Sleeping Disturbances

Our brains and specific associative areas in the brain are responsible for cognitive, mental, emotional, social functioning in human beings as well as sleep.

There are 5 normal stages of sleep. Sleep is cyclic through the night beginning at stage 1-4 and REM sleep, before beginning the cycle again, each cycle, between 80-120 minutes.

In wakefulness with the eyes closed, alpha activity (a range of brain waves between 8-12 hz) dominates and is highest in the occipital areas or at the back of the head and with beta dominating over the frontal areas.
1. stage 1: alpha attenuates, becomes irregular and the slower rhythms start to dominate in the EEG. The person becomes very calm and even drowsy.
2. stage 2: this light sleep phase is characterized by sleep spindles or V shape waves over the back (posterior) regions of the brain. These waves are called theta (4-7 hz). The person becomes very drowsy.
3. stage 3: in this stage high amplitude delta waves begin to appear and the person falls asleep.
4. stage 4: more than half of the brain waves are in the delta range (1-2 hz) and the person is fast asleep.
5. REM: rapid eye movement phase in which the subject is usually dreaming and may recall the dreams upon awakening.

There are about 200+ diagnosable sleep disturbances of which sleep apnea, narcolepsy, sleep onset problems, sleep maintenance problems and REM sleep disturbances are the most common.

Sleep disturbances are common with ADD (attention deficit disorder), due to the increase in theta activity. There are several reasons for suffering from sleep disturbance such as a reduction of oxygen flow during the day and night. The latter may be due to sleep apnea caused by closing of the airway, and although it is less common with children, a family history of sleep apnea may precipitate sleep apnea even with children. Stress and tension, depression, situational circumstances such as problems at home, school and social life and an over aroused right brain may cause sleep onset and sleep maintenance problems. Teeth grinding, sleep walking and sleep talking as well as nightmares and night terrors are some of the sleeping disturbances experienced.

A disturbed EEG pattern may also cause sleep disturbances which can be addressed by neurotherapy, through which the brain is trained to produce effective frequencies of brain waves.

Dr Annemie Peché