A study presented last week at SLEEP 2009 proposed that “cooling the brain” may be a new way to treat insomnia.
The study states that insomnia is associated with increased metabolism in the brain’s frontal cortex. This occurs during the stage of non-REM sleep. Cooling the brain – “cerebral hypothermia” – has reduced metabolic activity in other medical conditions. Can it work for insomnia?
The small study involved eight people with primary insomnia. They wore a cooling device on the scalp. It covered the area where the frontal cortex is located.
The LA Times reports that the cap contains tubes that circulate cool water. Participants received a mild, cooling stimulus for 60 minutes before bedtime and during the first cycle of non-REM sleep.
Results show that cooling the brain was associated with a drop in core body temperature at sleep onset. It also reduced whole brain metabolic activity in five of the eight participants.
"They had increased slow-wave sleep, which is the deepest sleep," study author Dr. Eric Nofzinger told the LA Times.
Subjective benefits were reported by 75 percent of participants. These included fewer distracting thoughts and better sleep.
Get help for insomnia at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.