“Doc, I can’t shut my mind off in order to get some sleep. It just keeps racing. It won’t settle down....”
I’ve had an interest in sleep for the past 35 years, most of which has been as a practicing sleep medicine doctor listening to and treating the problems of individuals who suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia. I’m also a psychiatrist and clinical researcher in the area of sleep and psychiatric disorders who has come to understand the importance of sleep and our mental activity during sleep, including dreaming, as it relates to who we are, how we feel and how we function during the day, both personally and professionally. Like breathing and eating, sleep is one of those universal things that everyone does, yet somehow takes for granted...as long as it goes well.
And when it doesn’t, as happens with almost half the population at one time or another, we suffer. We don’t feel well. We can’t concentrate during the day. Our moods and energy levels suffer and subsequently our daily lives become impacted including our relationships with our loved ones, our family and friends, and our co-workers.
“If I could just get some sleep, everything would be fine...”
But sleep doesn’t come.
I’ve been impressed with the extent to which individuals will go to get sleep, underlying the enormity of this very human disorder, and emphasizing that for most, only imperfect solutions exist. Household tips and remedies for sleep fall short, over the counter remedies and pharmaceutical approaches to the treatment of sleep may not work, can be laced with side effects and worse yet, can be habit forming. A very large need exists for a more natural, safe, and scientifically sound approach to helping insomnia sufferers than currently exists.
Seeking a better understanding of why we sleep, why some individuals don’t sleep and what to do about it, as a career NIH funded researcher, I pioneered the use of brain imaging tools for the study of sleep and its disorders in the early 1990s. For the first time, we had a window into the minds of sleeping individuals and we were able to characterize what the brain was doing while we were asleep. In dreaming sleep, for example, we discovered that our emotional brain, the limbic system, was very active in producing the rich tapestries of emotional stories that populate our dreaming lives. And in deeper, more restorative sleep, the depth of our sleep was connected to how successful our brains were in quieting down, so to speak, especially in the parts of our brains that controlled our working minds.
So what about in insomnia? Well, not surprisingly, our brain imaging studies confirmed that the working brain stays too active during sleep in individuals with insomnia, in a sense, validating their complaints in my office that their minds don’t rest in order for them to get adequate sleep.
Armed with a clearer understanding of what’s wrong in the brains of individuals who suffer from insomnia, I began a search for a better solution for their sleep problems, a more natural solution than what is currently available and something that works with the natural sleep/wake cycle, targeting these newly discovered abnormalities based on extensive scientific research in a manner previously unknown. My dream was to bring a novel solution to the millions of insomnia sufferers worldwide in the simple hope of providing everyone a good night’s rest, a rest that is critically important in how individuals in the world, and subsequently, the world at large, functions.
Following an extensive scientific review, I invented and received patent protection for a medical device that relied on a novel mechanism of action for improving sleep. Brain imaging and electroencephalographic studies during sleep in individuals suffering from insomnia confirmed that the approach was altering their physiology toward what I knew to be deeper, more restorative forms of sleep. Insomnia sufferers who had tried other forms of therapy and/or who preferred a safer, more natural approach to the treatment of their insomnia now reported levels of improvement in their sleep to the degree that I knew I had to quit my day job and do what I could to make this approach broadly available to individuals who suffer from insomnia.
And so Cerêve was born..
“This dream”, of bringing relief to the millions of individuals who suffer from such a fundamental human problem of not being able to achieve, what should be one of the simplest of human endeavors, that of sleeping deeply, continues to drive me and those who have subsequently joined Cerêve in this mission.
As we come closer to making this product available in the market, we’ll finish this story that describes more about the science of the technology and the exciting results we’ve seen in patients suffering from insomnia. Stay tuned...