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Natural Awakenings Boston

A Cure for Insomnia: Neurofeedback Reduces Symptoms of Sleeplessness

By Jolene Ross

A person has insomnia if they are having problems with sleep. Unfortunately, this is the case for many people in the United States today. Insomnia is an inability to fall and/or stay asleep at night, which prevents a person from getting the quality sleep they need to function well during the day. A person with insomnia does not feel refreshed after waking up in the morning. Insomnia is all about how a person feels. Getting quality sleep is what is most important despite how much sleep a person gets. 

Additional symptoms a person may notice include fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating and not feeling alert. Napping after noon may reset circadian rhythms, which means getting back to sleep at night may prove difficult. This is a problem for those with insomnia, as taking a nap is so tempting to try to relieve feelings of fatigue. Other mental health conditions have been linked to insomnia including depression, anxiety, fatigue, bipolar disorder and poor attention. 

Types of Insomnia

There are several different types of insomnia. Chronic insomnia is a long-term pattern of not sleeping. To be diagnosed with chronic insomnia, a person must have trouble falling and/or staying asleep for at least three nights a week for at least three months or longer. Comorbid insomnia refers to insomnia that is associated with another health condition. This can include mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. Onset insomnia is when you have difficulty falling asleep at night. Maintenance insomnia is the inability to stay asleep during the night, causing the person to wake up during the night and not be able to get back to sleep. 

The irregularity of the brainwave called theta can be a cause of insomnia. Increasing the size of these brain waves can improve sleep. Increasing theta can also reduce symptoms of anxiety, PTSD, trauma and other challenges. 

Neurofeedback Improves Brain Function

The better a person sleeps, the better they function. Neurofeedback is the process of improving brain function and can effectively reduce symptoms of insomnia. First, a QEEG, also called a Quantitative Electroencephalogram, is taken of the person’s brain waves, to establish where their brain is having trouble functioning. This can be done while they are awake because these brain waves are visible when they are awake as well as when they are asleep. 

Once the initial assessment is performed, neurofeedback protocol is created to specifically target their problem brain waves for improvement. After neurofeedback, people have reported that they sleep better, wake up feeling refreshed, are able to sustain their attention throughout the day, and they have increased cognitive capacity. Neurofeedback is safe for all ages and does not have any accompanying negative side effects. 

Establish a Sleep Schedule

Establishing a regular sleep schedule is key to improving sleep. This means going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every day. Tracking behavior almost always results in positive changes in that behavior, so try utilizing a sleep diary to track sleep behaviors. Take a hot shower or bath two hours before going to sleep. The process of meditating can lower stress levels, which may improve sleep. Reading a book instead of staring at a cell phone will help as well. Studies have shown that blue light from screens dissipate melatonin in the brain, and without enough melatonin, a person will have difficulty sleeping. Do not eat meals with high sugar content or drink anything highly caffeinated too close to bedtime. Be sure to get regular exercise, although getting exercise too close to bedtime can also contribute to insomnia, therefore morning exercise is recommended. 

Getting better sleep will improve performance in work, school and/or athletics. As always, mental health is physical. 

Dr. Jolene Ross is a licensed psychologist and is an EEG-Certified Senior Fellow of the Biofeedback Certification International Association. She is a neurobehavioral psychologist with extensive experience in neurobiofeedback treatment, cognitive and behavioral therapy, and behavioral medicine. For more information, visit