Neurofeedback has always been said to be effective in treating insomnia and a good deal of people have reported rewarding results with it.
However, there have been mixed results with this technique among the people who have used it when dealing with the condition.
We take a deep look at how effective neurofeeedback for insomnia is and what researchers say about it.
What The Insomnia Condition is Like
Some people are troubled by sleep for a couple of days, others for a few weeks, and for others, it is daily suffering that has been going on for years
Estimations done by the National Institutes of Health come to about 10% of the general population who find it difficult to perform at their best during the day due to the condition. And about 30% who say they are normally affected by the disruption of sleep (1)
Some of the common symptoms associated with insomnia include waking up early and having a really difficult time falling asleep again, struggling to sleep when it is time to, waking up feeling all worn out and exhausted instead of feeling fresh and relaxed, and lastly, having lots of waking moments during the night.
The 2 main symptoms many have reported about are waking up feeling tense, exhausted, and refreshed as well as waking up many times at night.
When there is a lot of activity that is happening in the brain, it remains aroused thus keeping you awake for long instead of falling asleep.
One of the methods that have shown great potential in dealing with insomnia is neurofeedback that aims to help you regulate the activity of the brain and brain waves so that it is possible for you to fall asleep quicker and remain asleep throughout the night.
Neurofeedback is a form of brain training that provides you with a real-time view of your brain wave activity on a screen and helps you master ways to alter the brain wave activity in your brain so that you are able to function much better and overcome various health issues including insomnia.
Types of Neurofeedback For Insomnia
As earlier mentioned, neurofeedback takes advantage of the brainwave activity of the brain.
Just like brainwave entrainment, it uses the brain wave patterns created in the brain for different states to help you alter your brain waves to get into the state of mind you desire, in this case, sleep.
A typical neurofeedback session involves helping you see your brain wave patterns on a screen as they are in your brain at that particular moment and get you to alter them, and the change happens in real-time as you do it.
Operant conditioning that uses rewards and punishment to help you master a certain behavior is used to help you defeat the condition you have, but it is used in a fun and interactive way (2).
You get to watch movies, play video games, and work with music to help you as a way to shift your state of mind and brain wave patterns.
Our beginner’s guide on neurofeedback explains at length how this is done.
When dealing with insomnia, the technician will analyze your brain wave patterns and look out for abnormal patterns and aim to rectify the situation.
People with insomnia show brain wave patterns that indicate wakefulness and alertness and what neurofeedback does is to reduce these mental states by helping you change your brain wave patterns.
The 3 types of neurofeedback that are known for handling insomnia include:
* Frequency/power neurofeedback, which involves using 2 to 4 electrodes that get to change the amplitude or speed of specific brain waves in specifically targeted areas in the brain. Other than insomnia, this type of neurofeedback also helps with anxiety and ADHD.
* Live Z-score neurofeedback, which works with continuous calculations that makes comparisons of brain function variables like power, coherence, asymmetries, and phase-lag to a scientifically developed standard database.
* Low energy neurofeedback system (LENS), which involves conveying a tiny electromagnetic signal aimed at changing a patient’s brain waves when they are in a still position and when their eyes are closed. Apart from insomnia, LENS is also used for anger, depression, restless leg syndrome, ADHD, brain injury, anxiety, and fibromyalgia.
What Studies Say About Neurofeedback For Insomnia
The few studies on neurofeedback have revealed that it can be a good intervention for insomnia and other health conditions such as migraines, learning disabilities, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Parkinson’s disease, cognitive enhancement, addictions, improving musical performance and even boosting the performance of the working memory (5)(6)(7)(8)(9)(10)(11).
The researchers said that the improvement noted in the participants could have been due to other factors like care and empathy they received as well as experiencing trust during the study.
However, it is worth noting that this study was only limited to the sensorimotor-rhythm neurofeedback for insomnia and their sample was small.
So it doesn’t mean that neurofeedback in its entirety works due to the placebo effect.
This, therefore, calls for more research to assess neurofeedback and its various types on its ability to treat insomnia.
In essence, many of the research studies have shown that it could be a reliable and potentially effective technique for treating different health conditions.
If studied more, it would be possible for us to understand how exactly it works, the benefits, and how it can be enhanced to bring even better results.
However, at the moment, one of the reasons why it works is because of its perceived ability by the patient to improve the health condition they are having.
More studies and analysis may help us determine why this is the case and also allow us to discover more of its uses and mechanism of action.