Insomnia is a sleep disorder, and it can have severe adverse side effects as a result of sleep deprivation. While it is true that a patient can experience sudden bouts of insomnia, many people who present with the condition have suffered for years. The consistent suffering of sleep loss can also lead to anxiety attacks, which only stand to worsen the disease, as patients place themselves in a panicked state worrying about whether they will sleep. While some medications do exist for treating such conditions, brainwave or biofeedback treatments are less volatile and produce healthy habits. Therefore, for long term insomnia sufferers with no apparent precipitating stressors, neurofeedback training can be an effective treatment to reduce the effects of insomnia and hopefully increase the quality and amount of sleep for the patient.
Considering Environmental Factors
Before diving into biofeedback therapy, a psychotherapist will meet with a patient to discuss their insomnia and their home environment and habits. While training the brain is possible, it is crucial to ensure that every aspect of a person's nighttime routine is conducive to a productive and relaxed sleep. Therefore, a doctor will typically ask about lighting and noise conditions, drinking habits and any other habits or experiences that might inhibit sleep. The goal is to help the patient design a sleep environment that is calming, balanced and without unnecessary distraction. Once a plan is in place, then the therapist will begin educating the patient on neurofeedback training and how it is implemented, practiced and mastered for self-regulation.
Initial Neurofeedback Session
During the initial session, the therapist informs the patient about the procedure, explaining the concept of electrical brain activity and determining appropriate Theta brainwaves to induce a relaxed state, activating sleep. Once the patient has received a general overview of the process and understands the fundamentals of the different brain waves and brain activity, the therapist will discuss the EEG and other necessary tools.
To effectively measure the brainwaves of the patient, a therapist will use an EEG machine. This machine measures the appropriate brainwave activity through the use of multiple electrodes or sensors. These sensors can be broken down into two categories: (1) reference sensors and (2) an active sensor. The reference sensors are placed on the earlobe and the back of the neck at C-7. The active sensor is placed on the surface of the scalp to record the EEG activity.
Also, during the initial session, the patient will be connected to the EEG and told to close their eyes and relax. They will listen for computer tones, which signify that the patient has surpassed the preset Theta brainwave amplitude threshold. Theta brainwaves induce sleep. Therefore, by memorizing the sensation of meeting or exceeding the preset limit, the patient can begin to gain control over their sleep patterns at home.
Frequency of Visits
Depending on the severity of the condition, a therapist is likely to suggest twice per week sessions. While this frequency might not be necessary for every patient, initially, it is helpful to increase the rate of training to help produce quicker results. Once a patient is expressing better sleep at home, then the number of visits per week can diminish. As a patient masters one tonal Theta threshold, then the amplitude is increased. Over time, the patient will establish mastery of the practice and be able to self-regulate on their own.
Neurofeedback is not only a useful tool for the treatment of insomnia but many other psychophysiological conditions as well. The success is found in the rapid learning and conditioning of brainwave activity for desired effects, which allow patients to self-regulate treatment and leave them feeling in control and empowered.