Saturday, May 29, 2004

New Findings in Sleep Physiology

Reported via  AZo News-Medical.Net, Dr. Cameron van den Heuvel has found that temperature regulation is important in the initiation of sleep.  Furthermore, he has found that some persons with insomnia have a defect in their ability to regulate core body temperature. 

Discovery that body temperature has a vital role in the onset of sleep
Friday, 28-May-2004

Insomnia affects up to a quarter of the population in Australia and can have a severe impact on the quality of life and health of long term chronic sufferers, who often cannot stay alert enough to remain in the workforce.

[...] The research shows that the body needs to drop its core temperature in order for sleep to initiate normally, according to Research Fellow Dr Cameron van den Heuvel at UniSA’s Centre for Sleep Research.

[...] “Studies of sleep onset insomniacs show that they consistently have a warmer core body temperature immediately before initiating sleep, when compared with normal healthy adults. This results in a state of heightened arousal that prevents them from falling asleep when they go to bed, probably because they have to wait for their bodies to lose the heat that's keeping them awake. We're only talking about a half to one degree but that small temperature change can result in significant differences in arousal between insomniacs and people without sleeping problems.

“While sleeping tablets are effective in some people some of the time, many insomniacs have impaired thermo-regulatory systems that limit their ability to lose heat and affect their responses to commonly prescribed drugs that would normally increase sleepiness,” Dr van den Heuvel said. 

“When used by healthy young adults these drugs cause them to lose heat, become sleepier and fall asleep. This temperature change is important for the drugs to work successfully and is consistent across a range of drugs that we've investigated.

[...] One mechanism called biofeedback being researched by UniSA psychologist, Dr Kurt Lushington, involves training people to raise or lower their hand temperature by visualising images such as lying on a beach. Some 75-80 per cent of those studied successfully raised or lowered their temperature by one and a half degrees or more. The next step will be to enroll insomniacs in a similar study to determine its suitability as a treatment. [...]

Therapists of various sorts have been using little thermometers for a long time, to teach people how to relax.  It is a form of biofeedback.  This is useful for general relaxation training, as well as specific treatment for migraine headaches  and Reynaud's phenomenon or disease.  Now we see that this has the potential to be useful for persons with insomnia.

The flow of blood to the skin is one of the main ways your body regulates temperature.  Cutaneous blood flow is regulated primarily by the arterioles that provide blood to the skin.  It is possible to develop some degree of voluntary control over the diameter of the arterioles.  This enables you to increase the blood flow to the skin, which lowers the core body temperature. 

If you want, you can spend hundreds of dollars  on a biofeedback machine, but unless you are a therapist, it is not worth the money.  You can get a little thermometer for one dollar here  (although the shipping is ten dollars).  You can get a digital thermometer that is better for this purpose, for twenty dollars, here.  I found a message thread in which migraineurs discuss using a hardware-store indoor-outdoor thermometer here

Self-administered biofeedback takes a lot of persistence to learn, but it is really inexpensive and can help a lot.  I don't know how effective it is for insomnia, but it is worth a try. 

(Note: The Rest of the Story/Corpus Callosum has moved. Visit the new site here.)
E-mail a link that points to this post:

Comments: Post a Comment