Sleep and Brain Training
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 3000 licensed health professionals such as psychologists and physicians now use this new technology daily with patients. As a group, they report significant and consistent improvements for clients’ 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 job of the brain to do.
At Canyon Vista Clinics, we take a comprehensive approach to helping clients with sleep. There are many options to help – from supplements to exercise to making lifestyle changes to changes in sleep “hygiene”.
We review many different options with clients to help them assess what’s most appropriate for their problem, including several brain regulating technologies like Alpha-Stim and Brain Music. If the problem is severe, we record a brain map to take a detailed look to see if there’s a specific EEG problem in the brain that is interfering with sleep. Frankly, there just aren’t many places that take a comprehensive look at sleep. The addition of neurofeedback is powerful. Most people can train their brain to allow sleep again. The brain is fundamental to sleep, and training it makes complete sense. Unfortunately many doctors and other health professionals are still unaware of neurofeedback and its effectiveness at treating sleep problems.
As an alternative to medications, neurofeedback can help people reduce or eliminate drugs for insomnia and sleep disorders as their brains become more attuned to healthy sleep patterns.
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 & 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. These are common reports: A 75 year-old reported recently 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. Depressed clients remark they have a much easier time getting going in the morning.
The Role of the Brain and Sleep
The brain regulates sleep. The EEG (brainwaves) clearly reflects changes in sleep stages. Training brainwaves using neurofeedback to 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 licensed 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. But clinicians say that 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.