MySleepApnea.Org

Is your mind on a racetrack?

Posted on: March 30, 2009

mind-racing

Insomnia can make you feel like your mind is racing out of control. A revealing new study explains why your brain may be unable to put the brakes on your thoughts. It links the problem to low levels of a brain chemical.

A new study shows that GABA levels are reduced by 30 percent in adults with chronic primary insomnia. The study was published in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Sleep.

GABA is reduced in the brain of individuals with insomnia, suggesting over activity is present. It was explained that low GABA levels create an imbalance of brain activity. This may lead to an inability to shut down waking signals in the brain.

If your GABA levels are low, then your mind can’t slow down. It may race forward at full speed even when it is time to sleep. An over active mind is a key feature of psychophsicological insomnia. At bedtime you are unable to stop thinking and worrying. Your body may be ready for sleep, but your mind remains alert. This state of “hyperarousal” can make it hard for you to fall asleep.

Most with insomnia have “secondary” insomnia. It occurs along with another medical problem, mental illness or sleep disorder. It also may result from the use of a medication or substance. In contrast primary insomnia is unrelated to another health problem. Estimates that about 25 percent of people with insomnia have primary insomnia. The study only links low GABA levels to long lasting, primary insomnia.

All participants in the study had been suffering from primary insomnia for mor than six months. The average duration of their symptoms was about 10 years. The GABA connection affirms that primary insomnia is a legitimate disorder.

Recognition that insomnia has manifestations in the brain may increase the legitimacy of those who have insomnia and report substantial daytime  consequences. It was also explained that insomnia can affect your energy, concentration and mood. It also increases your risk of depression.

One solution for the problem of primary insomnia is the use of hypnotic medication. The short-term use of a sleeping pill can help break the cycle of sleepless nights. The study notes that many of the most effective sleeping pills increase activity at the GABA neurons.

Another treatment option is cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT helps you learn how to correct attitudes and habits that hinder your sleep. Many of these bad habits develop as people try to cope with chronic insomnia.

2 Responses to "Is your mind on a racetrack?"

Interestingly, a study showed that yoga increases GABA levels in the brain (http://www.physorg.com/news98980887.html).

Chronic insomnia is not only linked with depression, but also an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. But all of these are linked with obstructive sleep apnea.

There are many studies linking stress to low levels of GABA. One in particular is post-traumatic stress disorder. Stress from not sleeping well for any reason can also lower your GABA levels. Anything to calm and relax your nervous system will raise your GABA levels. So in effect, having low GABA levels is not what causes insomnia. There’s something else that causes both insomnia and low GABA levels.

http://www.doctorstevenpark.com

[...] One of the more recent studies was published in the 11/08 issue of Sleep (a summary can be seen here). Chronic insomniacs were found to have 30% less GABA activity in their brains. This finding [...]

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