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Published: July 18, 2011 Home / news / local /

Insomnia study aims to recalibrate brain for better sleep


By RICHARD CRAVER
Howard Shelley said he still feels like a new and rested man more than two weeks after completing an insomnia study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Shelley, 44, and a phlebotomist at the center (he takes blood samples), was one of 20 participants with moderate to severe insomnia in the first clinical research using a technology Brainwave Optimization that helps the brain regain its balance. Insomnia is the most prevalent sleep disorder affecting Americans, including up to 50 percent of adults on a weekly basis. Most options for treating insomnia include behavioral and lifestyle changes such as sleeping patterns, muscle and breathing exercises, and when and what to eat and drink as well as medicine and medical supplements. The study was made possible by a research grant from Brain State Technologies, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., whose founder developed the technology. Although more than 32,000 people have received the treatment worldwide, the Wake Forest Baptist study was the first researching a specific health problem in a controlled setting. "In effect, we are allowing the brain to look at itself in the mirror and see itself in an optimized, energetic state," said Dr. Charles Tegeler IV, a neurology professor at Wake Forest Baptist and the study's primary investigator. "Those areas that are out of balance then to work toward a more functional state." Shelley said he had been having problems for several months in falling and staying asleep, which left him getting about 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night. He said he was getting fatigued during the day, which was affecting his attitude and emotions. So when he saw the bulletin-board notice about the treatment, including getting paid, he signed up with modest expectations. But after just two of the 12 sessions, Shelley said, the insomnia went away and he was

feeling fewer aches and pains. "I know I sound like a paid spokesman and I guess in some ways I am, but I just have felt more productive and engaged, more graceful with my reflexes and even seem to have a better posture," Shelley said. Insomnia can be caused by stress or trauma that throws off the brain's natural rhythms, Tegeler said. It can also be a symptom of those situations. Shelley said he didn't know of any stress or trauma that contributed to his sleeping-pattern disruptions. In many instances, the brain rebalances itself over a few days but, when it doesn't, it can become a chronic problem, Tegeler said. "This new technology is intended to facilitate greater balance and harmony in brain functioning, which may result in improved symptoms," he said. The technology works this way: Electrodes are affixed to the scalp and connected to a computer to detect the brain waves of various brain lobes. A brain wave is electromagnetic energy that can be broken down into frequencies. Higher frequencies have more cycles per second. To reflect the brain's own optimal wave patterns back to it noninvasively, the frequencies are assigned a musical tone and played back to the subject via stereo ear buds placed in the ears. As the brain resonates with the transmitted sounds, changes occur in the neural network. Shelley said the tones helped him to drain away his thoughts. "I either tried to go to a happy place during the sessions or thinking of something that requires balance, like walking on a tightrope," he said. Tegeler expects to have the final study results by September. He said most participants have received a level of benefit from the study. "They reported either greatly enhanced sleep or feeling more rested with the sleep they are getting," Tegeler said. Shelley said he is optimistic that the rebalancing of his brain will stay with him at least for a while. "It'll just be a matter of finding a doctor who uses the system," Shelley said.
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