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

Apr 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: Dental pulp cell transplants help regenerate peripheral nerves

Related Stories

What's at stake in battle over Hawaii telescope

Jun 24, 2015

Scientists hoping to build a telescope that will allow them to see 13 billion light years away, giving them a look into the early years of the universe, are facing opposition from Native Hawaiian groups who ...

Dual internal clocks keep plant defenses on schedule

Jun 22, 2015

Time management isn't just important for busy people—it's critical for plants, too. A Duke University study shows how two biological clocks work together to help plants deal with intermittent demands such as fungal infections, ...

Access to electricity is linked to reduced sleep

Jun 19, 2015

Blame smartphone alerts, constant connectivity and a deluge of media for our society's sleep deprivation. But the root cause of why we get less sleep now than our ancestors did could come down to a much simpler ...

Recommended for you

Researchers learn to measure aging process in young adults

14 hours ago

Looking around at a 20th high school reunion, you might notice something puzzling about your classmates. Although they were all born within months of each other, these 38-year-olds appear to be aging at different ...

New paradigm for treating 'inflammaging' and cancer

18 hours ago

Intermittent dosing with rapamycin selectively breaks the cascade of inflammatory events that follow cellular senescence, a phenomena in which cells cease to divide in response to DNA damaging agents, including ...

User comments : 0

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.