-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
THURSDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- People with insomnia have
trouble concentrating during the day because the "wandering mind"
areas of their brains may not be turned off, according to a new
Using brain imaging technology, researchers found that people
with insomnia who were performing a working memory task did not
rely less on the "default mode" regions of their brain that are
usually active only when the mind is wandering.
The findings might help explain why insomniacs do not function
as efficiently during the day, and could also lead to improved
treatments for the sleep disorder, according to the authors of the
study published in the September issue of the journal
"We found that insomnia subjects did not properly turn on brain regions critical to a working memory task and did not turn off 'mind-wandering' brain regions irrelevant to the task," study lead author Sean Drummond said in a journal news release. "Based on these results, it is not surprising that someone with insomnia would feel like they are working harder to do the same job as a healthy sleeper."
Drummond is an associate professor in the department of
psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and the VA
San Diego Healthcare System, as well as the secretary/treasurer of
the Sleep Research Society.
His study compared 25 people with primary insomnia -- difficulty
falling asleep or staying asleep that's not related to another
health condition -- to 25 people who did not have any trouble
sleeping. The participants, whose average age was 32, underwent a
functional MRI scan as they performed a task of their working
The MRI scans revealed that people with insomnia could not
adjust the activity in parts of their brain usually used to perform
The study found that as the task got more difficult, the good
sleepers relied more heavily on the parts of the brain involved in
working memory, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
Meanwhile, the participants with insomnia did not use more
resources from these parts of the brain.
"The data help us understand that people with insomnia not only have trouble sleeping at night, but their brains are not functioning as efficiently during the day," Drummond said. "Some aspects of insomnia are as much of a daytime problem as a nighttime problem. These daytime problems are associated with organic, measurable abnormalities of brain activity, giving us a biological marker for treatment success."
Roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of adults have an insomnia
disorder with distress or daytime impairment, according to the
American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
The National Sleep Foundation has more about
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