What happens when we sleep?
During sleep our brains are able to recover from the day’s stressors. Also during sleep, the organs, tissues and muscles in our body are being restored. Sleep helps us thrive by enhancing our immune system, balancing our appetites, and helping to regulate levels of Ghrelin and Leptin, which play a role in our feelings of hunger and fullness. But most importantly, sleep feels good. We like it, we need it and it is a precious commodity. Sleep is very important in overall physical and mental health and we spend one third of our lives sleeping.
So, why can’t I fall asleep? Stay asleep all night? Sleep longer? Or feel rested when I wake up? Neural patterns in the brain will shift in the evenings from an awake alert state to a calm state (winding down), then a sleepy state (dozing off so you go to bed), and then finally a deeply relaxed and asleep state (sleeping). If the brain is not able to shift into this pattern easily or if there is an imbalance that causes interference in the shifting process, sleep will be affected. For example, if I’m in an alert awake state at work or a high arousal state (stressful job) and my brain is unable to shift into calm down or sleepy, then I am going to have trouble falling asleep. I might say “I can’t turn my brain off”. Every individual has a different scenario, or interference, that causes problems with falling asleep, staying asleep or feeling restful upon waking.
How can Neurofeedback improve sleep?
Neurofeedback has the ability to positively impact sleep because it works on the areas of the brain that allow and regulate sleep. With Neurofeedback we are able to train the brain by rewarding the brain for creating healthier patterns. Sleep is usually one of the first areas that are affected when doing Neurofeedback, so we are able to see those changes rather quickly (in most cases). Brain training as well as making some sleep “hygiene” changes can help improve overall sleep.