In 2019 I didn’t yet know it but I needed the help of NeurOptimal Neurofeedback. It was at my lowest point with insomnia and having tried all the routes I could think of to help myself, I wasn’t getting satisfactory results and felt under the control of my nervous system. I was desperately looking for the cure to insomnia that would help me feel in control again.
The origins of my Insomnia
In 2018 I had been operating under the cumulative effects of stress across a number of areas in my life. Work, disastrous home renovations and the traumatic birth of my daughter all meant that I plunged into the relentlessness of newborn care with a compromised nervous system. By the time my daughter started sleeping through the night at 9 months, I knew something was wrong when I could not return to any remotely predictable or restorative pattern of sleep. Many nights I got no more than two hours of broken sleep, some nights none at all. This caused me exhaustion and frustration and the frustration escalated into anxiety about sleep, which further worsened my sleep. The pattern continued for two years and I felt helpless and hopeless.
The search for the Cure for Insomnia
I had heard of neurofeedback but didn’t know much about it until one day I stumbled across NeurOptimal. The science behind this particular system made sense to me. Give a new piece of information to the brain, timed with its own activity, effectively re-orienting attention back to the present moment, giving it the opportunity to reassess its own activity. This sounded very like the process of meditation to me, something I had considerable experience with. Considering NeurOptimal does this up to 256 times per second, this sounded like a potentially powerful intervention for helping the brain and nervous system.
I had the sense that I was locked into a pattern of sympathetic arousal that needed disrupting, so that I could learn to let go and trust the process of sleep again. Speaking with a NeurOptimal system owner who told me about the effects the system had on their family and clients, I really liked what I heard. Could this be the cure for insomnia I needed? Without even trying it out first, I took a huge risk and bought the system from Canada and eagerly awaited its arrival.
NeurOptimal Neurofeedback – My Training Journey
In the first couple of sessions I noticed a feeling of agitation and not much else but after 10 training sessions I knew something was changing even though I couldn’t yet label it specifically. Between 25-35 sessions I could tell that there was a radical change going on within my nervous system. I started having some really good days where I felt great, very grounded and full of energy amongst the depleted days I’d become used to. It felt like an awakening of sorts as I began feeling increasingly present and alive in my life.
Incrementally, over the next few months, I started to feel emotionally resilient, handling and bouncing back from bad days and stressors in a new way. I also felt energetic, calm, present and grounded in a way I’d only experienced sporadically over the past few years and now it was beginning to feel like my new normal. My mind was consistently quieter, my visual perception became sharper, my concentration lasted all day and I started to see very clearly how a compromised nervous system had been running the show for many years.
After five months of training I began to feel alive and in control of my life in the sense that I was more able to be mindfully present without unnecessary reactivity to circumstance. Finally, my ability to sleep also returned, but more restorative than I could remember. It felt like a system reset of a kind that cumulatively psychotherapy, meditation and yoga have never got me and in only a few months. It genuinely surprised me how fast and effective this was. It was a transformation beyond what I could have imagined because it went so much further than just helping my sleep.
What I Mean by The Cure for Insomnia
Cure is a strong word and while I am happy to use the word, I want to clarify what I mean. For as long as I can remember I have always been a light and fitful sleeper. I haven’t magically turned into the person who hits the pillow, falls asleep and wakes up uninterrupted in the morning. Sometimes I do achieve this, and its very nice. At others though, I take quite some time to fall asleep and others still, I wake up in the middle of the night for a period of time, especially if I have problems to solve that I haven’t had time for during the day.
When you look at definitions for insomnia, yes they include the patterns I describe above but by far the largest part of insomnia is defined by the fact that wakefulness at night comes with a negative consequence in daytime functioning and mood. All of that has gone for me. When I researched the history of sleep I found out that in times gone by a period of wakefulness at night was common place and that sleep was divided into two parts, a first sleep and a second. The period on between around 3am was often a time when people would be up and active for a couple if hours before going back to bed for the shorter, lighter second sleep. This is because we have natural circadian rhythms that mean the first sleep of the night is the deepest, then we have a much lighter period which can lead us to wake up before we drop back down again.
I haven’t cured the fact that life can be demanding and that I have a keen mind. The big difference now is that, even if my sleep is disrupted, I still wake up feeling refreshed and energetic in the morning. Observing this fact over time has led me to trust that my sleep is restorative and sleep disruption does not trigger any concerns. I’m just awake for a while and I remain relaxed. NeurOptimal is the cure for insomnia I was looking for because the sleep that I do get is deep and restorative and follows my natural circadian rhythms and is completely satisfactory for my daytime needs.
NeurOptimal Neurofeedback Delivers more that you Expect
At the beginning of my journey with NeurOptimal, I would have been happy with better sleep and that goal was met but what I got in addition far surpassed by expectations. I seem to have a nervous ‘system stability’ that I would prize in any computer and I have a level of ‘bandwidth’ for life that seems surprisingly broad because things that used to stress me don’t anymore and triggers that would have ignited a physiological stress response just don’t anymore either. What I have now is a new version of myself that I could not have predicted and a level of awe for technological interventions that can change our brain for the better. The beauty and secret of this system is that for those who are ready, it offers an internal re-organisation of the self way beyond the often initial desire for symptom reduction.
Nowadays, I continue to watch with joy and intrigue as this transformation also happens in the people I work with sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, that’s the beauty, every brain is different and dictates its own pace for it’s own reasons.
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