MONTREAL - A Montreal psychiatrist and her team have worked tirelessly to develop a drug that could cure insomnia and help millions of patients worldwide.

Discovered by Dr. Gabriella Gobbi and her team and made using the hormone melatonin, rats and mice given the drug fell asleep 60 per cent faster compared to those not given the drug.

"Animals fell asleep more quickly, first; second, the duration of these deep sleeps was longer, so this drug increased this particular phase of the sleep," said Gobbi, a psychiatric researcher from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

That phase of deep sleep is known as a slow wave sleep.

"The body is low down, so the heart rate is very low, the breathing is low and most importantly the brain - the electrical activity of the brain - is very, very low," she explained.

Between 11 and 16 per cent of the Canadian population suffers from insomnia. Many medicate themselves with sleeping pills, but Gobbi said they often come with harmful side effects.

"They produce a lot of sedation, a lot of memory impairment, and most importantly produce addiction," said Gobbi.

This newly discovered drug is effective and does not have these side effects, said Gobbi.

The bad news? It will take millions of dollars and years of testing before the discovery hits the market.

If it does, however, it will be a dream come true for insomniacs like Marta Rafel.

Rafel runs on about six hours of sleep a night, and wakes up regularly throughout the night.

"I don't have the sense of humour that I had before and maybe physically I look worse than before," she said.