Have You Ever Been So Tired You Can't Sleep?

Truck driver Joe Diemand (76) feels that way all the time. Working long and late hours like Joe or working the night shift have even been called carcinogenic by the World Health Organization. U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends at least 7 hours of sleep a night and reports show that more than 80 million Americans are sleep deprived. Just look at the spike in fatal car accidents and heart attacks (increases 24%) the Monday after day light saving time!

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We have an internal molecular clock that is set to mirror and stay in sync with the sun. Because of technology and brain imaging, these three Nobel Prize (2017) winning scientists discovered this so called circadian cycle and it is now known that disruption to this cycle can lead to things like diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. 

Disruption to this sleep cycle is due to our eyes and their exposure to certain light at certain times. I can't help but feel guilty as I stare at my computer screen late at night while reading about the negative affects of reawakening my wake cycle through exposure to this type of light. According to the most recent National Geographic, Michael Finkel states light at night inhibits the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our daily biological rhythms.

Insomnia is the main reason 4% U.S. adults take sleeping pills each month. But there is research to show that people who generally take longer to fall asleep, wake up for prolonged periods during the night, or both do not need medicine. Neurofeedback has been shown to improve sleep . 

The engine of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, is the first to begin to deteriorate when we do not get enough sleep. Finkel reminds us that this is the home for our decision-making power and problem solving abilities. It's no wonder why we are cranky when we are tired. Chiara Cirelli (a neuroscientist at the Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness) tells us, “Every cognitive function to some extent seems to be affected by sleep loss.” So, what better way to improve symptoms of sleepiness than by training your brain with Nuerofeedback which directly  addresses symptoms for each individual client by focusing on certain parts of the brain that need strengthening. Using certain electrode site placement on the head and frequency levels, people report improvements in falling asleep, staying asleep and quality of sleep after the recommended 20 sessions of Neurofeedback.  These sessions in turn improve a healthy lifestyle as lack of sleep can induce overproduction of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and can lead to obesity. Even those who get 6 or less hours of sleep per night are at higher risk for depression, psychosis, and stroke. Neurofeedback has not only been reported to help with sleeplessness but also these exact diagnoses. 

A common symptom of ADHD is daytime sleepiness (Timimi & Leo, 2009). This symptom served as a predictor for homework problems and academic impairment in adolescents with ADHD (Langberg, Dvorsky, Marshall, & Evans, 2013). Those with Autism have also having difficulty falling asleep and experience disturbed sleep once they do. ASD has also been linked to anxiety and depression. Neurofeedback addresses any dysregulated state of the brain and research has shown it improves many symptoms of these disorders. 

In this case, if you snooze, you don't lose! Biofeedback is now a "Level 1 - Best Support" for Attention and Hyperactivity behaviors or ADD/ADHD interventions based on The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Other treatments such as Behavioral Therapy and medications are considered "Level 1- Best Support" treatments as well. Based on the dysregulation model, neurofeedback addresses common symptoms of ADHD like inattentiveness and impulsiveness by "brain training" and helping to regulate brain activity. Not only can neurofeedback address behavioral, academic and emotional symptoms, it can help regulate our sleep to allow for the full potential of " playtime of the brain" (Finkel, 2018). Sleep Help guides and tips are a great place to start, and if you'd like more information on how neurofeedback can improve quality of sleep, contact us today. 

~ Written by Hannah Berry, M.Ed.

References: Finkel, Michael. (2018). "While we sleep, our mind goes on an amazing journey." National Geographic, Aug. 2018.

Langberg, J. M., Dvorsky, M. R., Marshall, S. and Evans, S. W. (2013). Clinical implications of daytime sleepiness for the academic performance of middle school‐aged adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. J Sleep Res, 22: 542-548. doi:10.1111/jsr.12049

Timimi, S., & Leo, J. (2009). Rethinking ADHD: From brain to culture. Palgrave Macmillan.

John Mekrut's Broken Brain Interview Part 1

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As previously seen on Hilber Psychological Services, “Broken Brain," Mark Hyman MD is Director of Clevland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The Ultra Wellness Center, and a ten-time #1 Ney York Times Bestselling author. At the peak of his career, he suffered a broken brain, causing him to turn into someone he no longer recognized. He felt like he suffered from depression, ADD, and dementia all at once.” Mark Hyman MD created a docuseries, Broken Brain, revealing what conditions like Alzheimer’s, Dementia, ADHD, Autism, Depression, Anxiety, and Brain Fog have in common. John Mekrut interviewed Mark Hyman MD related his docuseries to neurofeedback.

Mekrut’s initial journey with neurofeedback began when his daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. As early as kindergarten and first grade, he began noticing her interactions around the world were different than most children. She was disruptive and rebellious, acting in dangerous behaviors, such as running into the middle of the street. Mekrut decided it was time to get help. After seeing doctor after doctor and trying many medications, his daughter’s symptoms were reduced, but to an extreme extent. After watching his daughter suffer from weight gain, lethargy, complete absence, and much more, Mekrut realized that pharmacology was not the answer. His next attempt to help his daughter was neurofeedback.

Mekrut explains, “Neurofeedback trains the brain to reduce its fears and manage its own behaviors”. He saw these results in his daughter as she became more interactive with others and acquired proper skill sets, such as handwriting. This success was the gateway of his own journey into neurofeedback.

There are 5 different types of neurofeedback, all which work, claims Mekrut. He focuses on infra low-frequency training. Neurofeedback works, because every system and organism responds to feedback. Whether the feedback is good or back, our brain is constantly responding to the feedback it is receiving. Unlike biofeedback, such as measuring skin temperature or sweat glands, neurofeedback EEG signaling as a feedback mechanism to understand what is going on in the brain. The feedback that is provided to the brain is giving information to the brain to help it make the best decision. Rather than changing the brain, Mekrut explains that it “trains the brain in self-awareness and self-regulation”.

One of the best aspects of the brain is its plasticity. This is what allows the brain to be trained and acquire self-regulation. For example, someone with PTSD detects threat frequently. Instead of reacting to the constant threat, neurofeedback teaches the brain to “recognize its own patterns, understand that it’s its own, and then do your organic best to self-regulate”, says Mekrut. The proof of this, is that the brain is not a constant, it can be changed.

Neurofeedback is great for everyone, because it doesn’t matter if something is wrong with your brain or not, you brain can always be trained to be better. Imagine training your muscles after therapy compared to training your muscles to run a marathon. In both scenarios, you are training something to make it better. Regardless if you have a mental disorder, such as depression or anxiety, or if you’re a SEAL Team Six, your brain can always be trained to be better. This is performance training.

Mekrut explains the importance on keeping your brain active. Doing brain exercises is a great way. There are many apps you can get, but even simple activities, including soduku, crossword puzzles, or even dancing, constantly keeps your brain interactive. In order to enhance your brain performance, find an activity you enjoy and go do it rather than participating in mindless activities.

In part two, we will focus specifically on infra low-frequency training and more of the connections between neurofeedback and Mark Hyman MD’s Broken Brain docuseries.

Contact us for more information on how Neurofeedback can help you and your family find the focus you need to function at your best.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Mekrut, John. "Broken Brain". Hyman Digital, 2017.

How Science Is Unlocking the Secrets of Addiction

Scientists are working to find medications that can prevent the activation of the brain’s reward system due to drugs, in order to keep people from falling back into relapse. It has been proven that electromagnetic ways can treat drug addiction. There are medications that can help people quit their addictive habits, however, relapse is very common. Dr. Gallimberti decided to use a method, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), to help stop the addiction and prevent the relapse of stimulant drugs, such as cocaine.

After decades of testing animals and human volunteers, scientists have developed a picture of the way addiction can disrupt brain anatomy, chemistry, cell signaling, and more. Addiction changes the way the brain, prioritizing the drug over health, work, family, and life itself. By stimulating the region of the brain responsible for inhibiting behavior, an addict’s urge to get high may vanish. Dr. Gallimberti thought TMS might be a practical way to do that. For years, brain stimulation has treated depression and migraines by tapping the necessary circuit, Dr. Gallimberti believed brain stimulation could also activate drug-damaged neural pathways. Placebo-controlled trials proved TMS to be more effective than traditional therapy and medications.

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Dr. Childress conducted research on addict’s brains by studying the reward system. She used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, to track blood flow in the brain. Through this, she was able to detect gray ovals, bursting with colors, pinpointing the circuits in the brain that crave attention. Scientists believe the neurotransmitter dopamine is likely to trigger brain activity. The flow of dopamine heightens the motivational pull of a stimulus, such as cocaine, or a reminder of it, such as white powder. The stimulus or reminders provoke surges of dopamine. Before a person can see or hear a reminder of the stimulant, the brain has already been triggered. By the time a person becomes conscious of the trigger, it is too late.

Dr. Goldstein used an MRI machine and neuroimaging studies to understand how addiction can change the judgement, self-control, and other cognitive functions of the brain. Her research showed that as drug cues gain importance, the field of attention narrows, like a camera zooming in on one object and pushing everything else out. Dr. Goldstein's work showed that collectively, cocaine addicts have reduced gray matter volume in their prefrontal cortex. This can lead to poor executive function, resulting in decreased psychological functioning. For example, Dr. Goldstein has shown that a group of cocaine addicts may lag on a task such as, list as many farm animals as you can in one minute, compared to a group of people who aren’t addicted. However, on a task such as, list words related to drugs, they will excel. This is because their brain has narrowed down to primarily thinking about drugs. Although Dr. Goldtein’s lab does not answer the question of nature versus nurture, it has gained evidence that frontal brain regions begin to heal when people stop using drugs.  

Drug addiction is not the only problem scientists are addressing. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association moved problem gambling out of a chapter called “Impulse Control Disorder Not Elsewhere Classified” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and into the chapter called “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders.” Dr. Potenza did some of the first brain-imaging studies of gamblers and discovered that they looked similar to scans of drug addicts, with sluggish activity in the parts of the brain responsible for impulse control. The Surgeon General of the Public Health Service has focused the Nation's attention on important public health issues. A report has confirmed what scientists have been saying for years: "Addiction is a disease, not a moral failing." Addiction is characterized by the compulsive repetition of an activity. Often times, the activity is completed regardless of the consequences. Therefore, addiction cannot be characterized by physical dependence or withdrawal. This report has encouraged many scientists to accept that addiction is not only related to drugs, but can also pertain to shopping, food, sex, or other activities. 

It’s characterized not necessarily by physical dependence or withdrawal but by compulsive repetition of an activity despite life-damaging consequences. This view has led many scientists to accept the once heretical idea that addiction is possible without drugs. 

There are a few medications that can help people overcome certain addictions. Most medications used to treat addiction have been around for years. The latest advances in neuroscience have yet to produce a breakthrough cure. Brain stimulation for addiction treatment, an outgrowth of recent neuroscience discoveries, is still experimental. Although 12-step programs, cognitive therapy, and other psychotherapeutic approaches are transformative for many people, they don’t work for everyone, and relapse rates are high. There are two camps. One believes that a cure lies in fixing the faulty chemistry or wiring of the addicted brain through medication or techniques like TMS, with psychosocial support as an adjunct. The other sees medication as the adjunct, a way to reduce craving and the agony of withdrawal while allowing people to do the psychological work essential to addiction recovery. Both camps agree on one thing: Current treatment falls short.

If you believe neurofeedback can help you or someone you know struggling with addiction, we can help. Neurofeedback can train your brain to regulate, stabilize and focus itself so you're able to concentrate better and reduce the relapse and urges associated with addiction.

Contact us for more information on how Neurofeedback can help you and your family find the focus you need to function at your best.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Williams, Ryan T. “How Science Is Unlocking the Secrets of Addiction.” National Geographic, 22 Aug. 2017.