Treatment of insomnia with neurofeedback

Sleep disturbances are a form of discomfort that affects hundreds of thousands of people, but luckily, they can be treated effectively.

One of the most useful resources for treating insomnia is neurofeedback, In which the principles of psychotherapy are joined to those of neuroscience.

    Brain waves and neurofeedback

    Neurofeedback is a procedure whereby the nerve activity of the patient’s brain surface is measured and this information is provided in real time. This is achieved only by applying sinuses to the head, without surgery or painful procedures.

    In other words, it is based on allowing the patient to recognize the activity patterns of their brain to help them learn ways to change it at will.

    Neurofeedback it is used to treat various types of psychological disorders, And the one in which it is effective is insomnia. This makes sense, because states of consciousness and the tendency to relax have clear effects on brain waves, which visually represent the frequency that brain neurons adopt when they coordinate with and with each other. others emit nerve impulses.

    How is insomnia treated with neurofeedback?

    Scientific research has proven for decades that at least several waves of nervous activity can be stimulated by operant conditioningIn other words, they are likely to be controlled by the person through a system of incentives.

    In the same way that in psychotherapy measures are put in place to reinforce the appearance of certain behaviors and weaken the appearance of others, neurofeedback makes it possible to do the same when it comes to facilitating the appearance of certain behaviors. certain neuronal activation patterns. In this case, those that predispose the person to fall asleep and end the problem of insomnia.

    How is this done? As we have seen, neurofeedback makes the person aware of aspects of their neuropsychological processes that would normally go unnoticed, and from there it enables them to empower those who serve their interests. In other words, it allows him to more easily take control of certain phenomena that take place in his body and which until now were semi-unconscious, foreign to his voluntary control.

    As you learn how certain ways of thinking, feeling, and regulating what’s going on in the body cause changes in these processes, you also learn ways to change these at will.

    Now let’s take a closer look at how neurofeedback helps sleep.

    The importance of alpha and theta waves

    In the reconciliation of sleep, there are two particularly important types of brain waves: alpha waves and theta waves.

    Alpha waves are those that indicate a relaxed state of consciousness in the person that the cerebral cortex begins to emit. They are typical of times when we are daydreaming, they usually appear just before we start to sleep: under their effect we are awake, but at the same time we focus our attention on imaginative processes and recollection of memories, or simply do not let’s not think of anything concrete.

    For their part, theta waves are those that appear when we start to sleep. With them, we almost completely disconnect from what is going on around us, but the level of activation is intense enough because if we wake up at this point, we think that we could not have started to sleep, we do not we just don’t remember well what happened. .

    So when it comes to applying neurofeedback to treat insomnia, the main goal is help the person induce a transition from alpha waves to theta waves. To achieve this, the patient performs various implicit type learning, that is to say, they depend more on practice and self-experimentation than on following purely theoretical instructions.

    For example, the appearance of alpha waves is known to be facilitated when the person’s gaze is not focused on any particular element of the visual field, so everything is “blurry”; this kind of experience helps to enter a relaxed and meditative state of consciousness, similar to that which also occurs during clinical hypnosis sessions. With neurofeedback, patients learn the practice of this class of phenomena, instead of sticking to a theory which, in the case of those who develop sleep disturbances, is insufficient.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Carrobles, JA (2016). Bio / neurofeedback. Clinic and health, 27 (3): p. 125-131.
      • deCharms RC; Maeda, F .; Glover, GH et al. (2005). Control of brain activation and learned pain through the use of real-time functional MRI. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 102 (51): 18626-18631.
      • Dement, W. (2000). The Promise of Sleep: A pioneer in sleep medicine explores the vital link between health, happiness and a good night’s sleep. New York: Random House.
      • Kamiya, J. (1969). Operational control of alpha EEG rhythm. In C. Tart (Ed.), Altered states of Conscience. New York: Wiley.
      • Basmajian, JV (1989). Biofeedback: principles and practice for physicians. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.

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