Monday, January 11, 2010

Research: skin temperature and core body temperature affects sleepiness and vigilance in Narcoleptics


A few years ago, a very interesting study on Narcoleptics was released.  According to the study, daytime sleepiness can be decreased and vigilance can be improved by “mildly” altering the skin temperature and core body temperature of people with Narcolepsy.  The study used thermo suits to alter the skin temperature of the subjects and hot or cold drinks to alter their core body temperature.

Here is an excerpt from an article on the study:

“According to the results, patients were better able to maintain vigilance when core body temperature was increased than when it was lowered, indicating that vigilance in narcolepsy can be altered simply by altering the temperature of food and drinks. Also, the ability to maintain wakefulness was better when skin temperature was lowered than when it was increased. Therefore, the process of falling asleep in narcoleptic subjects was able to be influenced by gently cooling or warming their hands and feet.”

According to the article, when core body temperature is high during the day, skin temperature is low, resulting in optimal alertness and vigilance.  Conversely, when core body temperature is low, skin temperature is high, resulting in optimal sleep and increased sleepiness.  The study found that in Narcoleptics, the temperature of their hands and feet (i.e. their skin temperature) was at a high level during the day, a level normally seen in non-Narcoleptics right before sleep.  Thus, by bringing the temperature of the hands and feet of Narcoleptics to a normal level, they were able to increase the subjects’ alertness and vigilance.

I would suggest that you take the time to actually read the study, as it contains more information on this and explains it very well.  It also suggests some ways that one might try to do this oneself at home, namely, by cooling ones’ feet and hands during the day and warming them during the night – and also by increasing core body temperature during the day using hot drinks and decreasing it at night using cold drinks.

Perhaps one day this study might lead to something that might help Narcoleptics to stay awake and/or fall asleep at night.  Although the study only contained 8 Narcoleptics, I thought that it was a very useful study, with very surprising results.  I had never really thought that my skin and body temperature could affect my vigilance and alertness, although I had noticed that temperature is important to me when it comes to falling asleep at night.

One of these days I’m going to have to try out the advice suggested by this study and see if it helps.

What do you think?  Has anyone tried the advice in this article?  Have you noticed that your core or skin temperature affects your alertness and vigilance during the day or how you sleep at night?

P.S. I’m finally back in Berlin, so my blog entries should become more regular again :-).

1 comment:

  1. this is very interesting. i'm 18 yrs old and i also have narcolepsy. i really haven't done much research on narcolepsy but i wanted to look up if people with narcolepsy(because i don't know anyone else with it!) have been seen to have colder hands and feet...BECAUSE MY HANDS AND FEET ARE ALWAYS FREEZING IN COLD TEMPS!!! and it is impossible to warm them!!! no matter how much i put them on my stomach, neck face, or anywhere they never warm!! I would love to know and to also get involed in some group of narcoleptics and blog and learn other people's situations and how they make it work. because although i had the symptoms for several years, i was only diagnosed last year. so i really don't know the best way to go about certain situations and i would love some advice that's meaningful and heartfelt because they've actually experienced it!!