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Zapped insomniacs catch some Z's.

An experimental device that emits a low-energy electromagnetic field beats counting sheep as a sleep aid, according to researchers who tested the novel technique in a double-blind study.

The month-long study, led by Milton K. Erman of the Scripps Clinics and Research Foundation in La Jolla, Calif., involved 60 insomniacs who held the device in their mouths for 20 minutes three times a week. Half the volunteers used the 27-megahertz instrument, while the remainder used inactivated devices. Neither group felt any sensations during these sessions, says study coauthor Boris Pasche of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

On average, he reports, insomniacs using the active device nodded off 52 minutes faster than the controls and stayed asleep 1.5 hours longer.

Pasche speculates that the device stimulates sleep-inducing areas of the brain. He and his colleagues are now investigating its effect on melatonin, a hormone secreted by the brain's pineal gland in sync with the sleep-wake cycle.

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report issued last year concluded that weak, but steady electromagnetic fields constitute "a possible but no proven cause of cancer in humans." Because the device tested by Erman's group does not emit a steady magnetic field, Pasche says he and his colleagues were not concerned about adverse effects.
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Title Annotation:testing a device that uses low-energy electromagnetic fields to treat insomnia
Author:Ezzell, Carol
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 6, 1991
Words:210
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