Sleepless no more

Sleepless no more

If your nights are spent counting sheep instead of getting sleep, a new treatment could teach you to rest easy. Insomniacs are unfamiliar with the sensation of falling asleep quickly, but a recent study suggests that inducing sleep deprivation can help them learn to do it.

Leon Lack, head of the Sleep Laboratory at Australia's Flinders University, worked with colleagues to improve the condition of 79 insomniacs in one 25-hour session. At the beginning of each half-hour, the researchers let participants fall asleep - they'd been kept up the previous night, so they were exhausted - but woke them after only three minutes and then kept them up until the next half-hour began. The sleep-wake cycle was repeated for 25 hours, and then the volunteers were sent home.

Within a week, participants were falling asleep faster, and the benefits were still measurable six months later. "These people had significant insomnia for years, and in just one day they were able to greatly improve the quantity and quality of their sleep," says Arthur Spielman, a sleep specialist at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Why was the therapy so effective? It trains insomniacs to associate the act of going to bed with the feeling of quickly nodding off. "Over the course of 25 hours, someone experiences that process dozens of times, helping them keep that association once they return home," Lack explains.

There are no do-it-yourself versions of this therapy available now. But the Flinders sleep lab is already exploring the possibility of creating portable sleep monitors with alarm signals that could translate the 25-hour procedure to a home environment.

Flavonoids and Parkinson's

Flavonoids and Parkinson's

Consuming flavonoids, compounds in plant-based foods such as berries, tea, red wine and apples, may help protect against Parkinson's disease, according to a Harvard Medical School study published in the April 4 issue of the journal Neurology.

The study involved more than 130,000 men and women. Researchers found that men who consumed the most flavonoids in their regular diet were 40 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's than men who consumed the lowest amounts.

A similar link was not found among women. However, other research has found strong associations between foods high in flavonoids and other health benefits, such as blood pressure control.

Compiled from News wire services