Forget counting sheep. For many people, sleep doesn’t come easily, and no combination of comfy bed, soothing sounds, warm milk, or even prescription medication will do the trick. But, people suffering from insomnia may have another option when it comes to sleep aids. According to new research, wearing a cap that cools the brain reduces the amount of time it takes insomniacs to fall asleep.
The research was presented at the Sleep 2011 conference, the annual meeting of the Associated Profession of Sleep Studies. The cooling process, called frontal cerebral thermal transfer, was developed by Dr. Eric Nofzinger and Dr. Daniel Buysse from the Sleep Neuroimaging Research Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Cooling the brain is an effective way to help people with sleep difficulties because it slows metabolism in the frontal cortex, and insomnia is linked to increased metabolism in that area of the brain.
The researchers presented the results of a study that compared the time it took people to fall asleep. The study included 12 participants with insomnia and 12 without insomnia. All patients were fitted with soft plastic caps that contained tubing that circulated water. The temperature of the water could be controlled to either neutral, moderate, or maximum cool temperatures.
The researchers recorded how well the participants slept with and without the caps and the effects of the different temperature levels. The results showed that insomnia patients with maximum cooling effects took approximately 13 minutes to fall sleep, and stayed asleep for 89% of the time they were in bed.
The study showed that with the cooling caps the insomnia sufferers were able to achieve a similar level of sleep as patients who had never experienced insomnia. The patients with no history of sleep difficulty fell asleep in an average of 16 minutes and stayed asleep 89% of the time.
The sleeping caps could prove to be extremely useful because unlike sleeping pills, the caps do not have detrimental side effects like dependency. The researchers also say that only 25% of patients on sleeping pills are satisfied with the drugs, so an alternative treatment is sorely needed.
(via Los Angeles Times)