Keep a Cool Head To Avoid Insomnia

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A cap that
cools the brain could mean a better night’s sleep for insomniacs.

The cap pumps
a liquid coolant round the front of the scalp and the forehead.

This chills
the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain thought to play a role
in prompting deep sleep.

Tests show
insomniacs have higher levels of activity in this part of the brain
at night than those who have no trouble nodding off.

But cooling
the brain seems to dampen this activity and allows it to switch
off properly for a good night’s sleep.

Eight volunteers
wore the cap for an hour before bedtime and the first hour of sleep,
after which researchers removed it.

Scans taken
during the night showed wearing the cap caused a marked decline
in brain metabolism, the rate at which cells in the frontal cortex
process sugars and chemicals in the blood.

Six of the
volunteers reported more refreshing sleep, fewer distracting thoughts
at bedtime and waking up less in the night.

One in four
people is affected by insomnia – most have ‘primary’ insomnia, an
inability to fall asleep because of worries or stress.

Secondary insomnia,
which is due to existing illness or a side-effect of prescription
drugs, is less common.

We spend £20million
a year on sleeping pills and other remedies. Many sufferers rely
on drugs such as benzodiazepines, which act as tranquillisers, to
help them.

In England
alone, there are ten million prescriptions for sleeping pills every

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16, 2009

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