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: Growing a blood vessel in a week

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA investigating deep-space hibernation technology

Oct 17, 2014

Manned missions to deep space present numerous challenges. In addition to the sheer amount of food, water and air necessary to keep a crew alive for months (or years) at a time, there's also the question ...

The overlooked history of African technology

Oct 06, 2014

In the border region where Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa meet, indigenous hunters have for centuries made and used an impressive array of tools. There is the bow, made from giant raisin trees and ...

Analysis team drills down on social networks

Aug 03, 2014

Whether a teacher is posting a link for a colleague or a pet owner is sending her sister a photo of her sleeping dog, everything is of consequence for a newer breed of social network analysts who are trying ...

Final pieces to the circadian clock puzzle found

Sep 14, 2014

Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine have discovered how two genes – Period and Cryptochrome – keep the circadian clocks in all human cells in time and in proper rhythm with the 24-hour day, as well ...

Ships without skippers

Sep 08, 2014

A 200 metre long vessel moves slowly across the dark sea surface. There is no one at the wheel. It is quiet on the bridge. There are no signs of life in the engine room or on deck. A scene from a horror film ...

Recommended for you

Growing a blood vessel in a week

17 hours ago

The technology for creating new tissues from stem cells has taken a giant leap forward. Three tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown ...

Testing time for stem cells

19 hours ago

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from Cambridge's expertise in stem cell research. Here, we look at some of the fundamental research that enables it to supply liver and pancreatic ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

Oct 23, 2014

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

Oct 23, 2014

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments : 0