“There ain’t no way to find out why a snorer can’t hear himself snore.”
Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad
Life can present us with a myriad of challenges/frustrations. But when we can’t sleep at night, even the smallest problem can seem overwhelming. Disruptive sleep patterns may affect our energy level, emotional balance, attention, concentration, memory and health. Sometimes just the FEAR that we may not sleep at night becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Before beginning neurofeedback, we need to get an overview of how our client’s brain is functioning. We need to assess the exact areas in the brain that are not allowing our client a restful night’s sleep, to determine the most effective training protocols for him/her. At BiofeedbackWORKS in Virginia, we use the Quantitative Electroencephalography (qEEG) to assess the most outstanding abnormalities of brainwave activity. We then develop protocols specifically targeted to bring the brain back into balance and bring restful sleep back into someone’s life.
Neurofeedback trains the brain by providing positive rewards when the brain produces the kind of electrical activity needed to facilitate restful sleep. When the brain changes because of a response to feedback, growth through self-awareness facilitates changes in brainwave patterns without the aid of medication (Demos, 2005). Over time (20 – 60 sessions, depending upon the client’s age and severity of the problem) clients report being able to fall asleep more quickly and sleep through the night. Even when poor sleep is not the impetus for someone seeking neurofeedback, often the first changes people report relate to the improved quality of their sleep.
Something that makes us stand out from other neurofeedback treatment providers is our inclusion of General Biofeedback in the client’s treatment plan. In addition to training the brain, we train the physiology of the body. Sensors are used to measure heart rate variability, skin perspiration and body temperature. This information is given back to the client instantaneously via auditory or visual cues. The feedback helps a person learn to control and change his/her own bodily processes. This intervention trains people to improve their health by using their own body signals to self-regulate, which helps them feel more relaxed and improve sleep.
An imbalance of alpha brain waves in the parietal lobe as well as other imbalances due to anxiety, depression, PTSD, generalized pain, Lyme disease, migraines and other problems can affect sleep. Those who have difficulty sleeping are also likely to suffer from bruxism (teeth grinding) as well as muscle tension, neck and headaches.
Even though changes in the brain’s metabolic activity may be achieved through medication, those changes are not permanent, and/or use of medications can be accompanied by side effects (Demos, 2005). With neurofeedback and general biofeedback clients are actually making the changes in their brains and bodies themselves. Nothing is being done to them, they are the ones making the changes and as a result the changes are often long lasting.
Insomnia, one of the most common sleep disorders, affects approximately 10% of the population. In addition to problems falling asleep, insomnia may also be characterized by the inability to maintain sleep or waking up too early in the morning and not feeling rested (Craighead, Miklowitz, & Craighead, 2008).
It is well known that sleep has a critical role in psychological functioning and in many domains of health such as the immune system, the neuroendocrine system and cardiovascular system (Craighead, Miklowitz & Craighead, 2008). Changes in sleep patterns can negatively affect an individual’s energy level, emotional balance, attention, concentration, memory and health in general. Neurofeedback provides a long lasting, noninvasive treatment without the side effects (sleep walking, binging at night with no memory, lethargy in the mornings, etc.) often reported with some sleep aids.
Demos, J. N. (2005). Getting Started with Neurofeedback. W.W. Norton & Company.
Craighead, D. J. Miklowitz, & L. W. Craighead (Ed.), Psychopathology: History, diagnosis, and empirical foundations (pp. 279-328).