Researchers have uncovered a new class of hypnotics which enable the sleeping brain to respond to danger signals, unlike the most widely used sleeping aid, Benzodiazepine.

The newly discovered class of hypnotics, dual orexin receptor antagonists (DORAs), has been dubbed a potentially safer option, as it would alert the brain to smoke detectors.

In the study, using mice, researchers noted threatening stimuli, like a loud noise or shaking of the cage, prompted a delayed response in mice given standard triazolam treatment.

Conversely, those given the DORA treatment were woken quickly by a threat and were still able to fall back asleep as quickly as the mice given triazolam.

Both drugs, the DORA and triazolam, had similar sleep-promoting effects and extended the duration of deep sleep by about 30-40 per cent.

Researchers concluded not only did the new hypnotics provide a safer and more effective treatment for insomnia and sleep deprivation, they also were less likely to induce drowsiness the following day.

They said it remained unknown whether DORA would have the same effect when used in humans, however it provided “important and promising insight” into their safety.

Read more about the research here.