Scientists Discover Device that May Help Sleeping Problems

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Scientists have discovered that using a pair of ear clips called “ear zappers” may help treat insomnia. A study suggested that using the ear zappers before going to bed can improve sleep quality and lessen drowsiness in the daytime. The scientists believe that they can stimulate the production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. The ear zappers are connected to a power supply that is about the size of a cellphone. When switched on, an electric current passes through the clips and goes into the ears, stimulating the vagus nerve, which controls sleep and wakefulness. The scientists tested the device on 63 respondents with insomnia. Half of the volunteers were asked to attach the clips to the outer edge of their ears, where the vagus nerve cannot be stimulated. The remaining half were instructed to attach the clips to the middle of their ears, where the vagus nerve can be stimulated. The volunteers used the device for 30 minutes before sleeping for one month and recorded their nightly sleep patterns. Results showed that the volunteers who underwent vagus nerve stimulation had improved sleep and were much less lethargic during the day. According to the scientists, the device could become a drug-free alternative to treat insomnia. Some individuals with sleeping difficulties resort to using medication to fall and stay asleep, but prolonged use of sleep medications may cause side effects including aggressive behavior, excessive drowsiness, and memory loss. Patients may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking them. Sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley said that the researchers should conduct the study on more people to increase its reliability before the device can be endorsed and used widely as a treatment.

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