The rise of smart watches has given people many benefits, the most interesting of which has been calculating sleep statistics, or should we say lack thereof! Globally 45 percent of the population suffer from sleep issues – the most common of which is lack of sleep.

Sleep loss – particularly deep sleep or slow wave sleep – is linked to a long list of chronic health conditions including Alzheimer’s, anxiety, dementia and depression to mention a few. It also makes sense that when you’re not getting quality sleep, cognitive function, attention and decision making are seriously impaired.

Sleep-related absence from work is thought to account for the loss of ten million working hours a year in the USA, 4.8 million in Japan and 1.7 million in Germany. Lost sleep also affects productivity and raises healthcare costs for employers.

So, what is happening in your brain?

“The most common ‘imbalance’ that we see relating to sleep is “too- much-sleep” in the front of your brain while you’re focusing and “too-much-busy” at the back of your brain when you’re supposed to be resting,” explains Kerry Rudman from Brain Harmonics, a Neurofeedback organisation specialising in retraining brains.

“This generally happens from long term stressors, a long-term illness, drug or alcohol abuse, anesthetics, childbirth, brain injuries, having your sleep disrupted or a combination of these. Your brain takes all the slow frequencies from the back of your head and puts them at the front to protect you. Now every time you concentrate, you are literally looking through the sleep to take the information in. You can read and re-read something and have no idea of what you’ve read, it’s like looking through the fog of sleep to focus. Indirectly, when you go to sleep at night, you can’t fall asleep. You need to focus on something for example reading, watching tv, looking at Facebook to get tired to fall asleep because there is not sleep where it should be. The more you do of this, the more it becomes an entrenched pattern.”

Many people will turn to consuming alcohol or sleeping tablets in an effort to quieten their minds and allow them to sleep. While these will stop the busy voices and allow them to sleep, it will not fix their sleep quality, which means that they will continue to wake up exhausted and ultimately end up also needing to consume more of the substance in order to help them sleep. 

“There are other imbalances involved with not sleeping, traumas and stress levels play a part,” explains Kerry. “For instance – if you have experienced an infringement trauma which is something that has made you feel like the world is not a safe place, it is very hard to truly relax and allow sleep because your brain is always on guard to protect you from anything that is not safe.”

One way that people can improve their sleep quality is to set consistent sleeping and waking times, taking part in an early morning exercise routine, reducing their alcohol and caffeine consumption and eliminating blue light exposure from screens for at least an hour before going to bed. 

Neurofeedback training is another non-invasive tool that you can add to your arsenal to help improve your sleep quality. For more information about neurofeedback training please visit Brain Harmonics on www.brainharmonics.co.za

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