Your Brainwaves On Sleep


A focus on the wave (or function) model might lead an individual to purposefully synchronize their sleep habits with the natural earthly cycles of dark and light, and so maximize the responsiveness of their body systems to the melatonin being released at nightfall. Those who adhere to the particle model might ingest a melatonin supplement as a means to enhance sleep.

The Brain’s Fundamentals For Sleep

We believe that the brain drives chemistry — and virtually everything else. By observing how human experience and behavior can shift when their brainwave patterns shift to a state of balance and harmony, we have come to appreciate the power of the brain as the most precious resource on our planet.

Good sleep correlates to brain activation patterns (as measured by EEG) that are reasonably balanced (left-to-right and front-to-back) and harmonized (low and high frequencies in a good proportion to one another throughout the brain). Balance and harmony are required especially in those brain areas that generally function for the purpose of internal processing and reception of external stimuli: the temporal, occipital, parietal, and midline (or corpus callosum) areas.

As an example, shown here are brain activation patterns in the same regions of the left and right hemispheres, at the same time. We see that there is an optimal balance between the hemispheres, as well as between the low and high frequencies of each lobe.

Figure 2

Figure 2: A spectrograph of brainwaves via a type of high-resolution EEG technology called Brainwave Optimization. In this graph, we are able to see the balanced brainwaves of a person at rest, with eyes closed. The Y-axis represents frequencies from 0 to 60 hertz, and the X-axis represents amplitude of each frequency from 0 to 17 micro-volts. Based on this pattern, there is a strong likelihood that this person feels balanced and has the ability to attain restful sleep.

When Brainwaves Are Disrupted

On the other hand, if brainwaves are not in balance and harmony, one is more likely to feel out of sorts, and it is unlikely that restful sleep will be attained. Years ago, we found that many people who are in a state of hyperarousal — that is, they are prone to anxiety, heart palpitations, or other manifestations of the fight-flight response — have an imbalance in the form of excess EEG energy on the right side of the brain [see fig. 3, below]. This pattern was highly consistent among more than 400 soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with whom we worked on a not-for-profit service project. Symptoms of PTSD include lack of restful sleep, insomnia with an inability to go to sleep, and waking with invasive thoughts, with an inability to be able to readily return to sleep. We later learned that other investigators, using other brain-assessment technologies, have confirmed that hyperarousal corresponds to excess activity in the right hemisphere, especially in the area of the temporal lobe.

It is obvious that the patterns in Figure 3 are not balanced or harmonious. The brain is agitated, even when measured in this restful state with eyes closed. And despite the state of hyper-arousal, the experience of life for these individuals may be marred by lethargy. They lead daily lives characterized by a lack of energy to do anything — even to stand up from a chair. Restful sleep cannot transpire with a brain-function imbalance that does not allow for a smooth exchange of information (“synchrony”) across collections of neurons.

Figure 3

In these situations, people may take a medication — perhaps a sedative. It may cause them to feel more relaxed, but the underlying sleep architecture remains abnormal, as the imbalance in brainwaves persists. Truly restful sleep is unlikely.

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We believe that neuroscience is the next great scientific frontier, and that advances in understanding the nature of the brain, consciousness, behavior, and health will transform human life in this century.

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