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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 17:30 EDT

Cooling The Brain May Help Insomnia

June 15, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire)–For people who suffer from insomnia, the metabolism in the brain’s frontal cortex increases, making it difficult to fall asleep. According to a recent study, people with primary insomnia may be able to find relief by wearing a cap that cools the brain at night.

One way to reduce cerebral metabolic activity is to use a process called “cerebral hypothermia,” in which the frontal cerebral thermal transfers to cool the brain. But can this non-pharmaceutical method really cure insomnia?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that chronic insomnia, or symptoms that last for at least a month, affect about ten percent of adults. Insomnia mostly occurs with another medical illness, mental or sleeping disorder, or is associated with certain medications or substances.

Principle investigator and lead author of the study, Dr. Eric Nofzinger, professor and director of the Sleep Neuroimaging Research program at the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine, conducted a crossover study to test the efficiency of the proposed treatment. Nofzinger and co-investigator Dr. Daniel Buysse enrolled 12 people with primary insomnia and 12 healthy, age-and gender-matched controls. Participants received all-night frontal cerebral thermal transfer by wearing a soft plastic cap on their head. The cap contained tubes filled with circulating water. Results show that there were linear effects of all-night thermal transfer intensities on sleep latency and sleep efficiency.

“The most significant finding from this study is that we can have beneficial impact on the sleep of insomnia patients via a safe, non-pharmaceutical mechanism that can be made widely available for home use by insomnia sufferers,” Nofzinger was quoted saying.

According to Nofzinger, the simplicity and effectiveness of this natural treatment could be a long-awaited breakthrough for insomnia sufferers. The authors of this study speculate that the increased relative metabolism in the brain may results from increased activity in arousal systems during sleep or heightened cognitive activity relating to conflict, anxiety, and fear.

Nofzinger was quoted as saying, “There exists a large gap between what patients with insomnia are looking for to help them and what is currently available. Patients have long sought a more natural, non-pharmaceutical means to help them with their sleep at night. The identification of a dose-dependent improvement by the device used in this study opens the door to a novel, safe and more natural way to achieve restorative sleep in insomnia care.”

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, June 13, 2011