Insomnia, a term used to describe an inability to sleep or remain asleep throughout the night, was found to compromise those brain functions that are affecting verbal fluency but not speaking ability.

By using the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning, researchers have seen that the left medial prefrontal cortex and the left interior frontal gyrus, brain areas dealing with fluency, were less active during verbal fluency tasks being performed by insomniacs in comparison to people who are enjoying proper sleeping.

Surprisingly, insomniacs were able to generate more words than non-insomniacs on both the category fluency task and the letter fluency task. They had performed better than the control group, although the scanning showed reduced brain activation.

The researchers believe that this success during the task could be a reflection of a conscious effort to counteract the effect of poor sleep.
Sleep therapy treatment involved 21 chronic insomnia patients and 12 healthy controls with an average age of around 60.

The treatment consisted of combining restriction of sleep with multifaceted cognitive-behavior therapy, exposure to bright light in the morning and late afternoon, and body temperature manipulations, all being important factors to staying awake or feeling sleepy.

Six weeks of sleep therapy has helped the insomniacs restore the brain function and also generate more words on the verbal fluency tasks.

These results should encourage the use of sleep therapy in clinical practice as a low-cost, non-pharmacological treatment for insomnia.