Insomnia? Try Cooling Your Brain

People who suffer with primary insomnia should use a cap that cools the brain during sleep, according to research presented at SLEEP 2011, the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS).

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, a process known as “cerebral hypothermia.”

Results show that there were linear effects of all-night thermal transfer intensities on sleep latency and sleep 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 percent) during treatment at the maximal cooling intensity were similar to healthy controls (16 minutes and 89 percent).

Participants received all-night frontal cerebral thermal transfer by wearing a soft plastic cap on their head. The cap contained tubes that were filled with circulating water. The effectiveness of varying thermal transfer intensities was investigated by implementing multiple conditions: no cooling cap, and cooling cap with either neutral, moderate or maximal cooling intensity.

“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. “The finding of a linear dose response effect of the treatment implies a direct beneficial impact on the neurobiology of insomnia that can improve the sleep of insomnia patients. We believe this has far-ranging implications for how insomnia can be managed in the future.”

I don't think this quite what Larry Niven had in mind with his napcap from Saturn's Race, but as long as it works...

If an external cap is not enough, researchers could always try the special cranial cooling rods used by Scorpius, of the sf series Farscap. The rods help him keep his half-Sebacean, half-Scarran brain cool.


(Scorpius with brain coolant rod exposed)

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