When first learning about neurofeedback it is easy to feel a bit overwhelmed or even like this has to be too good to be true. How can one simple approach permeate to so many different areas of life, all at the same time?
It can sound like a miracle. How can the same thing that helps with ADHD or autism spectrum disorders also be great for sports or sales performance? It seems like there is no end to the list of things that neurofeedback can improve outcomes for.
It is important to have realistic expectations going into brain training.
First of all, while there are definitely people who have an immediate, miraculous response to just 1-3 sessions of neurofeedback, for most people the initial improvement is very subtle. Many people will need to do 5-10 sessions until they are sure they are seeing results though the majority will observe some improvement after a first, second or third neurofeedback session. On average most people will need somewhere around 20-30 or 25-35 sessions to reach their goals. There are also people who may need well over 100 sessions to get them where they want to be - every brain is different. I am one of those people who has had a larger number of sessions and am still a work in progress. However, the experience of it is not as bad as it sounds as improvement happens all along the way and sessions can be spaced at whatever frequency is either convenient or affordable, with no loss of effectiveness.
My personal journey with neurofeedback began late February 2018. My interest in seeking out brain training was to help with lifelong chronic sleep problems. I have had fairly extreme chronic insomnia my entire adult life - at times only being able to sleep 2-3 hours per night for days or weeks on end, with times in between where I could manage 4-6 hours per night. My sleep issues are very complex. I have trouble falling asleep and trouble staying asleep. I have a history of severe childhood trauma and neglect, and numerous traumatic events that I experienced at night or while asleep, or while I was near a sleep-like state. Early on in life, it got imprinted into my nervous system that it is not safe to fall asleep.
I also have fibromyalgia which carries with it as one of the symptoms, insomnia. Some research suggests that people with fibromyalgia have mini seizures during the night that prevent them from reaching deeper states of sleep or, sometimes, staying asleep.
My fibromyalgia symptoms include chronic pain and I also have arthritis that adds to this and, for obvious reasons, it is difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep when one is in pain.
I have used acupuncture, naturopathy, chiropractics homeopathy, osteopathy, natural supplements, meditation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Somatic Experiencing (SE), aromatherapy, white noise, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a wide range of energy healing modalities, CPAP machines, EMF protective devices, and other approaches I can no longer even remember. I have been working on my sleep problems for almost 30 years.
I have been consistently on sleep medications of various types on a nightly basis for at least 10 years.
It was with apprehension that I decided to try neurofeedback. As anyone with chronic insomnia knows, it can be quite debilitating. After so many other approaches had not consistently helped, I was afraid to hope that anything could possibly help me.
I did notice some improvement right from my first session. I found my body was more relaxed when I got into bed than it usually would be. I also found that an issue I had walked into that session feeling upset about, no longer felt like such a big deal once I was on my way home again.
After a few more sessions I found that I was falling asleep faster than normal and waking less frequently during the night, and getting back to sleep a little more easily when I did wake up.
By around 10 sessions in, I started being able to nap during the day - previously impossible for me - though initially I needed to run a neuroptimal sessions first, in order to fall asleep.
By around 30 sessions in I found my sleep problems were about 50% improved. I could sometimes nap briefly during the day without first running a neurofeedback session. I began to gradually reduce my use of medication.
I am now, a bit over six months later, about 110 sessions in. I would say that currently my sleep difficulties are at least 80% improved, while having reduced my use of sleep medication to about 30% of what it was before.
However, at the same time that my sleep has only slowly and gradually improved, my anxiety is drastically improved, my seasonal allergies are less, my hot flashes are less, food cravings are gone, I no longer have any drive towards emotional eating without any effort - I just realized one day that it had been weeks since I'd eaten chocolate, which used to be a daily thing - my allergy to dairy is dramatically improved, my eyesight is slightly improved, I am much calmer and happier, and I am FAR more organized. I have mild ADD but, at some point with brain training all of the sudden I am able to keep my house pretty clean and tidy, and can stay on task without it being a herculean effort to do so. In almost all cases, stress when it comes up, now just rolls off of me.
Life is dramatically better, without having to work so hard at it!
There are also times I experience - as can be typical for those who are regularly doing brain training - a feeling of total euphoria, for no apparent reason, other than that I love how good I feel.
Because we are working with the brain with neurofeedback, when results happen they tend up show up in a wide variety of areas, and sometimes in unexpected places we never even considered. For this reason, I have my clients track their symptoms from the start of brain training and then we continue to assess every 10 sessions or so, to have a more objective measure since, once people start to improve, they tend to forget how difficult things used to be. This also enables us to notice improvement in areas we otherwise would not have considered watching. It is always interesting going over those results! :)
Interested in trying neurofeedback? Pricing begins as low as $12 per session when renting a neurofeedback system to use in the comfort of your own home - units can be shipped across Canada. In office sessions with me in Georgetown, ON are $135. What most people do is try 1-3 in office sessions first, and then move to renting a unit, once they are comfortable that they are on the right track though many people - myself included - also choose to move straight to renting, after doing their own research.
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