It takes a cool brain to sleep

brain cooling machine inducing sleep It takes a cool brain to sleepThe temperature, quite literally the °C, not some metaphorical temperature, of the brain’s frontal cortex determines how well you sleep.

Brain temperature is connected with brain metabolism.

The “awake” status of the sleepless brain, means that the neurons keep firing away as usual. Firing neurons are metabolically very active, they’re BURNING sugar to provide themselves with energy to keep going.

BURNING sugar means they’re generating heat. This heat is what keeps restorative sleep from coming and the person suffering from insomnia tossing and turning all night.

Hot bodies need a little cooling

When things are running “too” hot – we cool them off with a little “ice”.

So researchers at Sleep Neuroimaging Research Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, decided to apply a little “ice” to HOT brains. They tinkered around in the laboratory to create a ………..

Brain cooling machine….

The machine is similar to the cooling system (radiator) used to keep the engine of a motor car from overheating.

A system of pipes ensures that cool water runs across the hot “engine” i.e. the brain continually. As the cool water comes into contact with the hot “brain”, it becomes hot. The scientific name for this transfer of heat, is “radiation”. The hot water is then carried away from the brain, leaving the brain cool.

Brain machine brings relief from insomnia

Once the brain cooling machine had been assembled, they tested it on 12 people who suffered from primary insomnia and 12 people who did not have any trouble falling asleep.

The patients were hooked up to the brain cooling machine and the quality of their sleep monitored.

The insomniacs were “healed”.

They fell asleep within 13 minutes and they stayed asleep around 89 % of the night. The improvement in sleep latency and sleep efficiency meant that they had just as good a night as those people who had no problem sleeping. The “regular sleepers” took 16 minutes to fall asleep and they slept for 89 % of the night.

I need this machine………..

I personally find sleeping sometimes a BIG challenge, so I’m ready to be wired up to a brain cooling machine, even if it looks like something from a horror movie.

If you’re not ready to build the sleep inducing gadget in your house – maybe you can exploit the science to speed up falling asleep, by plonking an ice pack on top of your head. By the time its lost is chill, you will already be in dreamland……….. but without the circulation system you might not stay there as long as you would like.

Cooling the brain during sleep may be an easy, natural and effective treatment for insomnia - press release issued by American Academy of Sleep Medicine  on 6 June 2011.


Interested in learning more about the chemistry of sleep ? 

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Further reading

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