Can’t Sleep? Maybe Your Brain Needs a Cold Shower

For all those suffering with insomnia, help may be on the way.  Research presented at Sleep 2011, the annual meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, offers hope for a safe, natural alternative to sleeping pills for those who struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.  The study looked at ways to cool certain parts of the brain in order to ease the symptoms of those with primary insomnia.

Millions of Americans struggle with insomnia each year and for those whose sleeplessness has no treatable underlying cause, sleeping pills are the most used treatment.  While prescription sleep aids can be very effective at helping insomniacs get to sleep, but are generally only used for short term treatment only.

Additionally, past studies have shown that only 25% of those who use sleeping pills to treat insomnia are satisfied with the treatment.  The dissatisfaction may be a result of side effects like morning fuzziness or hangover-like feelings, concerns over developing a dependence on the pills, or the ineffectiveness of the treatment over the long term.   The need for additional alternatives to sleep aids that offer immediate relief and long-term treatment is clear.

The study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine may have found just such a viable, natural alternative for insomniacs.  The study looked at the effectiveness of a technique called frontal cerebral thermal transfer in alleviating symptoms of primary insomnia.  The technique, which involves cooling down the pre-frontal cortex using a plastic cap covered with water circulating tubes, seeks to slow down the metabolism in the frontal cortex and counterbalance the increased metabolism in this part of the brain associated with insomnia.

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