Hormonal Changes Associated with Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy

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Abstract

Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST), which involves placing an individual into an environment of severely reduced stimulation for brief periods, has been subjectively reported to produce deep relaxation. The present studies determine the effects of REST-assisted relaxation in the plasma levels of several hormones including Cortisol, ACTH, luteinizing hormone (LH) and testosterone and urinary levels of Cortisol. The possible role of endogenous opioids in the mild euphoria which is frequently associated with REST-assisted relaxation was also examined in a preliminary study using an opiate antagonist, naloxone. Varied protocols in these studies with different groups of subjects included from 4 to 20 REST sessions in frequencies ranging from bi-weekly to daily. The direct hormone measurement studies utilized a baseline-treatment-follow-up design, whereas the naloxone study employed a single subject double-blind crossover design. Plasma and urinary Cortisol and plasma ACTH showed significant decreases associated with REST. Testosterone and HL levels in plasma did not change. All subjects reported that the REST experience was deeply relaxing. Naloxone treatment consistently prevented the mild euphoria associated with REST. These data suggest that REST-assisted relaxation is associated with REST. These data suggest that REST-assisted relaxation is associated with specific decreases in the activity of the pituitary-adrenal axis, and that the mild euphoria occurring in REST may be mediated by release of altered sensitivity to endogenous opioids.