An image of the moon
Can’t sleep? New data suggesting that cooling your brain can help [image: by dtl ~ via Morguefile]

Just chill to beat insomnia

14 June, 2011

Can’t sleep?  New data suggesting that cooling your brain can help – giving a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘just chill’.

The study was small, involving 12 people suffering from primary insomnia (that is insomnia not related to any know illness) and 12 people with no sleep problems. But the results point the way to further interesting study.

According to the authors, a reduction in metabolism in the brain’s frontal cortex occurs while falling asleep and is associated with restorative sleep. However, insomnia is associated with increased metabolism in this same brain region. One way to reduce cerebral metabolic activity is to use frontal cerebral thermal transfer to cool the brain.

In this study subjects wore a special cap that contained tubes filled with circulating water that helped cool the brain.

Results show that when the cap was working at maximum efficiency the time that it took subjects with primary insomnia to fall asleep (13 minutes) and the percentage of time in bed that they slept (89%) were similar to healthy people not suffering from insomnia (16 minutes and 89%).

Insomnia affects about 10% of adults and the most common medical management of the condition is to prescribe e hypnotics or sleeping pills. “The most significant finding from this study is that we can have a 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,” said principal investigator and lead author Dr. Eric Nofzinger, professor and director of the Sleep Neuroimaging Research Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “We believe this has far-ranging implications for how insomnia can be managed in the future.”

The findings of the study were presented at Sleep 2011, the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS).