Finally get some sleep!

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
April 3, 2008 9:00:00 PM PDT
Some people will do anything to get a good night's sleep. It turns out, the answer could lie in their hands. Seven's on Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

The quest for rest is a battle more than 60 million Americans fight each night. But new hope for insomnia sufferers -- could literally be in their hands!

"I could be very tired, lay down and the bed feels great, the covers feel great, the pillows, the comforter and sleep just doesn't happen," Dennis Barbarito says.

Late nights spent tossing and turning took a toll on Barbarito. Work, relationships and health -- all suffered from his persistent insomnia.

"I've tried sleep medications from Klonopin to Ambien, cutting down on my coffee, cutting down on my sugar, not exercising at night, exercising at night to tire myself out," Barbarito says. "No matter how I do it when it comes time to sleep it just doesn't happen."

Finally catching some Zs could come from within. Sleep specialists say people's ability to fall asleep is linked with the temperature of their hands and feet.

"The best predictor of whether someone is going to fall asleep or not is an increase in their hand and foot temperature relative to their core," says Matthew Ebben, Ph.D., a sleep specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York, N.Y.

In normal sleepers, as we doze off, the temperature of our hands and feet increases by about one degree. In a recent study, insomniac participants actually learned to change their hand temps through temperature biofeedback -- a technique that trains the brain to control temperature responses.

"I'll teach them a couple of techniques that are helpful in imagining their hands getting warmer and actually creating more blood flow to the periphery to their hands," says Robert Udewitz, Ph.D., a biofeedback specialist with Behavior Therapy in New York.

At the same time, the insomnia suffers see a monitor and get immediate feedbacks on what techniques work best for them.

"We're trying to teach them to control their hand temperature, basically, and then they use that when they go to sleep and we're trying to see whether they fall asleep faster with this technique and it looks like they are," Dr. Ebben says.

Making the quest for rest more than a dream.

Dr. Ebben says the technique worked for about 90 percent of participants. Biofeedback training -- and hand-warming in particular -- has also been shown to have a beneficial effect for patients who suffer from migraine headaches, high blood pressure, pain, stress and digestive disorders.

For more information, go to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine website