Affective Neurosciences PLLC

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Sleep and Brain Training

Alternative Insomnia Treatment

At least 40 million Americans each year suffer from chronic, long-term, sleep disorders. An additional 20 million experience occasional sleep problems. Neurofeedback is a powerful tool for helping people fall asleep and stay asleep. Over 3,000 licensed health professionals such as psychologists, therapists, and doctors now use this new technology daily with patients. As a group, they report significant and consistent improvements for client sleep problems. It’s often remarkable how quickly sleep can improve with clients who have been to many different specialists and have struggled with sleep for years. Falling asleep and staying asleep is clearly the brain’s job to do. Many brain training options can help as well as making lifestyle changes and changes in sleep “hygiene”. A skilled neurofeedback clinician can review many different options with clients to help them assess what’s most appropriate for their problem. The addition of neurofeedback to positively impact sleep is powerful. Most people can train their brain to allow sleep again. The brain is fundamental to sleep, and training it makes complete sense. However, it’s a new technology that the vast majority of physicians and other health professionals are still unaware of it so they can’t recommend it.

What are the most commonly reported sleep issues that improve with neurofeedback training?

1. Insomnia – Difficulty falling asleep; difficulty maintaining sleep during the night
2. Difficulty waking from sleep
3. Difficulty getting to bed
4. Not feeling rested after sleep
5. Sleeping too long (over 10 hours)
6. Physically restless sleep
7. Nightmares
8. Bedwetting (Nocturnal enuresis)
9. Sleepwalking
10. Restless leg syndrome – Leg discomfort or sleep causing movement and arousal
11. Bruxism – teeth grinding during sleep
12. Sleep terrors – Abrupt arousal with intense fear, difficult to awaken, no dream recall or memory of event
13. Narcolepsy
14. Dysregulated sleep patterns/cycles (circadian rhythms)

Neurofeedback training often helps these problems as it improves brain regulation. For instance, a 75-year-old woman reported that she “slept like a baby for the first time in 25 years” after neurofeedback training. Parents of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often say it’s easier to get their kids to sleep when they’ve had neurofeedback, and depressed clients remark they have a much easier time getting going in the morning. These are common reports.

The Role of the Brain and Sleep

The brain regulates sleep. The EEG, which shows brainwaves, clearly reflects changes in sleep stages. Training brainwaves using neurofeedback to decrease or increase slow brainwave activity, or to increase specific EEG activation patterns, appears to help the brain normalize sleep. Based on reports from a large number of health professionals, the evidence shows that training the EEG impacts sleep regulatory mechanisms, and people sleep better.

Since sleep is complex and involves many systems, it is not possible to suggest that sleep problems always improve as a result of neurofeedback. Yet, clinicians say they routinely expect changes to occur in sleep patterns after appropriate training for a large percentage of their clients. As with any program, a complete sleep assessment is helpful. Sleep hygiene issues (including caffeine, alcohol, and other behavioral factors) and other potential contributory factors, such as possible sleep apnea, also need to be carefully reviewed and corrected in combination with neurofeedback training.


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