by David Delaney
Graciella (not her real name) has had sleep problems most of her life. This is not why she came to seek help with me but I discover during our intake that this is a serious problem for her. She has a very difficult time falling asleep, staying asleep, and then finds it very difficult to rise in the morning. Her original concern for why she sought help was anxiety and depression. And now research has demonstrated that there is a direct link between sleep problems and depression!
Depression and sleep disorders now linked…
It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting health and longevity.The cumulative long-term effects of sleep deprivation and sleep disorders have been associated with a wide range of degenerative heath consequences inducing an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, hearth attack, and stroke. The Institute of Medicine (IOM), Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research concluded that although clinical activities and scientific opportunities in the field are expanding, awareness among the general public and health care professionals is low, given the magnitude of the burden. 1
Why is sleep so important to our function as human beings?
While we sleep, all the energy that would normally go toward conscious activity is utilized for regeneration of our organism.Sleep slows heart rate, calms brain activity, reduces blood pressure, sympathetic nerve activity slows (fight/flight responses are controlled by this branch of our nervous system), muscle tone relaxes, respiration is slowed and deepended, and so on.We let go!We enter a phase of suspended rest where all our systems relax and rebalance.So those who have sleep issues are not able to benefit from this important health function.
How could neurofeedback training aid the Central Nervous System in sleep improvement?
The Central Nervous System, what we generally call the brain, controls sleep.Sleep is an adaptive mechanism of survival.If we do not sleep well, we do not function well in the waking state.In order to be alert and focused for our chosen tasks, we need to have restful and regenerative sleep.I have had many clients with poor sleep hygiene and most of these individuals have had issues with depression and anxiety as well as health issues which are improved as a consequence of feeding back to the Central Nervous System how it is functioning moment to moment.
Adaptability is the basis of neuroplasticity; our ability to respond to changes in life.
Because of neuroplasticity, which is the ability of our brain to change in response to direct feedback from our environment, it can learn to let go of the perturbation (or inefficient brainwave activity) that it is producing unintentionally (based on stress and trauma in our past).This has a direct impact on lowering cognitive, physical, and emotional reactivity, regulating stress, and based on hundreds of comments from clients, help them improve their ability to sleep.
There is nothing like good sleep to get you going in the morning.
Jean notices within a handful of neurofeedback sessions that she is able to get to sleep faster and even if she awakens, she says that she is now more apt to fall back to sleep quickly whereas prior to training she often experienced the suffering of not being able to get back to sleep.She also tells me that she wakes up refreshed and able to get up with a positive attitude toward her life. Previously, she was anxious and fearful about what the day might bring her. Not so now!