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Treatment of insomnia using neurofeedback

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Sleep disorders are a form of discomfort that affects hundreds of thousands of people, but fortunately, 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.

  • Related article: "Neurofeedback: what is this therapeutic tool and how is it used?"

Brain waves and neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is a procedure through which nerve activity on the patient's brain surface is measured and given this information in real time. This is achieved only by applying senseors on the head, without the need for surgery or painful procedures.

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

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

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How is insomnia treated through neurofeedback?

Scientific research has shown for decades that at least various waves of nerve activity can be fostered through operant conditioning, that is, they are likely to be controlled by the person through an incentive system.

In the same way that in psychotherapy measures are established to reinforce the appearance of certain behaviors and weaken the appearance of others, neurofeedback helps to do the same by facilitating certain activation patterns to appear neuronal. In this case, those that predispose the person to fall asleep and put an end to the problem of insomnia.

How is this achieved? As we have seen, neurofeedback makes the person aware of aspects of their neuropsychological processes that normally they would go unnoticed, and from there, he makes him able to reinforce those that serve his interests. In other words, it makes it easier for you to take control of some phenomena that take place in his body and that until then were semi-conscious, beyond his control voluntary.

As you learn the way in which certain ways of thinking, feeling and regulating what happens in The body generates changes in these processes, it also learns ways to modify these at its convenience. last.

Now, let's take a closer look at how neurofeedback helps you sleep.

The importance of alpha and theta waves

In conciliation of sleep, there are two types of brain waves that are especially important: alpha waves and theta waves.

Alpha waves are those that indicate a relaxed state of consciousness in the person whose cerebral cortex begins to emit them. They are typical of the moments in which we daydream, they usually appear just before we begin to doze: under their effect, we are awake, but at the same time we focus our attention on the imaginative processes and the recall of memories, or simply, we do not think about anything concrete.

On the other hand, theta waves are those that appear when we begin to sleep. With them, we disconnect almost completely from what is happening around us, but the level of activation is intense enough so that if we wake up in this phase we believe that we have not started to sleep, we simply do not remember well what has happened. happened.

Thus, when applying neurofeedback to treat insomnia, the main objective is help the person induce a transition from alpha waves to theta waves. To achieve this, the patient carries out different implicit learning, that is, that they depend more on practice and experimentation for yourself than on purely following instructions theoretical.

For example, it is known that the appearance of alpha waves is facilitated when the person's gaze does not focus on any specific element of the visual field, so that everything is "blurred"; These kinds of experiences contribute to entering a relaxed and meditative state of consciousness, similar to that which also takes place during clinical hypnosis sessions. With neurofeedback, patients learn the practice of this class of phenomena, instead of remaining in a theory that in the case of those who develop sleep disorders is insufficient.

  • You may be interested: "Types of brain waves: Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma"

Bibliographic references:

  • Carrobles, J.A. (2016). Bio / neurofeedback. Clinic and Health, 27 (3): pp. 125 - 131.
  • deCharms R.C.; Maeda, F.; Glover, G.H., et al. (2005). Control over brain activation and pain learned by using 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 connection between health, happiness, and a good night's sleep. New York: Random House.
  • Kamiya, J. (1969). Operant control of the EEG alpha rhythm. In C. Tart (Ed.), Altered states of consciousness. New York: Wiley.
  • Basmajian, J.V. (1989). Biofeedback: Principles and practice for clinicians. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.
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