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Sleeptime Head-Cooling Cap Eases Insomnia, Study Finds
Date:6/14/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- Not only do cooler heads prevail, they might also sleep better, according to researchers who say they have developed a cooling cap that, when worn during sleeptime, may help treat insomnia.

Previous research has shown that the brains of people with insomnia are "hyperaroused" and have a higher brain metabolism in the frontal lobes, which helps explain why they have trouble drifting off to sleep and staying asleep, said study co-author Dr. Daniel Buysse, a professor of psychiatry and clinical and translational science at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

To help the brain cool down, researchers outfitted 12 primary insomnia patients with a temperature-controlled cap that has cool water flowing through it and recruited 12 healthy controls matched for age and gender. ("Primary insomnia" means that medical problems, medicines, or other substances have been ruled out as a cause of sleep difficulties. The more common type of insomnia is "secondary insomnia," in which medical issues or medications contribute.)

Of the patients with insomnia, the average age was 45 and nine were women. Participants slept for two nights in a sleep lab with no cap; two nights with the cap set at a "neutral" temperature (about 86 degrees Fahrenheit); two nights at a moderately cool temperature (72 degrees Fahrenheit); and two nights with the coolest temperature (57 degrees Fahrenheit).

While the participants slept, researchers monitored their brain electrical activity, eye movements (to determine if someone was in REM, or rapid eye movement sleep) and jaw muscle tone (during REM, the muscles go slack due to 'sleep paralysis').

In this preliminary study, about three-quarters of those with insomnia said the cap helped them sleep better when the water temperature was about 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

At higher temperatures -- 72 and 86 degrees -
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