Neurofeedback Treatment for Insomnia

Neuroscience and Neurofeedback applied to Insomnia


The usual psychological diagnoses differentiate people according to symptoms and behaviors, but until now the activity of their brain could not be known. Now we can see that people diagnosed with Insomnia or Sleep Disorders have a different brain activity, that is, that people with insomnia have a different brain function. Understanding brain activity is necessary to understand the workings behind your sleep problems.


Thanks to QEEG technology (Electroencephalography) we can know the brain activity, to make an electrophysiological diagnosis, which is the only neuronal indicator we have, and thus be more precise in the treatments, in addition, with Neurofeedback we get the person to train their patterns that leads you to have insomnia problems, so you can change those patterns and sleep well.


Neurofeedback is a brain training to know and change the activity of the brain, being able to regulate the patterns that do not allow us to sleep

  • QEEG (Electroencephalography): Obtain a mapping of the brain to evaluate its activity and make an evaluation of the functioning of the brain.

  • Neurofeedback : Get Neurofeedback training to change dysfunctional activity and get the brain to learn new, more optimal patterns.

  • Biofeedback : Learn mechanisms of emotional regulation through the information that the computer gives us about our physiological variables.

Treatment steps:

  1. Once an appointment is made with a neuroscience professional, in the first session the evaluation is carried out, which lasts 1.5 hours, with that we get a brain map to make a diagnosis of brain function.

  2. A report on brain mapping will be delivered and a Neurofeedback treatment will be established

  3. Every 10 sessions an evaluation is carried out in the area of ​​the brain that is being worked on.

  4. Every 20-30 sessions a complete evaluation is carried out.

What is Neurofeedback?

It is a technique that is based on operant conditioning, neuroscience and psychometry.

It consists of sensors that are placed on the scalp, which measure the activity of the brain and connected to a screen mark a prize when the person achieves the new patterns that we want to acquire.


In this way, the person learns to acquire these new patterns and changes in brain function, based on being reinforced by the computer. You could say that it is like a video game in which the controls are the brain.


With Neurofeedback, the brain learns to:


– Reduce the waves and patterns that deregulate us ,

– Increase the brain waves that regulate us and help us improve our psychological states.

In other words, the brain learns to function in an improved way, using the patterns and brain areas that will help in its regulation, producing changes that are maintained over time.


What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is defined as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, early awakening, and interrupted or non-restorative sleep. It occurs as an epidemic in different countries.

It was declared an epidemic in 2005 by the National Institute of Health and since then it has increased to alarming rates. About 20-30% of adults suffer from insomnia, which is associated with factors such as illness or accidents, among others (National Institutes of Health (NIH), 20005). , 2005). It also presents a high comorbidity with other psychological disorders.


The most used treatments are: pharmacological (sedatives and hypnotic drugs) and short-term therapies, both effective in the short term (3 to 6 months); upon cessation of these therapies, insomnia returns (NIH2005). It also presents a high comorbidity with other psychological disorders.


Insomnia and Brain

Insomnia is an arousal disorder, which would be hyperactivated (transient and brief state of alertness during night sleep or a state of vigilance maintained during the day).

The consequences of daytime hyperarousal would be difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep; while the state of nocturnal alertness would cause excessive sleepiness during the day due to the fragmentation of nocturnal sleep.


Other effects of insomnia on the brain would be:


  • Diurnal hyperactivity: excess of fast waves such as beta and gamma

  • Inability to relax: diminished slow waves such as alpha, theta and delta

  • Increased activity of the Sympathetic Nervous System (fight/flight reaction)

  • Increased cortisol hormone (Secreted in periods of stress)


These clues have been corroborated by EEG: Baseline EEG showed excessive sleepiness and hyperarousal in patients from a 2011 study (Hammer et al., 2011)

When sleeping, the spectrum of brain waves slows down, however, in insomnia this process cannot occur due to the excess of fast waves and lack of slow waves.


Insomnia and Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is postulated as a psychophysiological treatment with proven utility to treat this problem.


Neurofeedback decreases that excess of fast waves like beta, and trains the increase of slow waves. By achieving the regulation of these, the levels of impulsiveness and hyperactivity, anxiety and stress decrease, and finally, as a result of these, there is an improvement in the quantity and quality of sleep.


Neurofeedback helps train the brain to regulate brain activity and decrease the neural networks that lead us to have sleep problems.


Evidence of Neurofeedback in Insomnia

The function of sleep remains unclear, although there are various hypotheses, the primary function of sleep would be to decrease the activity of the synapses of neurons, towards a more sustainable state of activity that would be beneficial to consolidate learning and memory ( Tononi & Cirelli, 2006).


Sleep phase II is characterized by a predominance of waves belonging to the sensorimotor band (SMR, 12-15 Hz); normal sleep requires this stage before moving on to a deeper, more restorative state of sleep.


An extremely high fast beta wave amplitude is seen in patients with insomnia, making such a transition difficult.


Therefore, the SMR training protocol has been shown to be effective in the treatment of insomnia (Hauri et al., 1981; 1982)


In 2010 a study demonstrated the effectiveness of SMR (sensorimotor band) in improving sleep quality (Cortoos 2010)


In 2011, a study with patients between 18 and 65 years of age carried out 15 sessions of Neurofeedback in the SMR protocol with the aim of normalizing delta, theta, alpha and beta wave amplitudes, increasing SMR, and inhibiting excess theta (drowsiness) and beta (hyperactivity).


All participants achieved target or near target normal sleep; in addition to other improvements such as: mood, psychological and day-to-day functioning, quality of life. The response to treatment was maintained between 6 and 9 months, in more than half of the subjects, including those with insomnia resistant to previous treatments (Hammer et al., 2011).


Medication, psychological therapy or Neurofeedback?

The brain moves electrical and chemical information, and the two domains depend on each other.


The medication helps the brain produce some of the chemicals that help with the diagnosis of Insomnia and can be beneficial in many cases.


However, the objective of Neurofeedback is to train the brain in the long term, which helps to organize the functioning of the brain, so that the neural circuits that are not working optimally can function better.


Neuroscience has seen that the brain has plasticity, and that experience helps organize the interconnections of neural networks, if we repeat that experience a lot, then the brain self-organizes, Neurofeedback has shown that its training is effective in that organization , is the tool that helps in regulation.


Neurofeedback is a training, not a psychological therapy to use.

Psychological therapy aims to help on another level, which consists of:


  • understand what has happened to us in our lives, what it has to do with our symptoms and why,

  • understand the functional analysis of behavior to learn how to manage situations, and help the patient's environment if necessary.

  • have techniques and strategies to improve with the management of emotions and thoughts

  • understand from our own experience the thoughts and emotions that make us feel this way and learn to manage them.

  • will give us the tools to face the situations and decisions of life.

  • insomnia can come from situations in which we had an intense emotional fear, which was recorded, what we normally call trauma, psychotherapy is necessary to work on that part.

Learn more about how Pendulum uses Neurofeedback to help chronic insomnia and increase brain actvity for optimal performance.


59 views0 comments