Brainwaves and Sleep: What’s the Connection?

Do you live a fast paced life, enjoy relatively good health, but can’t fall asleep at night? Have you been to see the doctor about your insomnia, and all they have suggested is to meditate, relax or take a sleeping tablet? Do you feel like there must be another solution, but you just haven’t found it? Read on, because there is one.

brainwaves and sleep
Photo credit: Clinic of Dynamic Medicine

Our fast-paced lives have reduced our brainwave flexibility

We are all very busy in today’s society – constantly getting things done, achieving and “doing.” Not just that, we are doing things quickly. Everything has a quick turn around time. We are expected to deliver results quickly, respond to messages straight away, and squeeze so much into our day. We are also working longer days, and concentrating for more of the day, every day. So what impact does this have on us and what does it have to do with sleep? This fast pace of life, as well as the pressure in our lives, has resulted in a reduction in our brainwave flexibility.

Simply put: during the day when we concentrate, we are in a beta brainwave state. When we relax we go into the slower alpha brainwave state. When we are deeply relaxed (almost asleep) we go into theta. If the brain cannot transition between these states easily, we lose our ability to be able to shift gears, slow down our brainwaves, and enter the delta brainwave state of sleep.

computer desktop
Image credit: Technology Tell

We need to learn to switch off and ‘close down the tabs’ in our mind like a computer

Brainwave flexibilty is critical to be able to get to sleep. Not only are we working longer and harder, we’re spending more time ‘doing’, concentrating and flitting between tasks (checking Facebook, typing on our laptops in our spare time etc) which means we are in a beta brainwave state for a much longer period of time than we used to be, but we are also relaxing less. As a result we now spend much less time in the slower more relaxed brainwave states that help to maintain our brainwave flexibility. Are you familiar with that ‘notification brain’ feeling when you’re always primed for the next update or message? Do you ever feel like your brain has too many tabs open like a computer? Just like a computer, our brains need to be cleared out and reset regularly.

Stressful periods can act like trauma to the brain

Given most of us today are already predisposed to this, all we need is to be exposed to a short intense period of stress, or a trauma e.g. a relationship breakup, or a difficult manager at work, and our already fragile brain then acts as if it has suffered an injury. It just doesn’t remember how to move easily through the brainwave states to get into the natural sleep brainwave state. The brain’s ability to shift between the brainwave states atrophies – like a muscle that is not used. If it then experiences a period of intense stress or trauma, this impact is intensified, and significant sleep challenges can result.

fall asleep

Is it just about relaxing and meditating?

Unfortunately, no. The main reason meditating and relaxing can help with improving sleep is because it can get us into a slower brainwave state. But here’s the thing: for people who have lost their brainwave flexibility, it is extremely difficult to get into the slower brainwave state required for meditation or other forms of relaxation to be helpful. This is why meditation simply isn’t effective for so many people – if they’re unable to switch off their racing mind, it will prevent them from being able to meditate and relax.

But there is hope! Working with a skilled practitioner to restore your brainwave flexibility will re-establish your ability to effectively begin meditating or relaxing on your own.

You can retrain your brain to relax and sleep easily

At My Sleep Coach we use special methods to retrain your brain to once again easily move through these brainwave states, so that you can restore your natural ability to sleep easily and deeply.
Sign up for a free sleep strategy session with us and take the first step toward curing insomnia and learning how to fall asleep faster!

Sleep Well Anywhere On World Sleep Day

Happy World Sleep Day! This annual event is organised by the World Association of Sleep Medicine to celebrate the benefits of good healthy sleep and to draw attention to the burden of sleep problems. One third of adults suffer from insomnia and many treatment approaches fail to fix the root cause.

By helping people to sleep I wake them up to their full potential.

I overcame chronic insomnia and want to raise awareness to help others unlock the missing piece of the puzzle for natural sleep. Good sleep isn’t just about what you do before bed. It’s dependent on a combination of factors including beliefs and thought patterns and also a commonly overlooked element: brainwave flexibility.

world sleep day insomnia cures

The search for the most effective treatment methods to cure my insomnia

I developed chronic insomnia after a fast-paced career in finance. I exhausted the commonly recommended treatment options, with no results: meditation, acupuncture, psychologists, relaxation techniques. You name it, I tried it. I travelled the world focused on researching and training in the most effective methods of treating insomnia. I studied a large array of modalities including hypnotherapy, neurolinguistic programming, coaching, sound therapy, cognitive re-patterning, and brainmapping with the highly regarded neuroscientist Dr. Joe Dispenzer. Finally my sleep struggles disappeared! The key was learning about brainwaves, which were the missing part of the puzzle for me.

Brainwave flexibility helps sleep come naturally

It sounds obvious but sometimes you have to practice or re-learn how to relax. In today’s society we move at a fast pace with constant stimulation and pressure, which has resulted in a reduction in our brainwave flexibility. During the day when we concentrate, we are in a beta brainwave state. When we relax we go into the slower alpha brainwave state. When we are deeply relaxed (almost asleep) we go into theta. If the brain cannot transition between these states easily, we lose our ability to be able to shift gears, slow down our brainwaves, and enter the delta brainwave state of sleep.

insomnia cures

Practice regular relaxation

By regularly spending time doing relaxing activities that slow the brainwaves throughout the day, we can improve brainwave flexibility and achieve deeper sleep more easily. It is much easier to fall asleep with melatonin (made from serotonin) in our bodies, than it is to fall asleep with stress hormones in our bodies. Even though we may not be aware of it, our racing minds are producing these stress hormones.

But is it just about relaxing and meditating? Unfortunately not. The main reason meditating and relaxing can help with improving sleep is because it can increase our access to a slower brainwave state. But here’s the thing: for people who have lost their brainwave flexibility, it is extremely difficult to get into the slower brainwave state required for meditation or other forms of relaxation to be helpful. This is why meditation simply isn’t effective for so many people – if they’re unable to switch off their racing mind, it will prevent them from being able to meditate and relax.

I use an holistic coaching technique that accelerates the restoration of brainwave flexibility as well as addressing all key elements of sleep health including nervous system, lifestyle, sleep strategies and thought patterns, so that sleep comes easily again.

I’m reminded why I got into this profession when I see my clients brimming with positive energy and vitality. A lot of them have just forgotten how to truly relax.

To celebrate World Sleep Day, My Sleep Coach is offering a limited number of free sleep strategy sessions this month. Contact us to register and find out more:

Why Athletes Need Sleep To Succeed

We all need sleep to process and heal from the day, but for athletes sleep is especially crucial in order to recover from rigorous workouts and perform their best. Let’s look at why exactly sleep is so important for athletes:

Athletes need sleep for recovery

It is important for athletes to get not only enough sleep, but quality sleep. During the deep sleep phase, growth hormone is released in our bodies. Its benefits are many, including fat burning, bone building, muscle growth and repair – all of which are essential in helping athletes recover from rigorous workouts and build stronger bodies. Inadequate sleep duration and quality (not getting into a deep sleep) slows the release of the growth hormone (source).

Lack of sleep also results in elevated cortisol levels in our bodies, which causes stress – which in turn disrupts sleep and hence interferes with the muscle recovery process. In order to combat this endless stress cycle, it is necessary to get more sleep on a consistent basis.

sleep for athletes

Athletes need sleep to perform better

Our bodies rely on glucose and glycogen for energy. When sleep deprived, they are slower to store glycogen, which results in less fuel for us to use. While this may not impact the average person, it is detrimental to endurance athletes who need a full storage of energy to get through high intensity workouts and competitions.

What’s more, our glucose metabolism also slows down when we don’t get enough sleep. So not only are we unable to store enough glucose to endure rigorous physical activity, we’re also slower to break down this glucose into usable energy, resulting in sluggishness and impaired cognitive function (source).

insomnia cures for athletes

Sleep deprivation is detrimental to athletes

The evidence is tangible. According to this infographic by Fatigue Science (source):

  • A lack of sleep over the course of 4 days has been shown to cause an athlete’s maximum bench press to drop in weight by 20 lbs (9 kg)
  • Tennis players getting adequate sleep can experience up to a 42% increase in hitting accuracy
  • Swimmers getting more than adequate sleep can have up to a 17% improvement in reaction time when starting a race

Further, there’s evidence that getting more than the recommended amount of sleep contributes to better athletic performance. A study conducted on the Stanford University NCAA basketball team from 2005-2008 showed that when players extended their sleep, they sprinted faster, reacted faster, and were more accurate in shooting, which suggests that “peak performance can only occur when an athlete’s overall sleep and sleep habits are optimal” (source).

athletes need sleep

As the evidence for sleep continues to accumulate, professional athletes are beginning to take sleep even more seriously these days. A recent study revealed that pro sports teams performed better in competition when they skipped their early morning practice in favor of sleeping in and instead practiced just once a day. Several NFL and NBA teams in the US have since altered their practice schedules to allow their athletes to get more sleep (source). And some of the most famous and successful athletes (e.g. Roger Federer, Lebron James) are known to spend nearly half of each day sleeping! (source)

The Bottom Line

Athletes need sleep to succeed in their sport and fitness endeavors. If you’re looking to exceed your fitness goals, getting both higher quality deep sleep and more hours of sleep each night will help you immensely.

Can You Drink Coffee and Sleep Well?

When it comes to sleep, coffee has a bad rap. It’s the first thing to blame when you’re not sleeping well. But is coffee a worthy scapegoat?

Here are the facts:

Coffee consumed within 6 hours of bedtime is likely to disrupt your sleep

Numerous studies have unanimously concluded that drinking coffee as far as 6 hours before bedtime has a negative impact on both quality and quantity of sleep. They found that total sleep time was reduced by at least 1 hour due to frequent wake-ups in the middle of the night (source). Late day coffee drinkers are also more prone to sleeping less soundly and waking up to use the toilet in the middle of the night because the caffeine in their system acts as a diuretic and tends to stimulate the bladder.

So then when exactly should you cut off your coffee intake for the day? 6 hours before sleeping has been proven to be the absolute minimum, but it could actually be up to 11 hours in some cases (source). So while the 6-hour mark may work for some people, others may have to stop drinking coffee even earlier in the day. There’s no one answer here because everyone responds to caffeine differently. The best thing you can do is experiment with your intake and see if your sleep improves if you widen the time gap between your last cuppa and when your head hits the pillow.

coffee and sleep

The more caffeine we consume, the longer it takes to clear our system

It takes about 24 hours for caffeine to fully clear your system (source). One dose of caffeine has a half-life of 3-7 hours – i.e. half of the caffeine will have left your system after this amount of time.

But it gets tricky when you have multiple doses of caffeine throughout the day because the more coffee you drink the longer it takes your body to get rid of the caffeine. That 3-7 hour half-life can compound into something closer to 11-96 hours if you’re constantly topping off your coffee throughout the day (source).

To combat that extended time to decaffeinate, it’s best to have the bulk of your coffee consumption occur as early in the day as possible, then curtail it as the day goes on. As long as you don’t overdo it and have just a cup or two early in the day, the amount of caffeine left in your system come bedtime should be negligible.

Coffee and sleep: tips from My Sleep Coach

Coffee has several health benefits

Let’s talk about the GOOD things coffee brings to the table. In addition to tasting good and bringing a spot of joy to your day, coffee is great for your health. It’s loaded with antioxidants, which the body tends to absorb better from coffee than from fruits and veggies (source). Coffee consumption also correlates with a reduced risk of certain diseases like diabetes, liver cirrhosis, cancer, and Parkinson’s Disease. And, perhaps most exciting of all: it increases your metabolism (source). However, if you drink instant coffee, it is better to chose an organic one to avoid all of the nasty chemicals added.

This coffee can help you sleep!

If you really can’t do without coffee later in the day there’s now a coffee that’s not only decaffeinated, but actually helps you sleep. How? It contains valerian, which aids relaxation and sleep. It’s called 40 Winks Bedtime Blend and is made by Counting Sheep Coffee who say ‘the best way to start your day is now the best way to end it!’.

Coffee and sleep: tips from My Sleep Coach

The Final Verdict

People are often advised to stop drinking coffee in order to improve their sleep – but there are typically much more significant factors at play including a racing mind, stress and brainwave inflexibility. Stopping or reducing coffee intake will only help if these more fundamental sleep disruptors are addressed.

In short: yes, you can get a good night’s sleep if you’re a coffee drinker. Just be sure to cut yourself off at least 6 hours before sleep, limit your overall daily caffeine intake, and let it taper off as the day progresses.

So feel free to take your morning cuppa and hold the side of guilt!

Counting Sheep For Sleep This Chinese New Year

This Chinese New Year (starting 19th February) is the year of the sheep. This got me thinking about ‘counting sheep’: why it’s said to help you fall asleep, where it originates from, and whether it actually helps.

The common idea is if you can’t sleep you should imagine a series of sheep jumping over a fence and count as they go. It seems like a logical activity to focus the brain on something repetitive, as with meditation – but where does the phrase come from and does it work?

counting sheep for sleep

Early origins in 17th century Britain

Early references to counting sheep to induce sleep can be found in literature dating back to the 1800s. An 1854 book by Seba Smith’s ‘Way down east; or portraitures of Yankee life’ cites: “He shut his eyes with all his might, and tried to think of sheep jumping over a wall.”

It’s easy to imagine how shepherds on long watches might have fallen asleep. Yan Tan Tethera is a sheep-counting rhyme system traditionally used by shepherds in England.

Counting sheep is too boring

According to an Oxford University experiment, counting sheep is actually too boring to induce sleep. People imagining a beach or waterfall were forced to expend more mental energy, and fell asleep faster than those asked to “simply distract from thoughts, worries and concerns.”

In a 2001 study published in the Journal of Behavior Research and Therapy asked participants to imagine “a situation they found interesting and engaging, but also pleasant and relaxing” which generated similar results: more detailed imagery distraction helped those with insomnia fall asleep faster.

Counting sheep for sleep

Detailed sensory visualisation works best

Visualisation where you really engage all of the senses is a more effective method of relaxation. For example, imagine being in a beautiful meadow with the smell of eucalyptus trees, the sound of chirping birds and the feeling of warm grass beneath your feet. When we use visualization, especially when it is using all of our senses, it helps to slow down our brainwaves and achieve the delta brainwave state necessary for sleep. It also synchronises the left and right spheres of the brain, which aids with inducing sleep. I often get clients to imagine the next episode of their favourite TV series as this is more engaging and they’re already interested.

1 2 3 4