnia can be reduced with the right medication. See a doctor to get an individual treatment plan.
Does Belsomra Cause Weight Loss?
The clinical trials identified neither weight gain nor Belsomra-linked weight loss as a side effect. That means you should not be worried about weight changes when using the drug.
Belsomra vs. Ambien
Like Belsomra, Ambien is a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating insomnia. Ambien comprises the active ingredient zolpidem, sold under other brand names, including Edluar and Intermezzo. Both medicines have the potential for abuse and dependence and are categorized as controlled substances.
Although both drugs treat insomnia, they differ in numerous aspects. First, Belsomra is manufactured by Merck, while Sanofi-Aventis makes Ambien. Then, the mechanism of action differs. Suvorexant suppresses wakefulness by inhibiting the orexin pathway, whereas Ambien slows brain activity to help you fall asleep. Zolpidem falls under the drug class of sedative-hypnotics.
The drug is available in tablets of 5, 10, 15, and 20 milligrams, with the last two having logos of Merck. Usually, patients are recommended to take 10 mg of Belsomra for insomnia once per night. That said, if the dose of 10 mg is well-tolerated and desired effect is yet to be achieved, the dose can be increased. The maximum recommended Belsomra dosage per night is 20 mg.
Take the drug only once daily, within 30 minutes of bedtime, and ensure you have at least 7 hours to sleep. If you take Belsomra soon after eating, the onset of action may be delayed.
If someone on Belsomra experiences trouble breathing, passes out, or goes into a deep sleep from which they cannot be awakened, consider this as a case of overdosing. Call 911 or contact a poison control center immediately.
Taking Belsomra with other drugs can change how it works or the severity of side effects. Before using the drug, inform your doctor of your current medications, including prescription, non-prescription, and herbal drugs. Opioid medication, antiseizure, and muscle relaxants are some drugs that potentially interact with suvorexant to increase drowsiness. Anxiolytics such as Xanax can also potentiate the effects of Belsomra. Do not take suvorexant with another sleeping pill.
Belsomra was one of the first medications approved by the FDA for insomnia treatment after benzodiazepines. It is commonly prescribed for insomnia but still requires one to consult a prescriber before taking it. To receive a personalized treatment plan with individually chosen medications, contact Mango Clinic today.