Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine reported at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) that keeping the brain cool may help people with insomnia to catch more z’s.
Dr. Daniel Buysse, a psychiatrist at the university, had already shown in previous studies that those with insomnia tend to have higher than normal activity in the frontal lobes of their brains, the regions responsible for higherorder functions like planning, organizing and logical reasoning. Many insomniacs say they can’t fall asleep because their brains keep working, and they can’t shut off these thought processes. Buysse wondered whether the added activity was also raising the brain’s temperature to the point at which sleeping was physiologically more difficult. The body’s circadian clock, which regulates sleep and wakefulness, keeps the body at its warmest during the day and starts to lower body temperature in the evening to help us doze off. For those with insomnia, however, researchers found that the extra brain activity was keeping the brain too hot to sleep.
Cooling off the brain makes sense, since melatonin, one of the more effective medications to help people sleep, also works in part by lowering body temperature.