Are You Sleeping Well?


Some people don’t even know that they have a sleep problem.  I didn’t.  I knew it took me a long time to fall asleep, but I thought that was normal.  It had been my normal for as long as I could remember.  Only after neurofeedback changed my sleep patterns (as a happy side effect of the training I was doing for my brain injury) did I realize I hadn’t been sleeping well for a very long time.  Now, I fall asleep within 10-15 minutes instead of an hour or more.  I return to sleep easily when I occasionally wake in the night.  I wake up feeling rested instead of feeling groggy and sloth-like.


If you want to improve your sleep cycle, the first step is to see sleep as the important foundation that is.  Sleep is your most precious resource for your good health and happiness.  When you sleep well, your body repairs itself.  Quality sleep also protects you from diseases such as high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and heart attack.  It also strengthens your immune system.


Does it take you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep? 

There are many things that can make it difficult to fall asleep.  You might be in pain or dealing with stress.  You could be revved up and have trouble calming down.  You might be worried or overextended.  Whatever is keeping you up, these basic sleep tips can help:

** Set your alarm for the same time and get up no matter how tired you are.  Waking at the same time is more important than going to bed at the same time to help reset your circadian rhythms.  (A regular bedtime is helpful, too.)

** Expose yourself to bright light when you awaken.  You can use a full spectrum daylight lamp or just open the curtains and look outside for a few minutes.

** Before you start your bedtime routine, do what you need to do to prepare for tomorrow and close out the day.

** Change your bedtime routine to be relaxing and calm for the hour before you retire.  Avoid paperwork or other work you have brought home.  Turn off the computer and television.

** Make sure you are comfortable.  If your bed and pillow are not comfortable and you don’t have enough blankets, you may have trouble falling asleep. (Socks can be helpful in the winter.)


Does your brain keep going when your head touches your pillow?

This is very common.  Here are a few things you can do to help yourself fall asleep:

** Make a list of things you need to do tomorrow and leave it next to your bed with a pen.  If another thing comes into your thoughts after you lie down, just pick up your pen and add it to your list.  If something that is on the list comes into your mind, dismiss it.  You won’t forget to do it, because it is on your list.

** Make sure your bedroom is very dark.  Use room darkening shades if you live near street lights and for nights when the moon is very bright.

** Avoid caffeine after noon.


Do you wake often and have trouble returning to sleep?

Waking once a night is normal.  People usually wake up to use the bathroom.  Returning to sleep shouldn’t take too long.  These things can help you wake up less and return to sleep more easily:

** Avoid alcohol.  When you do drink, stop at least 3 hours before you go to bed.  Many people incorrect believe that alcohol will make them sleep better. Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns and will make getting a good night’s sleep more difficult.

** Don’t turn on all the lights when you get up.  Use a small dim flashlight to safely get to the bathroom.  Turn it off and close your eyes when you don’t need to see.

** If you keep looking at the clock, turn it away from you.  You don’t need to know what time it is.  Your alarm will wake you when it’s time to get up.  Looking at the clock repeatedly only causes stress that makes it more difficult to fall asleep.

** If noises wake you up, use a white noise machine or a fan.

Do you take over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids?

If you are taking sleep aids regularly, you are not getting a good night’s sleep.  While using sleep aids is better than getting no sleep at all, they do not deliver a natural sleep that is healing and rejuvenating.  Talk to your doctor about the possibility of discontinuing them.  Here are some techniques to discuss:

** Only take a pill if you haven’t been able to fall asleep in an hour.  This is what I did.  It worked very well with neurofeedback.

** Slowly reduce your dose over time.

** Substitute natural remedies to wean off your medication.

Are you overweight?

Obesity and sleep problems go together.  If you don’t have a good sleep cycle, your appetite increases. Sleeping well will help you loose weight.

** Start a diet diary and examine your eating patterns.

** Eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.

** Avoid processed foods.


How can neurofeedback help you improve your sleep?

Neurofeedback shows your brain how it is functioning and encourages it to make incremental changes toward better function.  Your brain has been trained to use its present patterns.  Neurofeedback helps your brain to create new, healthier patterns.

Sleep problem patterns show up in your brain as a physiological dysfunction.  Your brain sees these problems and makes changes to alleviate them.  During the neurofeedback learning process, your brain makes small changes and is rewarded for moving closer to optimal function.  Part of this process includes calming your entire central nervous system so you can perform at your highest potential.

Neurofeedback is easy to do.  It requires very little conscious effort.  Everyone can benefit no matter what their age.  If you are having trouble changing your sleep patterns, neurofeedback can give you the extra help you need to achieve a healthy, rejuvenating sleep process.