Type of anesthetic will improve sleeping medication, probe mysteries of the snooze

April 16, 2008

Researchers at the University of Alberta have discovered sleep patterns in a type of anesthesia that are the closest ever to a natural, non-groggy snooze.

The anesthetic used in the study, known as ethyl carbamate or urethane, provides researchers with a tool to more thoroughly investigate ways of treating sleep disorders and improving existing sleep medications, says Clayton Dickson, one of the study’s co-authors and an associate professor of psychology, physiology and neuroscience at the University of Alberta in Canada.

“Most general anesthetics used for surgery and available medications used to treat sleeplessness promote what is called slow-wave sleep at the expense of the other main stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement or REM sleep so people tend to wake up groggy,” Dickson said. “Our findings suggest that this type of anesthesia can induce the full spectrum of the stages you would see during natural sleep,” which will allow researchers to fine-tune sleep medications and anesthetics, benefiting patients.

By comparing the brainwaves of rats under the anesthetic to those occurring with natural sleep, researchers discovered cyclic changes of brain states that were almost identical to those seen during the natural sleep cycle. Changes in muscle tone, respiration rates and heartbeat were also similar.

Though the ethyl carbamate is not suitable for use in human consumption because of the high chemical dosage required, the research findings can be used by neuroscientists, physiologists and others in the field to unravel the mysteries of sleep, Dickson says. The long-term implications for this discovery, he says, will benefit researchers by allowing them to study sleep pattern anomalies, including the puzzling paradox of why brain activity is similar in wakefulness as it is during REM sleep, despite a complete lack of awareness and responsiveness.

Source: University of Alberta

Explore further: Terabytes of mosquito pictures help enhance mosquito netting

Related Stories

Terabytes of mosquito pictures help enhance mosquito netting

September 2, 2015

Researchers at the University of Warwick's School of Engineering are using imaging technologies, that are normally applied to automotive engines and sprays, to image thousands of mosquitoes to help develop better netting ...

Nightly human-fox encounters in West Vienna

September 2, 2015

Vienna's inhabitants have reported about 300 foxes in the urban area to the internet platform www.stadtwildtiere.at during the last three months. These reports demonstrate that wild animals do not only live in remote woods, ...

Is the "new" Norwegian wolf really wild?

August 10, 2015

Loved and hated. Admired and feared. Almost wiped out and now restored. Wolves have a long and varied history in Norway and trigger strong feelings on both sides of the issue.

Air controller study shows chronic fatigue

August 10, 2015

Air traffic controllers' work schedules often lead to chronic fatigue, making them less alert and endangering the safety of the national air traffic system, according to a study the government has kept secret for nearly four ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.