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Sleep Therapy: Low-Cost Treatment for Insomnia

A neuroimaging study,”Prefontal Hypoactivation and Recovery in Insomnia,” has found that cognitive abnormalities caused by insomnia can be reversed through the non-pharmacologic approach of sleep therapy.

By using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans during verbal fluency tasks, it was shown that there was less activation in the left medial prefrontal cortex and left interior frontal gyrus—fluency-specific brain regions—among people who have insomnia. The results also showed that though this is the case, people with insomnia were able to generate more words compared to the control group based on the fluency task (46.4 words versus 38.7 words) and letter fluency task (40.1 words versus 32.7 words) categories.

These results were actually not expected by the researchers.”It was surprising to see that the patients performed at a higher level than the control group, but showed reduced brain activation in their fMRI results,”said principal investigator Ysbrand Der Werf PhD, of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam. Dr. Der Werf added that the success during the task may be attributed to a conscious effort to counteract the effect of poor sleep.

After six weeks of receiving sleep therapy, post-treatment neuroimaging shows that insomnia patients who received sleep therapy recovered from cognitive abnormalities, while the control group did not. Also, verbal fluency tasks after treatment showed that patients who underwent sleep therapy were able to generate more words than the controls.

These results should encourage the use of sleep therapy in clinical practice as a low-cost, non-pharmacological intervention for insomnia.

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