Sleep Disturbance & Insomnia
Quality sleep is an indispensable requirement for a healthy mind and body. Without a full night's sleep each and every night, the body is unable to undergo essential repair mechanisms in order to recover from the physiological and psychological stresses of the day. Sleep deprivation takes an enormous toll on the body, wreaking havoc with energy levels, concentration, and emotional regulation. When we start to rely on caffeine and other stimulants to get us through the day, this effect is only compounded.
Sleep deprivation is linked to every single chronic disease including Alzheimer's, diabetes, and cancer, as well as every psychological disturbance such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and ADHD, to name a few. In order to live your optimal life, where calmness and joy are possible, where you can easily recall and process information, solve problems, and creatively express yourself, restorative sleep is irreplaceable.
In order for your body to be able to undergo its natural sleep/wake cycle, your brain needs to be entrained to the correct circadian rhythms of the Earth. We each have an internal biological clock that helps to prepare our physiology for the fluctuations of the day, regulating such things as gene expression and hormone release. This regular adaptation is referred to as the circadian rhythm, originating from the Latin words circa meaning “around” and dies meaning “day”. Up until recently, how our internal circadian biological clock worked remained a mystery.
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young "for their discovery of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm." Through their research we have gleaned an even deeper understanding of so called CLOCK genes and the proteins they express, which in turn regulate our sleep/wake cycles. Learn more about this exciting research here.
The circadian clock anticipates and adapts our physiology to the different phases of the day. Our biological clock helps to regulate sleep patterns, feeding behavior, hormone release, blood pressure, and body temperature.
There is a complex array of neurophysiological processes involved in sleep. These include properly timed sleep cycles (which are depended upon proper exposure to light/dark cycles), healthy arousal levels, optimal and appropriately timed nutrition and hydration, and emotional regulation. Ideally, our sleep patterns would be such that at least 50% of our brain cells relax simultaneously, such that large neural networks all fire at the same slow rate in the deeper phases of sleep.
We use neurofeedback to calm down jittery brainwave activity while you are awake. The biofeedback process allows the brain to rid itself of excess activity easily and effortlessly - your brain actually learns to relax. Metabolic energy being used by the brain unnecessarily (often leading to anxiety) is redirected towards operating in way that enhances your life rather than diminishing it. With less mental turbulence sleep comes more quickly and easily, and can be maintained until you choose to wake. Once the brain is trained into this new neural pattern, the change can be permanent and the need for stimulant and/or sleep medication eliminated.
At The Brain Training Centre, we can help entrain your brain to its proper circadian rhythms by helping to regulate arousal of the central nervous system, thereby enabling the restorative sleep you need.
Neurofeedback for Sleep Regulation
At least 40 million Americans each year suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleep problems. Neurofeedback is a powerful tool for regulating sleep. Health professionals around the world report significant improvement in a large percentage of their clients using neurofeedback to treat chronic, long term sleep problems.
What Common Sleep Issues Can Improve With Neurofeedback?
1. Insomnia – Difficulty falling asleep; difficulty maintaining sleep during the night
2. Difficulty waking from sleep
3. Difficulty getting to bed
4. Not feeling rested after sleep
5. Sleeping too long (over 10 hours)
6. Physically restless sleep
8. Bedwetting (Nocturnal enuresis)
10. Restless leg syndrome – Leg discomfort or sleep causing movement & arousal
11. Bruxism – teeth grinding during sleep
12. Sleep terrors – Abrupt arousal with intense fear, difficult to awaken, no dream recall or memory of event
14. Dysregulated sleep patterns/cycles (circadian rhythms)
Neurofeedback training often helps these problems as it improves brain regulation. These are common reports: A 75 year-old reported recently that she “slept like a baby for the first time in 25 years” after neurofeedback training. Parents of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often say it’s easier to get their kids to sleep. Depressed clients remark they have a much easier time getting going in the morning.
The Role of the Brain in Sleep
The brain regulates sleep. Neuroscience has established the role of neuromodulator systems in the brainstem that play a role in maintaining awake states and, conversely, help the brain sleep. The EEG (brainwaves) clearly reflects changes in sleep stages.Training brainwaves using neurofeedback to decrease or increase slow brainwave activity, or to increase specific EEG activation patterns appears to help the brain normalize sleep. Based on reports from a large number of licensed health professionals the evidence shows that training the EEG impacts sleep regulatory mechanisms and people sleep better.
Since sleep is complex and involves many systems, it is not possible to suggest that sleep problems always improve as a result of neurofeedback. But clinicians say that they routinely expect changes to occur in sleep patterns after appropriate training for a large percentage of their patients. As with any program, a complete sleep assessment is helpful. Sleep hygiene issues (including caffeine, alcohol and other behavioral factors) and other potential contributory factors such as possible sleep apnea also need to be carefully reviewed and corrected in combination with neurofeedback training.
What Research Exists?
Sleep is a good example of the research challenge of neurofeedback. There are good neurofeedback studies in ADHD, epilepsy and addiction. The fact that no significant studies exist on sleep and neurofeedback is remarkable. In virtually every study related to neurofeedback outcomes, changes to sleep are noted, but not always highlighted or even reported.
Sleep researchers are primarily unaware of neurofeedback and its implications for insomnia and other sleep disorders. Hopefully, cross-fertilization between clinically-oriented therapists and sleep researchers can occur. As in many academic areas, this kind of cross fertilization can take significant time and funding. Because of the vast amount of literature about brain regulation, sleep and the EEG, there is a solid basis for using neurofeedback with sleep problems. Hundreds of experienced licensed professionals have used this modality successfully to improve sleep for over 25 years.
General Information on Sleep Issues:
About the Author: Michael Cohen is Director of Education for Center for Brain Training in Florida. He has taught courses in EEG biofeedback to professionals around the world for the last eight years, including courses for psychiatrists at the annual American Psychiatric Conference.
All articles, documents and publications mentioned by or linked by this site or hosted at this site have been provided by The International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) as a public service. There is absolutely no endorsement by ISNR of any statement made in any of these documents, articles, or publications. Expect to see differences of opinion between authors. That is the essence of free and open scientific study.
Blue Light Hazard & Circadian Biology
What Exactly is Blue Light?
All light is simply a form of energy, and contains both an electric ﬁeld and a magnetic ﬁeld. Thus, all light is what is known as electromagnetic radiation or electromagnetic ﬁelds (EMF). Electromagnetism is one of the fundamental forces of nature, and the electromagnetic force is carried by the photon.
Photons, which come from the sun, carry electromagnetic energy to earth in the form of light, where living organisms make use of it in speciﬁc ways unique to their biology. Plants, for instance, use sunlight to make sugar and oxygen during photosynthesis. Humans also make use of the sun’s electromagnetic radiation for our own biological processes. Indeed, all living creatures require this form of energy in order to maintain health and survive. It is thus critical that we understand our body’s unique light requirements if we are to maintain optimal health.
The electromagnetic spectrum encompasses a broad range of frequencies, all of which are carried from the sun (and other sources in the universe) to the earth by photons. The EM spectrum consists of energy in the form of to x-rays, visible light, radio waves and microwaves, to name a few. The energy signal of the station that your radio tunes into when it plays music (e.g., Mix 94.5 means 94.5 MHz) is actually a light signal, we just can’t see this form of energy because our eyes don’t have photoreceptors for that part of the spectrum. The only part of the spectrum humans can see is called the visible spectrum. This is what we normally think of as light. It contains all the colours of the rainbow. Some animals have photoreceptors for other parts of the EM spectrum. For instance, birds can see colours in the ultraviolet range - their plumage is much more colourful and vivid than we humans can perceive!
The Visible Spectrum is made up of diﬀerent ‘colours’ of light. Each colour is simply a diﬀerent wavelength of the electromagnetic (or ‘energy’ wave). For instance, red light is around 700nm, while blue light is around 450nm. Thus the colour of light we see is determined by the wavelength of that light. The diﬀerent wavelengths of light are detected by photoreceptors in the body, and based upon the speciﬁc wavelength of the light signal these receptors detect, they will then relay speciﬁc signals to other parts of the body to undergo speciﬁc processes such as gene expression.
The Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) is your body’s master clock. It is a small region of the brain situated in the hypothalamus, just above the optic chiasm, where the optic nerves from each eye intersect. Diﬀerent frequencies of light (natural ones from the sun and artiﬁcial ones from various light sources) are photonic signals. When these light signals hit the retina of your eyes they get turned into electrical signals, which are then relayed to the SCN via the retinal-hypothalamic tract. The SCN, your brain clock, interprets the light signal according to its frequency and wavelength to determine what time of the day or night it is. Your body has diﬀerent biological processes which need to be maintained in accordance with the circadian rhythms of the earth. For instance, we are diurnal so sleep when it is dark and are awake during the day. Once the SCN has interpreted the light signal it then relays this information forward to hormone producing glands in the brain such as the pituitary gland and the pineal gland.
In order for your body to functional optimally you need to maintain proper light and dark exposure, in line with the earth’s circadian rhythms.
Melatonin, the hormone of sleep, is produced in the pineal gland in the morning. When your eyes are exposed to AM sunlight containing the correct photon signal (a combination of UVA (ultraviolet-A: 315-400nm) and IR (Infrared: 700-1000nm) light), this information is transmitted along the retainal-hypothalamic tract to the SCN. This part of the hypothalamus then sends its own instructions to the pineal gland to upregulate the production of melatonin.
Melatonin is produced in the morning but is only activated at night when it is dark. Following approximately 4 hours of darkness the brain receives the signal to activate melatonin, which then facilitates sleep. In terms of light frequencies, darkness means the absence of blue and green light (400-550nm). When your environment contains these light frequencies the activation of melatonin will be inhibited and you will experience delayed sleep onset. Television screes, laptops, phones, ipads, and LED lights all emit strong blue-light signals and are thus signiﬁcant circadian disruptors.
If you experience diﬃculty with sleep onset or sleep maintenance, this is a sign that your circadian rhythms are disrupted. If you are not getting your eyes exposed to morning sunlight (for instance because you are spending too much time inside or you are wearing sunglasses when you are outside) then your body will not be able to produce melatonin. Alternatively, if you are using artiﬁcial lights at night and are utilising blue-lit technology, you will not be able to activate melatonin adequately. Thankfully, there are ways to ﬁlter the disruptive blue/green signals from your devices so that you can still enjoy technology of an evening. It is essential to install blue-blocking ﬁlters on all such devices if you are to maintain proper health. Light is in fact one of the most important aspect of your body’s nutritional requirements!
Fashion Statement or Safety Gear?
Blue blocking glasses are becoming more and more popular, but blue blockers are more than just a fashion trend. With the increased prevalence of digital screens and LEDs in our lives, it is essential that we take precautions when using this technology, in order to protect our eyes and brains from the damaging frequencies. This is especially important for children, who often spend many hours online or gaming. Without a filter, staring at your computer screen is the equivalent of staring at the midday sun! If you don't like wearing glasses you can also use a filter on your device. There is free and paid for software available online to download. We like IRIS.
You can purchase day-time glasses and night-time glasses to protect your eyes from digital screens and artificial lights. The Brain Training Centre is an affiliate of the Australian company BluBlox. We recommend their products as they are the only glasses on the market which block 100% of light in the 400nm-500nm range.
Day time glasses are not intended to block the entire blue spectrum, only those parts of the spectrum that computer screens, LED and ﬂuorescent lighting are rich in. This protects your eyes when indoors and thus prevents downstream hormonal disruption. Daytime blue blockers are not as orange, they’re slightly yellow or clear. If you work with a lot of computers and TV screens, and need to wear spectacles, you can get prescription lenses with built in blue ﬁlters. For late-afternoons and early evenings, go with standard blue-blockers, with an orange tint.
Night-time blue blockers are intended to cut out entire blue and green portion of the visible spectrum. These glasses should be dark orange, but even better if red. Blue-green light needs to be blocked at night in order to maintain healthy circadian rhythms, so you want your glasses to block 400-550nm wavelengths. Not all blue-blockers block this entire range. The darker red the glasses, the better they are at blocking these wavelengths.
You can also adjust your phone settings to filter out the blue light. This is not the Night Mode option but the Colour Filter option. On the iPhone, this can be found under Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Colour Filters. Turn on Colour Tint, and slide the intensity and hue to the highest option you can tolerate. You can also add a shortcut to quickly turn this filter on and off if need be (such as when outside under intense sunlight). To Add a shortcut, scroll to the bottom of the Accessibility page and tap Accessibility Shortcut. Select Colour Filter. We also recommend using the Reduce White Point option at night too. You will see this under the Colour Filter option in shortcuts.
Blue Light Toxicity
We do actually need blue light in our environment, but the timing of our exposure to it is critical. Blue light from the morning sun stimulates the release of cortisol, and this is what naturally wakes you up. Your cortisol should normally be highest in the AM. Blue light from the rising sun hits the retina which relays a unique electrical the signal to the SCN in the brain. The SCN then signals the anterior pituitary to release Adrenocorticotropin Hormone (ACTH), which in turn signals the adrenals to release cortisol. This is how light inﬂuences your health, including your. Cortisol is a stress hormone, it raises your blood sugar and keeps your body in a state of sympathetic nervous arousal. This is why excessive use of computers and the like can make you feel irritable and jittery, and then eventually drained and fatigued.
The natural production of cortisol only ceases when UVA light (which shows up shortly after sunrise) hits the retina and the message to stop cortisol production is received by the brain. Your body will continue to produce cortisol if you have little-no UVA exposure because you’re inside all day under artiﬁcial lights which contain no UV, and the windows in your home/oﬃces/car all ﬁlter UV, as do your spectacles and sunglasses, clothes and sunscreen. This means cortisol is being produced in excess.
Low Sex Drive? Light and Hormone Production
The structural backbone of many hormones is a molecule called pregnenolone, which comes from cholesterol. Pregnenolone makes cortisol as well as DHEA (dehydroepiandosterone). DHEA produces sex hormones like oestrogen and testosterone. When cortisol is produced in excess, as it is when you have is chronic blue light exposure, pregnenolone is used to prferentially produce cortisol at the expense of DHEA. Cortisol is a driver of the sympathetic response necessary for ﬁght/ﬂight. One function of cortisol is to increase blood glucose (sugar) levels to give a massive boost of energy during an emergency (ﬁght/ﬂight). Thus, when signalled, the production of cortisol always takes precedence over the production of sex hormones, since the body favours short-term survival over long-term reproduction. This means excessive blue light can actually raise your blood sugar levels to pre- and even diabetic levels, despite consuming little or no sugar in your diet! This excess cortisol results in chronically elevated blood glucose, which in turn leads to insulin-resistance, which then causes inﬂammation and diseases like arthritis and diabetes! Excess cortisol will also result in lowering your sex hormones, due to pregnenalone steal.
This affects both men and women, causing a range of health issues.
Cortisol and melatonin work in opposition. To put it simply, one wakes you up while the other puts you to sleep (though there are many other more nuanced functions too). When your eyes and skin are exposed to blue light at night, this exposure prevents the activation of melatonin. Melatonin requires 4 hours of constant dark in order to be stimulated (it doesn’t have to be pitch black, simply lacking the blue and green portions of the spectrum. Red and orange won’t interfere with melatonin so candle light or red lights at night are good). If melatonin isn’t being released at night, your circadian rhythms will be misaligned and your sleep quality and quantity will suﬀer as a result. Essential repair process occur during sleep. One key process is AUTOPHAGY (from the Greek ‘self’ ‘eating’) which is the body’s way of recycling damaged cells. Another other key process is APOPTOSIS (the second p is silent) - this is commonly called ‘cell suicide’, or ‘programmed cell death’. Apoptosis is essential for the body to get rid of cells that are damaged beyond repair. When cells continue to proliferate when they shouldn’t this leads to diseases like cancer. Your mitochondria mediate the balance between autophagy and apoptosis, based on the light signals it gets through your eyes and skin.
Why skin? Your eyes detect diﬀerent light frequencies/wavelengths via photoreceptors. But your skin also contains photoreceptors. This is why it’s not only imperative to protect your eyes from blue light at night by wearing blue blockers, but it’s also essential that you cover your skin to prevent the photoreceptors in your skin from likrewise receiving disruptive signals. There are also photoreceptors INSIDE YOUR BODY, in the gut and subcutaneous fat. This means that eating after sunset will also disrupt your circadian rhythms in a similar way that looking at a computer screen will.
How? Plant sugars and starches and produced via photosynthesis - the light frequencies the plant was grown under is information that becomes embedded in its chemical/ physical makeup. Any animal that eats a plant is consuming this ‘light barcode’ (information about where and when on the planet the plant was grown). Animals eat these plants, and then we eat these animals. When humans eat food (plants or animals) we are essentially eating sunlight, since ALL FOOD BREAKS DOWN TO PROTONS AND ELECTRONS. These protons and electrons from our food contain the information that originally came from the photons (sunlight) which grew the plant in the ﬁrst place (photosynthesis = synthesis from photons!). The information is carried in the spin of these electrons, and the spin is determined by the photon.
Eating at night is fundamentally the same as exposing yourself to light when you should be in the dark. Eating at night will disrupt your sleep cycle and mess up your autophagy/ apoptosis balance and eventuate in a disease state - this ranges from low mood and irritability, tiredness, to full blown Parkinson’s and cancer. Yes.
The photoelectric eﬀect is how sunlight (‘photo’) becomes the DC current (‘electric’) in your body. But rather than the current coming from a metal, it comes from DHA. (This requires DHA ﬁsh oil to be in your cell membranes. The DHA is basically the pool of electrons which can be programmed by the sun). So as your body produces its DC current, how that current is used in the body (i.e., where electrons will go - which means which hormones, neurotransmitters will be produced etc) is governed by the photons that originally generated it. Health is all about LIGHT! Your brain is ultimately powered by sunlight.
HOW CAN ARTIFICIAL BLUE LIGHT INDUCE DIABETES?
Type II Diabetes is a state of advanced insulin resistance. The same process is also involved in Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, AD is now being referred to as Type III Diabetes.
Insulin is a hormone, produced in the pancreas, which is responsible for taking sugar out of the blood. More than 5g of sugar in the bloodstream is a toxic level. When blood sugars are constantly in excess, the pancreas works overtime producing insulin in order to keep blood sugars at a safe level. Eventually the pancreas gets worn out, and the insulin receptors become insensitive to insulin as well. Basically the whole system gets worn out, and you become INSULIN RESISTANT. Your body is no longer able to produce enough insulin to keep blood sugars down, and the little insulin that it does produce is no longer eﬀective because your cells are no longer sensitive to their signal. The result is type II diabetes.
CORTISOL is also a hormone. It has the opposite eﬀect of insulin, in that it increases your blood sugars. Cortisol is known as the STRESS HORMONE. When you’re in a stressful situation your body ﬂoods its circulation with glucose (sugar), which acts as rocket fuel to give you the energy you need to survive. Sugar is rocket fuel for the body. But again, too much of this sugar fuel for too long will wear out the insulin-sensitivity of cells, as well as the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. Anything that raises your cortisol will also raise your blood sugars and perpetuate the diabetic state, including emotional stress, mechanical stress like exercise, other physical stress like toxic chemicals, and nnEMF stress.
Some level of stress is essential for growth - this is called eustress. But any of these sources of stress in excess will elevate cortisol to the level where is starts to negatively impact upon the health of the body, resulting in inﬂammation and disease.
To Optimise Your Health and Get a Good Night's Sleep:
CUT OUT ALL SOURCES OF SUGAR, STRESS AND EXCESS CORTISOL
Sugar, Pasteurised Dairy, Fruit Juice, Soda
Wheat, grains, cereals
Alcohol and drugs
Processed foods & GMOs
Vegetable oil, canola oil
Artiﬁcial lighting at night
Blue light devices (unless filtering light)
Emotional Stress, worrying, etc
Exhaustive physical stress
INCREASE ANYTHING THAT WILL HELP YOU RELAX AND DECREASE CORTISOL:
Healthy water (non-fluoridated) - structured, energised, low deuterium is ideal
Block artiﬁcial light blue with IRIS software and BLUE BLOCKERS
Time in Nature
Healthy food, especially seafood.
High quality minerals (e.g., Quinton, Celtic Sea Salt)
Good quality sleep in total darkness
Social connections - time spent with family and friends
Meditation, mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, etc
Unstructured play (yes even grown ups need to have fun)
Hobbies and creative endeavours