It is common knowledge throughout the medical community and general public that insomnia is a disorder that creates the inability to sleep. Daniel Buysse, M.D, suggests that insomnia may actually be more than just an inability to sleep; it’s a “dysregulation across sleep and wake states.”


Daniel Buysse, M.D. has been studying sleep and brain imaging for years, and he and his colleagues have noticed a pattern between individuals who suffer from insomnia. People with insomnia actually have increased brain activity in several regions of their brain while they are in the middle of the non-rapid eye movement sleep state. This increased activity may begin to explain why those suffering from insomnia actually experience such unsatisfying sleep, when they do actually get to sleep.


Buysee and his colleagues’ had a total of sixty two test subjects who had an average age of 68 years old, and varying levels of insomnia. It was reported that the older adults with insomnia had a harder time sleeping. The test subjects were kept awake for 36 hours straight, with the opportunity to sleep every 2 hours. Their sleepiness was measured via the Multiple Sleep Latency Test: Subjects who fell asleep were only allowed to sleep for 90 seconds. Subjects who did not fall asleep at all within 20 minutes were considered a failed trial. This test allowed for a long term measurement of “sleepiness” in the sixty two adults.


The test was able to show one key difference in the subjects. Those that suffered from insomnia had a higher core body temperature than those who do not. The higher the internal body temperature, the more difficulty the test subject had sleeping.


In a separate test, Buysse and his colleagues made a different discovery. They gathered thirty seven adults with a lower average age (this group’s average age was 37.1 years old). These adults were subjected to positron emission tomography scans during both awake states and non-rapid eye movement sleep states. Those with insomnia showed no change of an increase in the metabolism section of the brain, while those without insomnia actually saw a decrease.


These two tests present the soft conclusion that the brains of those with insomnia are not slowing down in several ways that the brains of non-insomnia patients do.


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