Researchers devise sleep cap to cure insomnia

Monday 20 June 2011 00:00

Suffer from insomnia? Researchers have found that keeping a cool head can help you get a better night's sleep.

A new study presented July 13 at SLEEP 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, reveals that wearing a special cap that cools the brain, specifically the frontal cortex, helped subjects fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Researchers said that sleeping in a soft plastic cap, consisting of tubes filled with circulating water at controlled temperatures, helped reduce brain metabolism to promote restorative sleep.

In the study, insomniacs were able to drift off to sleep in 13 minutes on average, compared to 16 minutes required for the control group of non-insomniacs. Plus the insomniacs stayed asleep just as long as the control group.

"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 lead author Eric Nofzinger of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in a release.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine linked insomnia with increased metabolism in several brain regions when the head hits the pillow, which is why some people struggle with an active mind when they need their zzzs. 

The cap is not yet available to consumers, although Nofzinger plans to bring it to market.

Sleep difficulties - whether falling asleep or remaining asleep - are very common, affecting up to 48 percent of the population, experts say. And while insomnia is generally associated with depression and anxiety, there is a growing body of research that links chronic sleep difficulties to various other medical conditions, including obesity and diabetes in children and adults, and heart disease.

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