Chronic insomnia. Millions of Americans experience chronic insomnia in some form: this sleep disorder [...]
Sleep Disorder: What is Sleep Disorder?
There are many types of sleep disorders, but in general terms, sleep disorder is an unwilling interruption in sleep patterns that interfere with normal functioning, physically, mentally and emotionally. Sleep disruption can be caused by any number of factors from night terrors to teeth grinding. Sometimes there are anxiety problems disrupting the sleep pattern causing many of the common types of sleep disorders. Other times there is no known cause.
Excessive sleep is also considered abnormal if it aberrantly effects a persons life. Unless there is a known medical cause for the sleep disorder which can be medically treated (such as apnea), an individual is typically left with medication intervention, which offers varying success rates and comes with side effects. The consequences of lack of sleep can be decreased immune response, depression, and impaired memory and thought processes. The effects of alcohol on a sleep-deprived brain are magnified and can cause much more impairment than on someone who is well-rested. Caffeine and other stimulants can temporarily help someone who is sleep deprived, but these are not effective over a long period of time.
Sleep Disorder and Brain Function:
Neurotransmitters are nerve-signaling chemicals which control whether we are asleep or awake by acting on different groups of neurons (nerve cells) in the brain. Neurons produce neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and serotonin that keep some parts of the brain active while we are awake. Other neurons signal when we fall asleep and “switch off” the signals that keep us awake. Research also suggests that there are chemicals which build up in the bloodstream while awake and causing drowsiness.
There are five phases of sleep: stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. These stages progress in a cycle from stage 1 to REM sleep, then the cycle starts over again with stage 1. A healthy person spends almost 50 percent of their total sleep time in stage 2 sleep, about 20 percent in REM sleep, and the remaining 30 percent in the other stages.
Chronic insomnia and other sleep disorders have been found to be caused by sustained hyper-arousal of the stress response system of the body. The regulation of normal brain function has been disrupted. Healthy, balanced sleep has been shown to aid in the neural plasticity of the brain, which creates the ability to handle stress, depression and memory. Many related conditions, including stress, anxiety, and depression, can inhibit proper sleep and create a myriad of symptoms for the sufferer.
Neurophysiological aspects of primary insomnia: Implications for its treatment
Volume 10, Issue 4 , Pages 255-266, August 2006
Aisha Cortoos, Edwin Verstraeten, Raymond Cluydts
Insomnia has usually been studied from a behavioral perspective. Somatic and/or cognitive conditioned arousal was shown to play a central role in sleep complaints becoming chronic, and was used as a starting point for the development of treatment modalities. The introduction of the neurocognitive perspective, with its focus on cortical or CNS arousal, has given rise to a renewed interest in the neurophysiological characteristics of insomnia. Recent research, using quantitative EEG, neuroimaging techniques and the study of the microstructure of sleep, suggests a state of hyperarousal with a biological basis. Furthermore, insomnia might not be restricted to sleep complaints alone because it appears to be a 24-h disorder, affecting several aspects of daytime functioning as well. These new findings have implications for the treatments used and indicate that a focus on cortical or CNS arousal should be pursued. As such, the use of EEG neurofeedback, a self-regulation method based on the paradigm of operant conditioning, might be a promising treatment modality. Preliminary results for insomnia and successful applications for other disorders suggest that this treatment can have the necessary stabilizing effects in the EEG activity, possibly resulting in a normalizing effect on daytime as well as nighttime functioning.
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Sleep Disorder and Common Symptoms:
Primary Sleep disorders are divided into two subcategories: Dyssomnias and Parasomnias. Dyssomnias are those disorders relating to the amount, quality, and timing of sleep. Parasomnias relate to abnormal behavior or physiological events that occur during the process of sleep or sleep-wake transitions. We use the term Primary to differentiate these sleep disorders from other sleep disorders that are caused by outside factors, such as another mental disorder, medical disorder, or substance abuse.
The most common sleep disorders that improve with Neurofeedback:
- Insomnia – Difficulty falling asleep; difficulty maintaining sleep during the night
- Difficulty waking from sleep
- Difficulty getting to bed
- Not feeling rested after sleep
- Sleeping too long (over 10 hours)
- Physically restless sleep
- Bedwetting (Nocturnal enuresis)
- Restless leg syndrome – Leg discomfort or sleep causing movement & arousal
- Bruxism – teeth grinding during sleep
- Sleep terrors – Abrupt arousal with intense fear, difficult to awaken, no dream recall or memory of event
- Dysregulated sleep patterns/cycles (circadian rhythms)
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Sleep Disorder: Case Study
Jessica is a 48 year old successful corporate executive with a husband and 3 children. She has suffered from sleep disorder since graduate school. She reports having had difficulty falling and staying asleep, as well as waking with terrible nightmares at times. Even though she was successful, she realized how hard she was working at staying focused and mentally alert at work in order to get the most simple tasks accomplished. She had also suffered from anxiety and depression, both of which she attributed to the sleep disorder. Over the years, she tried many different medications, but she did not like the side effects. She tried eating healthy and exercise, which did help some, but not even this helped to the extent that she felt she needed.
After much research, she discovered neurofeedback and began her sessions along with counseling. After 3 months, she realized she was not only sleeping better, but she was much less anxious and depressed. Her husband began attending counseling with her, and they were able to resolve issues she had not been able to even discuss prior to the beginning of treatment. After 8 months, Jessica reports that she is “sleeping like a baby,” and her husband is extremely happy that he finally has “the girl I married” back.
Of course, not every patient who undergoes neurofeedback training notices this drastic of an improvement. However, we do find improved outcomes in approximately 85 to 90 percent of our clients. Consistency in treatment and a positive attitude are important for success.
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Sleep is a necessary part of each and every day! It is vital to [...]
Jessica is a 48 year old successful corporate executive with a husband and [...]
A Neurofeedback practitioner in Australia reports the following remarkable story: