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Articles – By Subject
Sleep Disorder: What is 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 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)
Do I have a Sleep Disorder?
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.
Sleep Disorder and Treatment Options:
There are a variety of treatment options for this disorder. They include medication, nutritional, counseling, and neurofeedback interventions. Sleep researchers are primarily unaware of neurofeedback and its implications for insomnia and other sleep disorders. We remain hopeful that a cross-fertilization between clinically-oriented Neurofeedback therapists and sleep researchers can occur. As in many academic areas, this kind of research and education can take significant time and funding. Because of the vast amount of literature about brain regulation, sleep and the EEG, there is a solid basis for using neurofeedback with sleep problems. Hundreds of experienced, certified Neurofeedback providers have used this form of therapy successfully to improve sleep for over 25 years.
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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Dr. Stephanie Golder, MA, ThD, Stephen Minister, Hemispheric Life Coach
Mindy Fritz, MS, LCDC, BCN Associate Fellow