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Sleep Issues

At least 40 million Americans each year suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleep problems. Neurofeedback is a powerful tool for regulationg sleep. Health professionals around the world report significant improvement in a large percentage of their clients using neurofeedback to treat chronic long-term sleep problems.

Neurofeedback regulates sleep by training the brain to regulate itself in terms of over arousal, under arousal and unstable arousal. The arousal levels are indicated after each commonly reported sleep issue.

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

  • Insomnia - difficulty falling asleep; difficulty maintaining sleep during the night - over arousal
  • Difficulty waking from sleep - under arousal
  • Difficulty getting to bed - over arousal
  • Not feeling rested after sleep - under arousal
  • Sleeping too long (over 10 hours) - under arousal
  • Physically restless sleep - over arousal
  • Nightmares - over arousal
  • Bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) - unstable arousal
  • Sleepwalking - unstable arousal
  • Restless leg syndrome - leg discomfort or sleep causing movement and arousal - over arousal
  • Bruxism - teeth grinding during sleep - over arousal
  • Sleep terrors - abrupt arousal with intense fear, difficult to awaken, no dream recall or memory of event - unstable arousal
  • Narcolepsy - unstable arousal

Neurofeedback training often helps these problems as it improves brain regulation. These are common reports: A 75 year-old 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. 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. Neuroscience has established the role of neuromodulator systems in the brainstem that play a role in maintaining awake states - and conversely, help the brain sleep. The EEG (brainwaves) clearly reflects changes in sleep stages.

Training brainwaves using neurofeedback - to decrease or increase low 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 patients. 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.

Sleep researchers are primarily unaware of neurofeedback and its implications for insomnia and other sleep disorders. Hopefully, cross-fertilization between clinically-oriented therapists and sleep researchers can occur. As in many academic areas this kind of cross fertilization can take significant time and funding.

Michael Cohen, Director of Education for EEG Spectrum International

Because of the vast amount of literature about brain regulation, sleep and the brain, there is a solid basis for using neurofeedback with sleep problems. Hundreds of experienced licensed professionals have used this modality successfully to improve sleep for over 25 years. This has been true of our experience for several hundred patients.