Earlier this week an article in the Wall Street Journal examined efforts by pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs for the treatment of insomnia.  Rather than acting on many areas of the brain, these new drugs have specific targets such as orexin and serotonin receptors.  The drug companies report that the compounds being developed will potentially have fewer side effects, be less addictive and interact less with alcohol than current medications used to treat insomnia.

The article notes that Americans spent about $2 billion on prescription sleep drugs in 2010. The number of prescriptions rose 23 percent from 48.9 million in 2006 to about 60 million last year.  However, total dollar sales have dropped from $3.6 billion in 2006 as cheaper generic versions of drugs such as Ambien have entered the market.