In the past, discussing the flow state was limited to a small population of athletes, musicians, and scientists. However, in recent years, the concept has gained broader appeal as people have come to realize that it’s a very real phenomenon.
But what is flow state, and why should anyone care about it?
The “flow state” is a state of being that involves being fully absorbed in an activity. While in the flow state, people feel that everything else falls away, and they can be entirely focused on the task at hand for the sheer joy of it.
While in a flow state, many feel a sense of euphoria and feel that time has sped up or slowed down. They may even lose track of what is happening around them.
This state of flow is often referred to as “being in the zone.”
The neurology of flow states is still being revealed, but some things are certain: the flow state is very real and it can be trained and triggered.
Our experts at Healium are here to walk you through the benefits of the flow state and how to use the flow state to your advantage.
The flow state can have a profound effect on every area of one’s reality. While in flow, people are completely focused and present with the task at hand; they’re not thinking about anything else other than what they need to do at that moment.
This can be beneficial in many ways; this laser-like focus allows people to achieve optimal performance and produce their best work, and it can even improve the overall quality of their life.
Here are what we consider to be the biggest benefits of being in flow:
– Enhanced happiness: When people are in a flow state, they are able to completely focus on the task at hand, allowing them to shut out intrusive thoughts about other things that may be stressing them out.
This allows people to feel a sense of peace, joy, and happiness that can be hard to come by in day-to-day life.
– Increased intrinsic drive: While in a flow state, people often feel motivated to continue the activity they’re engaged in due to the sheer enjoyment that they’re getting from it.
This intrinsic drive is much more powerful than external motivation, such as rewards or punishments, and it can lead to increased productivity and improved performance.
– Greater authenticity: Flow state allows people to be their authentic selves without any distractions.
When people aren’t worrying about what others think of them or whether or not they’re good enough, they are able to just be distinctively themselves, which can lead to a far greater sense of fulfillment.
– Improved positive emotion: Being in a state of flow can lead to an enhanced sense of enjoyment. However, it can also lead to other positive emotions such as inspiration, love, and awe.
When in a flow state, people may feel as though they are one with the universe and everything around them, which can lead to some pretty intense emotions.
– Improved productivity: The combination of increased focus, motivation, and emotional control allows people to be extremely productive while in flow.
As a result, people can get more done in a shorter time and achieve better results.
– Boosted creativity: The flow state is often associated with spikes in creativity. People become less constrained by their usual thought patterns, which makes thinking outside the box or considering new perspectives more feasible.
As we’ve explained above, flow states can be highly impactful on the quality of our lives. However, if you’re unfamiliar with them, it can be hard to get into this powerful state of mind on purpose.
We have found these to be the most common and accessible ways to intentionally trigger flow states in your own mind:
The natural state of one’s mind is disorganized stream of consciousness, which is why focusing your mind is one of the most effective flow triggers. Activities that rely on intense focus on technique, rhythms, or pacing are oftentimes great triggers for flow. Think: oil painting or long-distance biking. There are many ways to train this, including meditation and mindfulness.
This is true with many aspects of life, but especially so when you’re trying to trigger flow. Identifying precisely what you want to achieve makes it easy to break that goal into actionable steps. As mentioned above, when you have a pace or rhythm to follow, your mind is more focused and more likely to enter the flow state.
Make sure your plan is specific and measurable so you can track your progress. This will lead you to a sense of control and mastery, which are both crucial factors in triggering flow states.
Remember to start with small habits and nourish them into larger ones as you continue to make progress.
To identify effective flow triggers, you need to find an activity that is challenging enough to engage all of your attention but not so challenging that it becomes overwhelming. This sweet spot is different for everyone, so experiment with various activities to find what works for you. This could be anything from playing a sport to working on a complex project at work.
Your body plays a significant role in triggering flow states. Make sure you are well-rested and have enough sleep and energy to take on the challenge at hand.
Pay attention to your breathing and ensure that you aren’t holding your breath, as this can lead to anxiety and stress that can impede your flow state.
Healium is a meditation app featuring meditation experiences for athletes and helps our users live happier, healthier lives through flow state training.
Our app uses EEG neurofeedback to track each of your brainwaves in real-time and provides feedback that enables our users to reach a state of deep relaxation. This feedback teaches users to control their stress responses and find a state of calm amidst the chaos of everyday life.
Healium also offers guided meditations and breathing exercises that can be customized to suit our users’ specific needs. This combination of features makes Healium an effective tool for managing stress, anxiety, and depression. The added portability of Healium means you can meditate before or after you workout, give a presentation, or any tackle other application where triggering your flow state would be beneficial. Healium even helps users increase optimism, reduce worry, boost empathy, and improve sleep,
Here’s how it works:
Healium has been clinically validated to reduce stress levels in as little as 4 minutes.
So, what is flow state? Simply put, it’s a mental state of complete and utter immersion in the task or activity you are currently involved in.
With the right mindset and some practice, anyone can learn to enter the flow state and harness its power. By understanding what it is and how to achieve it, we can unlock our potential and perform at our best.
Consider Healium as a drugless aid to guide you back to your flow state. Our meditative nature-based virtual reality experiences make it easy and engaging to practice mindfulness and achieve flow. Small actions through consistency add up, and with more practice comes more control of your flow.
Download Healium today to relax and focus your mind!
Humans have been studying the causes of nightmares ever since we discovered REM sleep in 1953. While this date might seem late, it’s actually the first time that researchers studied sleep in a laboratory.
In the English-speaking world, the earliest known definition of a nightmare comes from the Oxford English Dictionary, tracing back to the 1300s. It describes the phenomenon as a spirit that invokes suffocation in a sleeping person or animal.
With such a long and varied history, it’s no wonder why people keep wondering about what causes nightmares.
Here is a comprehensive look at this disturbing sleep phenomenon.
According to the Third Edition of the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD-3), nightmares are extended and extremely dysphoric dreams. The Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) also uses this definition.
These vivid dreams usually involve scenarios that threaten a person’s survival, security, or physical integrity. Thus, they subconsciously exert effort to avoid them.
People normally associate nightmares when sleeping at night (hence the name). However, you can experience nightmares even in the early hours of the day, depending on your sleep schedule.
Nightmares occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is when your eyes move around quickly and randomly without sending visual signals to your brain. Experts also associate this stage of sleep with dreaming, making it integral to studying the causes of nightmares.
Nightmares occur in both children and adults.
About 50% of children aged 3 to 6 and about 20% of children aged 6 to 12 experience frequent nightmares.
Meanwhile, between 50% and 85% of adults report getting nightmares occasionally.
Many factors can cause nightmares. Some of the most common include:
Experts published research associating nightmares with high levels of worry. This study also suggests that people who experienced a major life stressor in the last 12 months are more likely to have nightmares.
Stressors can involve a wide variety of life factors, but common occurrences include divorce, the death of a loved one, and minor violations of the law.
People with anxiety disorders are also more likely to have nightmares.
In a 2014 study, researchers observed that adults who met generalized anxiety disorder criteria experienced more nightmares than participants without anxiety. Researchers also found evidence that these people’s bad dreams exacerbated the participants’ anxiety disorders.
People who survived sexual abuse or combat experiences can experience recurrent nightmares.
In fact, researchers reported that between 70% and 80% of adolescent and adult trauma survivors experience chronic nightmares.
One study described how people who experienced multiple traumas in their lifetime were more likely to have nightmares as adults because of the post-traumatic stress disorders they develop.
Experts consider nightmares the hallmark of PTSD.
One study featuring veterans with PTSD stated that 88% of the participants reported experiencing at least one nightmare a week. Meanwhile, civilians seeking treatment for PTSD also reported having nightmares, which ended up causing more sleep disorders.
Sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome are some sleep disorders that can cause nightmares.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, experts found a connection between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and having nightmares. Meanwhile, another study correlated having nightmares with periodic leg movement disorders.
Experts associate nightmares with this mental disorder.
In particular, one study reported that nightmares occur more commonly in schizophrenic patients than members of the general population. These people’s nightmares also risk intensifying their psychotic symptoms during the day, affecting their daily functionality.
Nightmares can be side effects of some medications.
Common medications associated with nightmares include specific antidepressants, beta-blockers, blood pressure medications, and drugs that target Parkinson’s disease. Medicines that help people quit smoking can also trigger nightmares.
People who abuse drugs or alcohol may experience frequent nightmares.
For instance, some people might drink alcohol believing that it can improve their sleep because it makes them drowsy. However, alcohol worsens sleep quality, which can lead to vivid nightmares and bad dreams.
Stopping the use of certain substances, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, can also cause withdrawal nightmares.
One study described how a participant experienced intense, hallucinatory nightmares during alcohol withdrawal.
Finally, many people might commonly associate horror books and movies with having nightmares.
Consuming horror media triggers your body’s fight or flight response, which can stay active even after you stop reading or watching the content. As a result, your mind might keep processing the fear-inducing content, leading to nightmares.
If you have frequent nightmares, consider the following things you can do to stop them:
Whether you like jotting down notes in your notebook or using a notepad app, recording your dreams can be a good way to understand them. You can even use your phone’s voice recorder when recounting the events of your recent nightmare if you can remember them.
Taking note of what you dreamt about, how you felt, and the time and place of your dream can help you connect patterns in your nightmares.
Once you make sense of what happens in your dreams, you can find clues in identifying possible triggers for your nightmares.
For instance, seeing characters from various horror media terrorizing you in your sleep might be a signal to take a break from watching horror movies. Meanwhile, stress dreams of failing an exam could be a clue to put more effort into your studies.
Nightmares usually revolve around settings that amplify the feeling of being trapped. Perhaps you are in a situation that limits your agency and control over things around you.
Once you understand your situation, you can try taking control by identifying memories that counter those trapped feelings. Focusing on those thoughts may help you feel at ease and more comfortable, giving you more clarity once you wake up.
As nightmares are related to anxiety and stress, learning how to relax more can help reduce their frequency.
Try listening to calming music as you go to sleep to create a calm space in reality as you drift off to your dreams. Or you can practice deep breathing exercises, which experts suggest can improve sleep quality.
Muscle relaxation exercises may also help prevent nightmares by reducing your body’s stress response.
Technology can also be incorporated to your relaxation routine. Sleep Meditation and wellness apps, like Sleepium, offer immersive, visually impactful, stories designed to downshift your body’s nervous system and induce sleep-promoting brainwaves. Studies have shown that the immersive qualities of virtual reality have even been effective for helping patients with phobias and PTSD.
If you have nightmares that are connected to underlying mental health issues, seeking a professional is the best decision you can make.
You could approach a therapist to help you process the traumas that might be the root of your nightmares. These professionals can also help you develop healthy coping mechanisms to address them correctly.
The key to understanding how to stop nightmares is to first understand what causes them. Identifying the source of your nightmares can help you find the best solution to address them.
Nightmares go beyond mere scary dreams and can be signs of underlying mental illness or unresolved traumas. Something could be wrong physically or mentally, which makes it all the more important to find ways to prevent them from reoccurring.
While you can try self-help methods like keeping a dream journal or practicing meditation to make sense of your nightmares alone, consider seeking professional help if the nightmares affect your daily functions.
Additionally, newer self-guided solutions like virtual reality sleep meditation have helped increase the effectiveness of alleviating stress and anxiety, both of which are common contributors to nightmares.
Curious how VR Sleep Meditation works? Watch below:
Is there anything more irritating than tossing and turning all night, failing to earn a good night’s sleep?
It’s an experience that many people can relate to. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleeping problems affect around 70 million Americans.
But what’s the reason behind this phenomenon? How can you stop it?
As experts in the realm of improving sleep quality, our team at Healium has put together an article with all your answers.
Endless tossing and turning can be the result of many different factors. Some of these reasons include lifestyle habits, mental conditions, environmental factors, or medical issues.
The first step toward getting a goodnight’s sleep is knowing and understanding which of those factors may be causing your sleeping difficulty. Once you’ve understood the reason behind the tossing and turning, it will be easier for you to determine the ultimate solution to get the sleep you need.
Here are some reasons why you’re tossing and turning all night:
According to Medical News Today, one of the most prevalent reasons for sleeping problems is stress.
Stress can be caused by a variety of factors and for different reasons ranging from work, school, relationships, and other troubles in your personal life. Instead of peacefully drifting off, your mind is preoccupied with the things that stress you out.
Stress might be affecting you even if you’re not aware of it, meaning your body can still experience the physical impacts.
Stiff, tense muscles make sleeping difficult and causes discomfort, which in turn leads to you tossing and turning in an attempt to find a comfortable sleeping position.
The state of your mind is another important factor to consider. While it’s natural to feel anxious toward work, school, or the future worries like these make it difficult to fall asleep.
Your body, in an attempt to soothe your mind, shifts around trying to find a comfortable position. However, movement triggers the alertness of the brain, , which makes falling (and staying) asleep increasingly more difficult.
Too much blue light stimulation before bedtime also contributes to sleep issues.
Blue light is a type of short wavelength light that increases attentiveness and brain function.
Examples of blue light stimulation before bedtime include:
– Watching TV
– Playing video games
– Spending too much time on electronic devices
As a result of blue light stimulation, your mind stays active and alert. It will make you much more sensitive to simple noises, sudden movements, and bright lights from inside and outside your room, leading you to toss and turn all night.
Coffee is a staple in most morning routines; however, too much caffeine is a leading cause of insomnia and keeps you tossing and turning all night.
During waking hours, the brain produces adenosine, a sleep-promoting neurotransmitter. The longer you’re awake, the more adenosine accumulates in the brain. The more it accumulates, the sleepier we become.
However, caffeine blocks your adenosine receptors, prohibiting the adenosine buildup your brain needs to make you tired. While there’s a time and a place for caffeine, if you’re having trouble sleeping, cutting down on your consumption will always be an effective strategy.
The body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, closely follows daily patterns of day and night.
However, many people have unique sleep schedules that throw their internal clock out of sync with this natural daily pattern.
Deviation from your natural circadian rhythm can also be caused by jet lag from frequent travel, constant work schedule changes, a hectic daily routine, an inconsistent bedtime, or other factors.
Attempting to sleep when your body is not tired enough or when it is not ready to fall asleep is an example of a poor sleeping schedule.
If you don’t get enough sleep at the right time, your body will feel uneasy, forcing you to toss and turn all night.
Various health conditions may be contributing to you tossing and turning all night. For example, you may experience trouble falling asleep because of a medical condition called restless legs syndrome.
RLS is a common condition that causes an uncontrollable need to move one’s legs, usually in response to an unpleasant sensation, most frequently when you’re seated or lying down.
Sleep apnea is another ailment that induces tossing and turning at night. This health condition causes your breathing to stop while sleeping, causing you to wake up frequently.
After narrowing down the causes of your tossing and turning, you can begin to address the issue and take steps towards improving your sleep.
Here are some of our favorite ways to stop all that tossing and turning:
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is a good place to begin when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
Try going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time in the morning to regulate your body’s internal clock. After a period of time, your body will adjust to the consistency and you will find it easier to fall asleep at your regular time.
What time should you be heading to bed?
Research suggests that 10 p.m. is the most ideal time to schedule your sleep around, but it’s more important to prioritize consistency and routine over any specific time.
If you find it easier to consistently head to bed earlier or later than 10 pm, go that route instead! The key is to let your body fall into a regular, predictable pattern so that your brain has an easier time shutting down for the night.
Grant your mind and body the space to prepare for sleep by turning off your technology about an hour before bedtime.
Any form of light hampers your production of melatonin, meaning you’ll have a harder time drifting off to sleep, but this rule especially applies to screens that emit blue light. Blue wavelengths of light actually increase your attention and reaction times, which is especially disruptive when you’re laying down to sleep.
Our suggestion? Read a relaxing book, perform sleep meditation, or listen to sleep-inducing music.
Limit your intake of caffeine to avoid blocking your adenosone production. After 3 PM, try staying away from coffee, soft drinks, and energy drinks. This allows your body to produce essential sleep hormones and helps you fall asleep more easily.
Looking at the effectivenes of your sleep arrangements extends beyond your sleep schedule or caffeine intake. Many people forget to actually look at the bed they sleep on!
Invest in a comfortable, high-quality mattress, pillow, and comforter. Prioritizing your comfort oftentimes contributes to a longer, more restful night’s sleep.
Did you know that meditation can actually contribute to more restful sleep?
Sleep Meditation lowers your stress and anxiety levels, stops your restlessness, and eliminates tossing and turning all night.
Virtual reality (VR) makes meditation more effective because the brain believes what it sees. VR meditation immerses you deeper into meditative experiences by blocking out all distractions and providing something for your mind to focus on.
Sleepium is a Virtual Reality sleep meditation app that helps you manage your anxiety and fall asleep more easily.
You can train with an EEG headband that analyzes brainwave data and view the same immersive content on your VR headset. Regular practice helps establish an associative or stored memory that you can refer to whenever you need to relax and calm down.
Virtual Reality meditation will make you feel more calm, remove any anxieties, worries, and stress, and allowing you to have the best sleep you’ve ever had.
People may be familiar with the question, “Are you left-brained or right-brained?”
According to popular psychology, our unique personality qualities are shaped by the dominance of one side of the brain.
Right-brained people are thought to have a greater capacity for creativity and intuition and a penchant for qualitative description of their surroundings.
On the other hand, most left-brained people are analytical thinkers who prefer logical and quantifiable explanations for their daily experiences and interactions.
However, do these ideas truly represent how our brain works? Let’s take a look.
The brain’s left hemisphere dominates language. It plays a larger role in speech processing and our capacity to transform sounds into words and interpret their meaning.
In addition to spoken communication, the left side of the brain is responsible for visual language. Deaf people exhibit speech-like neural activity when they see sign language. And for the majority, the left brain contains the two key language areas referred to as Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area:
– Wernicke’s area: This is located in the left temporal lobe. When this part of the brain is damaged, a person can meaninglessly ramble on and on and even make up new words. They can produce speech, but because they have difficulties understanding what is being said, they are oblivious to their own errors in speech.
– Broca’s area: This is located in the left frontal lobe. If there is an injury to this part of the brain, it may be difficult to move the facial muscles or tongue to make vocal sounds. Despite being able to read and comprehend speech, the person has trouble writing and speaking.
Fine motor skills are another left-brain function. It is responsible for reading, writing, and mathematics.
Other interpretations of the left brain have been known to refer to it as the logical half of the brain, because it pays attention to the smallest details before assembling a complete picture.
The techniques used to strengthen the left side of the brain are often reminiscent of what we learned in school: science, mathematics, and grammar.
Keep your left brain sharp with these suggestions:
– Solve puzzles: The brain’s left hemisphere is responsible for the logical thinking needed to solve puzzles. Try your hand at crosswords, sudoku, or scavenger hunts. These puzzle games are great for stimulating the left side of the brain.
– Train with brain teasers: Critical thinking, logic, and other reasoning abilities can be improved by working on brain teasers that engage your left hemisphere.
– Learn a new language: The left brain is also in charge of our ability to communicate in speech and writing. As a result, learning to speak or write in another language can help stimulate the left side of the brain.
The brain’s right hemisphere also supports language comprehension, especially the correct interpretation of phrases with multiple meanings, such as figures of speech.
It’s responsible for understanding ambiguous language and inferring emotions and underlying connotations from words.
Children’s ability to grasp concepts like “more” and “less” is widely attributed to the right side of their brains. In contrast, a child’s ability to understand numerical amounts lies more squarely in the left hemisphere.
The right brain is also responsible for paying attention to and interpreting the general shape of objects and calculating distances visually..
In addition, humans use their right brains to process emotions.
Right-brain exercises have numerous advantages.
Improved cognitive performance, reduced risk for depression and anxiety, and better sleep and quality of life are all benefits of mental activities that stimulate the right brain.
Artistic activities are a major component of right brain training designed to improve creative thinking. Here are some ideas for enhancing your right brain’s creativity:
– Express yourself through visual art: Sketching or painting helps you unleash your creative juices by putting your mind at ease. If you’d like, you can try your hand at any artistic craft.
– Learn to play a musical instrument: When it comes to singing or picking up a new instrument, it’s important to have both a logical focus and an emotional sense of the music. You can sharpen your brain’s right hemisphere by listening to new music, or even improve your sleep quality by listening to music in bed.
– Meditate: A wide range of physical and psychological health benefits have been linked to meditation. It’s calming, helps you focus, and is a great way to de-stress. A relaxed mood allows you to access your right brain’s insights better.
Recent advances in technology have even taken the effectiveness of meditation to the next level. For example, apps like Healium are blending virtual reality with meditative experiences which results in an immersive experience that compounds the benefits of traditional or audio-only forms of meditation.
Popular culture’s use of the terms “left brain” and “right brain” has led to a lot of misconceptions.
The concept of left- or right-brain dominance states that either side of the brain controls various ways of thinking. According to the theory, left-brained people are more logical and systematic in their thinking. On the other hand, those with a more dominant right brain have a tendency for creativity and the arts.
An entire industry has been built around this premise.
Many personality assessments, self-help books, therapies, and educational resources claim to help people enhance the functions of their brain’s dominant half or connect with the weaker side.
The theory of left vs right brain dominance was most likely inspired by neuropsychologist Roger Sperry’s studies in the 1970s and 1980s. His work focused on people who had surgery to cut off the corpus callosum, the major structure linking the brain’s two hemispheres, to treat epilepsy.
One of the key findings of Sperry’s team was that the brain has distinct left and right hemispheres that are responsible for specific activities like attention and language.
Several misconceptions about how these results were interpreted lead to the common myth that people are right-brained or left-brained.
Even though some cognitive functions tend to take place in the right or left hemispheres, researchers have not uncovered evidence that one side of a person’s brain is more dominant.
In a study of 1,000 participants conducted in 2013, magnetic resonance imaging indicated that the human brain does not prefer one hemisphere over the other.
Information flows freely between the two sides thanks to the interconnection of nerve fibers. Both sides operate together and support one another despite their differing functions.
You are not limited to using a single hemisphere of your brain at any given time. It doesn’t matter if you’re rational or creative; both hemispheres of your brain are involved.
A person’s general character traits, interests, and learning methods have nothing to do with them being a left- or right-brained individual.
The human brain is a remarkable organ responsible for controlling all bodily activities, interpreting information received from the environment, and the physical manifestation of the mind and soul.
It has hemispheres that work together, whether you’re solving a complex math problem or creating an abstract piece of art.
While there is no such thing as a true left-brained or right-brained person, you can take advantage of your unique abilities and keep expanding your mind.
With proper nourishment, regular physical activity, and mental stimulation, a healthy brain is capable of absorbing new information and coming up with new ideas. Much like a balanced diet, the brain deserves balanced nourishment.
Mental fitness is the driving force behind Healium. By combining immersive VR meditation experiences with neurofeedback tools, we’ve designed a system that presents users with a self-guided way to help drive improvements in their life.
Here’s how it works!
Sleeping is vital for our health and well-being, yet many find it challenging to get a good night’s sleep. Maybe you’re tossing and turning all night, trying your hardest to switch your mind “off”, but nothing works, despite the wide variety of solutions on the market today.
But what about sleep meditation music? How does listening to music while sleeping affect you?
Meditation music for sleep can be a powerful sleep aid. Studies have shown that music can help reduce anxiety, improve sleep quality, and promote relaxation.
One study found that sleep meditation music helped people with insomnia fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. The participants who listened to sleep meditation music also had less daytime sleepiness and felt more rested after sleep.
In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of sleep meditation music as well as answer common questions like: “How does music help you sleep?”
In general, music has a calming effect on the mind and body, which can lead to improved sleep. Music can help reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and slow heart rate. All of these effects can promote better sleep.
Music can also help to mask background noise that may be keeping you awake. If you live in a noisy environment or have trouble sleeping in silence, playing soft music may help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
In addition, music can have different effects on your brainwaves, depending on the type of music you listen to. Slow, relaxing music can help increase alpha and reduces beta activity brainwaves, which are associated with deep sleep states. In one study, adults who listened to 45 minutes of slow music before bedtime fell asleep faster and had better sleep quality than those who didn’t listen to music.
In addition to directly promoting sleep, music can also have other effects on the brain that indirectly promote sleep. For instance, music can:
– Improve mood – Music can boost your mood and improve your outlook on life.
– Reduce stress – Listening to music can help reduce stress and anxiety.
– Alleviate pain – One study found that music can help reduce pain in cancer patients.
– Enhance memory – Music can improve memory, especially in older adults.
– Boost cognitive performance – Listening to music can help you focus and improve your performance on task-oriented tasks.
– Improve exercise performance – Music can help you work out longer and harder.
The effects of music on the brain are still being studied, but there are a few theories about why music has these effects.
One theory is that music activates the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and emotion. It’s also involved in the reward center of the brain, which may explain why music can boost mood and improve cognitive performance.
Another theory is that music reduces stress by promoting relaxation. When we’re stressed, our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode, which releases stress hormones like cortisol. Music can help reduce cortisol levels and promote relaxation.
So, what type of music is best for sleep? Our favorite option is typically relaxing music, with a slow tempo and no lyrics.
However, the truth is that the best music for sleep is any type of music that can help you relax, calm down and feel comfortable.
We prefer music with a slow tempo can help slow down your heart rate and breathing, which can lead to a more relaxed state. Music without lyrics can also be helpful, as it won’t distract you with words or stories.
There are many different genres of music that can be effective for sleep, including classical, jazz, ambient, and electronic music. If you’re not sure where to start, many online streaming services offer collections of sleep-inducing music.
Keep in mind: When choosing music for sleep, it’s important to find something that you enjoy and that doesn’t make you feel anxious or stressed.
Everyone is different, so what works for one person may not work for another. If you’re having trouble finding the right music, it’s worth trying out a few different genres and artists to see what works best for you.
More importantly, make sure to listen to the music at a volume that is comfortable for you. If the music is too loud, it can actually do more harm than good and make it harder to fall asleep.
If you find that music helps you sleep, there are a few ways to incorporate it into your nightly routine.
– One option is to listen to music as you’re falling asleep. This can be done by using a bedside player, streaming music from your smartphone, or even playing music through a small portable speaker.
– If you have trouble falling asleep, you may want to try a guided meditation or relaxation program that uses music. There are many of these programs available online and on mobile apps. Guided sleep meditations can help to clear your mind and relax your body, making it easier to fall asleep.
– Listening to music before bed can also be a great way to wind down and prepare for sleep. It can also be used as a tool to help you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
The key is to become more aware (and listen to) your own body. Pay special attention to the genres of music that lead to higher levels of relaxation, and begin incorporating that music into your routine as you wind down for bed.
Combining music with meditation is an effective way to improve sleep quality. Music can help to calm the mind and body, and allow the listener to drift off into a deep sleep.
At Healium, we specialize in sleep meditation experiences, and have paid special mind to the audio we include in the background of each of our virtual reality stories.
You can take a journey into the world of sleep meditation with these virtual and augmented reality stories.
Tree of Life is our featured experience. In this experience, you will be transported to a serene forest where you can relax and recharge.
Other favorite stories and experiences include:
Music can be a helpful tool for sleep, both for falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night. It’s important to find music that you enjoy and that doesn’t make you feel anxious or stressed.
And, make sure to listen at a comfortable volume.
If you have trouble sleeping, you may want to try a guided meditation or relaxation program that uses music.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback are innovative noninvasive mental health applications that help improve physiological and psychological functioning by increasing awareness and control of our internal states, all by capturing data from your own body.
However, while biofeedback and neurofeedback are related, there are some important differences you should know when deciding which is best suited for your own needs.
This article will cover everything you need to know when comparing biofeedback versus neurofeedback.
Biofeedback is a method for obtaining more awareness and learning to control your body’s functions using data gathered from electronic sensors.
Simply put, any time you measure an aspect of your physiology and receive information about it, you are utilizing biofeedback.
Biofeedback data enables you to make minor adjustments to your body, such as relaxing specific muscles or controlling your heart rate. This leads to positive outcomes such as relieving pain, reducing tension, easing stress, relieving headaches, and more.
Neurofeedback is a subset of biofeedback in which users measure the electrical activity specific to the brain, typically through neurofeedback devices like EEG headcaps or headbands.
Neurofeedback is often paired with audio or visual inputs that change or react in reference to specified brainwave patterns.
Users can then leverage this data to inform their future neurofeedback sessions, thus improving the performance of specific brainwaves.
For example, when pairing neurofeedback with meditation, users can focus on developing healthier patterns of brain activity to feel calmer, happier, reduce stress, improve sleep and relieve anxiety.
According to the Mayo Clinic, biofeedback is used to help manage many physical and mental health issues, such as:
– Anxiety or stress
– Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
– Chemotherapy side effects
– Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
– Chronic pain
– Irritable bowel syndrome
– Fecal incontinence
-Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
– Urinary incontinence
– High blood pressure
– And more
Aside from Neurofeedback, the different types of biofeedback include:
– Electromyography (EMG): determining muscle tension.
– Thermal biofeedback: measures the temperature of the skin.
– Electrodermography (EDG): determining skin electrical activity.
– Heat Flux: measuring the rate of heat being dissipated from the body.
– Pneumography: measures the movement of the abdomen and chest when you breathe.
– Capnometry: measuring end-tidal carbon dioxide.
– Hemoencephalography: determines the color changes in light reflected through the scalp.
– Photoplethysmography (PPG): measuring peripheral blood flow and heart rate variability.
Those interested in specifically utilizing neurofeedback can essentially follow two different paths: buying the equipment to practice neurofeedback at home or locating a neurofeedback therapy clinic to conduct their sessions in a clinical setting.
Each method comes with its own set of advantages as well as their own ecosystem of neurofeedback equipment, which we’ve broken down in detail in a separate neurofeedback equipment buyer’s guide.
Quickly summarized, you’ll want:
– A device to capture your brainwaves.
– Software to help combine brainwaves to an auditory or visual signal.
– A system to track and store your data as neurofeedback sessions continue
Thanks to Healium, neurofeedback can be practiced safely and effectively at home today.
Healium is the only neurofeedback system that lets you see your brainwave data in virtual and augmented reality in real-time. Healium works in tandem with external neurofeedback or biofeedback wearable devices to help you train and reward your ability to relax and focus.
You don’t even need expensive EEG headcaps or professional-grade neurofeedback equipment to get started.
All you need to begin collecting your brainwave data is an EEG Headband. It’s adjustable, lightweight, and rechargeable!
For maximum benefits, you’ll also want software or an app to interpret your brainwave data once captured. Then, for our virtual reality meditation experiences, you’ll also need a virtual reality headset.
Healium will be your journey towards training your brain and learning to self-regulate.
Healium works to remove the mystery from meditation by granting users like you access to brainwaves in real-time, right as you’re undergoing a meditation session.
Healium also helps you understand your brainwave data so you can work towards improving your mental fitness at large. By providing you a baseline, a score following each neurofeedback session, and even specific brainwave band measurements in a data dashboard, you’re given all the tools you need to treat your brain like a muscle.
When comparing and contrasting biofeedback and neurofeedback to drug-based treatments, the difference becomes rather obvious.
Drug-based treatments involve an outside substance entering your body, while biofeedback and neurofeedback use data from your body to drive change.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback are natural techniques for improving (and gaining more awareness of) your body to feel better and achieve desired goals. Both biofeedback and neurofeedback present drugless, self-managed alternatives to the approaches of traditional medicine for many conditions.
For many, this self-guided approach is simply their preferred route.
However, there is still a middle ground to be found for those who prefer a more structured, clinical approach, but are also interested in bio or neurofeedback options. Many specialized clinics throughout the country offer both biofeedback and neurofeedback therapy sessions for a variety of uses.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback are two very closely related terms; however, there are key differences between the two that are important to grasp when you’re interested in pursuing either option.
Biofeedback is a larger, umbrella term used to describe the method of capturing data from your body, typically from sensors. Neurofeedback, meanwhile, is a type of biofeedback that narrows its focus specifically to your brainwaves, which are captured and measured through EEG sensors.
Both biofeedback and neurofeedback are great options for those looking for self-guided techniques driven by data that can help to drive change in your body or brain’s function.
If you’d like further explanation on the differences between these two terms, here’s one of our favorite resources available online, where Dr. Trish Leigh explains biofeedback versus neurofeedback in terms of clinical applications.
Meditation provides many different benefits to your body and well-being in general, leading many fitness enthusiasts to wonder if it is beneficial for a workout as well.
The answer to that question is, in fact, a resounding yes!
Applying meditation can be a way to reach your goals faster and help you stay disciplined in the process.
If done correctly, you can even change how your body responds to the exercise.
Here’s what you need to know:
A common understanding of meditation is that it brings peace and less stress. It’s a great way to improve your emotional state and even affect you throughout the day.
By meditating, many parts of the body reset or calm down.
Here are some of the effects:
– Improves sleep quality
– Improves blood pressure when resting
– Lowers resting heart rate
– Increases tolerance to pain
– Faster recovery
– More focus on the present situation
– Reduces any negative emotions
Many scientific studies suggest that meditation is a great way to deal with symptoms one feels in the body.
While research is still ongoing, recommendations for meditation are known to help with conditions such as:
– Chronic pain
– Sleep problems
– High blood pressure
It is not a replacement for any traditional medication, but it can be a supplement to any therapy or medicine one is taking.
Some people enjoy pre-workout meditation. It puts them in a more peaceful and focused state before getting into physical activity.
Meditating before your workout will allow you to release any tension in your muscles and stretch them. Many of those who practice this find that they have better focus and control when working out.
Studies show those who meditate before workouts experience reduced cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone, an alarm system in the body that affects your mood. By lowering it, you are reducing the strain on your body and can release unwanted stress.
There is also a direct connection between pre-workout meditation and depression.
According to one study conducted by Rutgers, people with depression showed fewer depressive symptoms and were less bothered by their thoughts after pre-workout meditation. After continuing this pre-workout meditation routine for eight weeks, it revealed a 40% reduction in symptoms among those who participated.
One of the ways to meditate before working out is mindful breathing. Find a quiet corner of your workout area or plugin earphones with some relaxing music.
From there, you can begin focusing on deep breathing.
Take 3 seconds to inhale, a 3-second pause, and 3 seconds to exhale. You can do this in any comfortable position you like. Some even incorporate yoga poses while doing this.
Doing this helps you turn off any excess adrenaline you may have in the workout.
For example, if you were in a stressful situation before the activity, your body could have entered an extended flight-or-fight mode, which can inhibit your movement or make it inefficient, thus tiring you out faster.
Meditation is a way to train your body, mind, and emotions. Regardless of the intensity of your workouts, most results only appear when you are recovering.
However, your body doesn’t enter that state right away, even after relaxing from your exercises. It can be overworked and can increase the risk of injury.
By meditating after your workout, you align your body back to a calm state so it can focus on healing.
It will also help produce endorphins that help the body relax, recover, and bring positive emotions.
Many who meditate after working out find an improved state of recovery. The results depend on the individual, but many have experienced a reduction in pain in the areas they targeted with their workout.
Most post-workout meditations focus on calmness and comfort.
The first thing you need to do is get into a position that allows you to relax, even if you aren’t moving.
For a traditional approach, set a timer for around 5-10 minutes. During these minutes, you can either close your eyes or focus your sight downwards. Place your hands on the ground or put them in a comfortable place facing upwards — but don’t focus on your posture too much.
Focus on slowing your breathing. If you get distracted by your thoughts, accept them and turn your attention back to your breath.
When you’ve hit the timer or feel that your meditation is at an end, slowly open your eyes.
Innovative applications like Healium take the benefits of post-workout meditation to the next level. These guided VR meditation sessions, fully immerse you while guiding you through a meditation experience that increases your mindfulness, relaxes your body, and better positions your body for recovery.
Read our latest blog to learn more about how virtual reality improves upon the effectiveness of meditation here!
Meditating before or after a workout can be a way for you to enhance your experience. It improves recovery and provides positive emotions, bringing more focus to your activities.
But, should you be meditating before or after a workout? Which is better?
The honest answer to that question is, “it depends”. Meditating before or after a workout each comes with its own set of benefits, and whether you knock out your meditation prior to or just following your workout will largely boil down to whether you’re trying to loosen up your body and focus or are instead trying to relax and aid in recovery.
In all actuality, the best approach would be to do both! We’ve written before about how often you should meditate (and the fact that there’s no such thing as meditating too much), so why not maximize the benefits of your new practice?
As shown above, putting this into a routine prior to or after a workout has shown to bring many benefits and can be the first step to further improvement and a better mental fitness state.
Millions of people suffer from insomnia, which can lead to a wide range of problems like fatigue, anxiety, and depression. While there are many places to turn to for help with insomnia, one underutilized (and completely self-managed) method is through sleep meditation.
In this blog, we’ll explore how sleep meditation helps self-manage insomnia and how you can start using it to improve your sleep.
Insomnia can be caused by stress, anxiety, depression, or even physical pain, but what makes it especially grueling is when you feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle.
Despite the fact that you feel exhausted during the day, you still can’t fall asleep at night. This spirals into even more stress and anxiety, which only exacerbates the problem.
Other causes of insomnia include:
– Poor sleep habits
– Use of stimulants like caffeine or nicotine
– Eating late at night
– Working odd hours
– Medical conditions like sleep apnea
Sleep deprivation affects the brain in multiple ways, including impaired judgment, decreased reaction time, and difficulty learning new information or retaining memories.
Sleep deprivation can also cause mood swings, irritability, and anxiety.
Essentially, our brains and bodies aren’t able to operate as efficiently as they could if we get enough sleep. In fact, quality and consistent sleep is a major factor in your mental fitness at large.
Many people mistakenly believe the brain “shuts off” during sleep, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The neuroscience of what’s happening inside your brain during sleep is a fascinating topic we’ve written about in depth before.
To feel properly rested, your sleep needs to travel through several stages. Each of those stages is also associated with different types of brainwaves and different levels of brain activity.
One of the main reasons meditation helps with sleep is through its influence on brainwaves that promote feelings of relaxation and quiet internal chatter.
Meditation is the act of focusing your attention and calming your mind. It’s a simple yet effective way to relax your body and mind.
There are many types of meditation that suit a variety of different purposes, but did you know that there are guided sleep meditations available that may help your insomnia?
Sleep meditation is specifically catered to lower stress levels, increase feelings of relaxation, and lead to periods of more restful sleep. It’s a drugless way to improve sleep quality that many users find helpful.
Guided sleep meditation sessions are usually between 20 and 30 minutes long. They typically start with some deep breathing exercises to help you relax. Then, the guide will lead you through a series of visualizations that help you destress and fall asleep. The visualizations may involve imagining yourself in a peaceful place, such as a beach or a meadow.
These days, VR is being used to enhance guided sleep meditation for insomnia. VR can provide a more immersive experience that can help you relax and fall asleep more easily.
While guided sleep meditation for insomnia won’t cure insomnia, it can help you manage it better.
When you meditate, your brainwaves change.
Different types of meditation are associated with different kinds of brainwaves, just like different stages of sleep are more closely associated with certain brainwaves.
Guided sleep meditation for insomnia usually focuses on your theta waves, because the goal is to help you relax and de-stress. The benefits of this focus includes:
– Reducing stress
– Slowing down your thoughts
– Calming your mind
– Helping you relax
If you’re looking for a natural way to help your insomnia, guided sleep meditation may be worth a try. You might be surprised at how effective it can be in terms of both helping you fall asleep and improving the quality of your sleep.
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that uses real-time displays of brain activity to train people to change their brainwaves. It’s also the driving force behind our app Healium.
How it works is very simple:
By capturing and displaying your brainwave activity in real-time and immersing users in quality sleep meditation experiences, Healium grants users agency over their brain. With data at their disposal, users can track progress, drive motivation, and work to change their brain patterns and improve their sleep as a whole.
So, if you’re looking for help with your insomnia, neurofeedback might be worth considering.
However, it’s important to remember that neurofeedback is a self-management tool, not a cure.
At Healium, our goal is to help you get the best night’s sleep possible. That’s why we offer a variety of guided sleep meditation experiences, each designed to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Our guided sleep meditation exercises for insomnia are a self-directed and drugless alternative that may prove useful.
Using VR technology, you can immerse yourself in a calming environment and follow along with the guide that you need.
If you are suffering from insomnia and are looking for a drug-free way to self-manage it, meditation may be the answer for you.
Try out Sleepium for yourself today!
Neurofeedback is a non-invasive method of monitoring and training your brain waves through electronic equipment (typically EEG devices like the BrainLink Lite Headband) in order to evaluate your mind and body.
Neurofeedback therapy helps you become a more well-rounded person equipped to tackle adversity as well as enhances your mental fitness so you can enjoy a balanced life and healthy relationships. Neurofeedback equipment plays a key role in optimizing your mental fitness. Never before has capturing your brainwave data been so accessible!
With the right equipment in hand, you’re able to train your brain and the specific brainwave patterns associated with aspects of yourself you wish to improve.
However, as the popularity of this therapeutic tool continues to rise, many are curious about the options available to them when it comes to neurofeedback equipment, as well as how much said equipment (or therapy sessions in general) will end up taking out of their wallets.
We’ve put together the ultimate neurofeedback equipment buyer’s guide to answer all your questions.
There’s no getting around the fact that neurofeedback can be costly depending on the approach you take (whether or not you do neurofeedback at home or go to a professional neurofeedback clinic makes a big difference in total cost).
However, the benefits that regular neurofeedback training can give you, especially when combined with immersive virtual reality meditation, are absolutely life changing and worth the investment.
– Insightful Feedback: Neurofeedback provides you with valuable feedback which will grant you insight into how your brain is working. Positive feedback is generated for healthy brain processes, while negative feedback is created for unhealthy brain processes.
– Relaxation and Calmness: Neurofeedback promotes relaxation by increasing your alpha waves, which can lead to a peaceful and relaxed state of mind. According to Forbes Health, alpha waves help control and treat anxiety and stress.
– A Focused Mind: Neurofeedback sharpens your focus by boosting your beta brain waves. These waves are connected to your alertness, attention span, and concentration. Beta waves play a role in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
– Sounder Sleep: Neurofeedback improves your sleep patterns and the quality of your sleep as a whole. In fact, neurofeedback therapy has grown in popularity as a drugless and self-managed way to help insomnia.
– Learning Skills: Neurofeedback training hones your learning skills by enhancing alpha wave activity. It can be used to manage and treat learning disorders like dyslexia and dyscalculia, based on a study published by the Basic and Clinical Neuroscience Journal.
– Neurodevelopmental Function: Neurofeedback improves neurodevelopmental functions, and can be instrumental in the treatment of autism, which limits your social ability and verbal and nonverbal communication activity.
– Addiction Recovery: Neurofeedback could help you to recover from drug and alcohol addiction and dependence. It can minimize your cravings for illicit substances, which could make you less vulnerable to the temptations of drugs or alcohol.
If you’re considering adding neurofeedback in your mental fitness toolkit, there are essentially two roads you can take: buying the proper equipment to practice neurofeedback at home, or finding a neurofeedback practitioner to conduct neurofeedback in a clinical setting.
Each of these routes has pros and cons, and each will have different associated costs.
Naturally, at-home neurofeedback devices grant you the benefits of neurofeedback training at a more affordable price point while staying put in the comfort of your own home. The drawback to this approach is that you’re reliant upon yourself to practice neurofeedback training correctly and regularly. If you can find the level of dedication required, this is often a great and affordable way to train your brain and build a consistent practice.
Alternatively, clinical neurofeedback therapy brings you a more in-depth and professional neurofeedback experience. Your neurofeedback therapy sessions will be overseen by a licensed professional who can help translate your brain data and direct you to further resources if needed. This approach to neurofeedback will be more costly, though, and depending on your location it could be difficult to locate a practitioner within feasible driving distance.
Let’s break down the equipment used for each approach a bit further:
There are a plethora of home neurofeedback devices on the market today. Some neurofeedback equipment you’ll find within a traditional medical setting, while others are more geared for users to experience the benefits of neurofeedback at home.
At Healium, we fall into the latter category.
At-home neurofeedback equipment are consumer-grade tools that can be used by non-professionals to undergo DIY neurofeedback therapy. Here are our favorite neurofeedback devices we recommend for those looking to experience neurofeedback for themselves.
BrainLink or BrainLink Lite EEG headbands empower you to track your brain’s electrical activity via EEG sensors that are positioned on your forehead.
These soft leather headbands are the devices we recommend most often to new Healium users. They pair with both Healium AR and VR apps, providing users neurofeedback specifically for a focused calm state and improving sleep.
Wearing BrainLink Lite across the forehead provides a comfortable fit, is lightweight and adjusts to fit any head shape. Our favorite part? These devices are easy to grasp! There’s no crazy array of wires and sensors. Simply slip the band on your head, ensure it’s positioned properly and away you go. The fact that it is USB rechargeable is another added bonus.
The Muse is a brain-sensing headband that can provide you with real-time biofeedback to help you refocus during the day and recover at night.
More than likely, this is what you’re picturing when you first think of “neurofeedback device”.
EEG headcaps contain electrodes that are applied to the scalp. The cap itself assists in electrode placement, allowing the electrodes to be placed precisely and maintain sufficient contact with the scalp.
Healium is a mental fitness app that utilizes virtual and augmented reality to reduce your stress and anxiety. The Healium experience is active, visual, and immersive, making it the ultimate meditation experience. Also, the foundation behind how it helps improve your brain is rooted in neurofeedback!
Our virtual reality experiences are directly affected by your heart rate and brainwaves via the BrainLink Lite EEG Headband. What’s more? The real-time brainwave chart (which we call the “firefly”) allows you a means to challenge and train specific brainwaves, while the data dashboard gives you the ability to track your progress over time.
Clinical studies have suggested that Healium can minimize moderate anxiety in as fast as four minutes.
Professional neurofeedback equipment is used by neurofeedback practitioners to provide neurofeedback therapy sessions to patients in medical centers. This type of equipment is only appropriate for professionals in the neurofeedback industry, and the equipment associated carries quite a hefty price tag.
These are some examples of professional neurofeedback equipment and their estimated cost:
ATLANTIS II is a biofeedback system that showcases two channels of EEG and two channels of AUX signals. It provides extra biofeedback, plus real-time impedance recording. It facilitates total immersion through its auditory, photic, and vibratory feedback.
The BrainMaster Discovery 20 qEEG is a biofeedback device that features whole-head EEG. It is characterized by a high-quality clinical-grade EEG acquisition. It has a wide variety of software and functions.
Interested in learning more about qeeg brain mapping? We’ve written an in-depth guide in our blog!
Neurofeedback clinics are a perfectly reasonable and effective way to manage and cope with a wide variety of mental wellness issues, including depression, ADHD, and autism.
However, at Healium, we cannot recommend a specific provider for anyone reading this blog. After all, we wouldn’t presume to know the ins and outs of your specific medical situation or the availability of neurofeedback centers in your specific area.
That being said, we’d love to offer you some advice on what to prioritize when considering all the available neurofeedback clinics near you :
1. Location: Obviously, proximity to your home will be a major factor, and while this seems like an obvious tip, it’s worth pointing out that this should carry even more added weight for neurofeedback clinics specifically because the effectiveness of neurofeedback therapy is tied closely to how regularly you conduct sessions.
In short: you’ll be driving to your chosen clinic a lot, so search for a neurofeedback center and practitioner who is located fairly near where you are based!
2. Specialization: There are different types of neurofeedback therapy, ranging from Quantitative EEG therapy to Alpha/Theta Neurofeedback. These specializations target and affect different brainwaves to achieve different results.
Make sure you’re knowledgeable about the different types of neurofeedback, as well as the different types of brainwaves and what they’re associated with when considering different neurofeedback practitioners.
3. Competence: Make sure that the practitioner and center are well-known for effective neurofeedback treatments and professional services. Read online reviews and ask for the honest opinions of friends and family who have tried the treatments of the practitioners you are considering.
You can experience the benefits of neurofeedback therapy and increase your mental fitness by buying at-home neurofeedback equipment and trying neurofeedback yourself in a comfortable home environment!
Contact Healium to learn how our VR neurofeedback app and EEG headband can transform your mental fitness for the better.
The amount of quality sleep we get greatly affects our physical and mental fitness as a whole. Our body uses this time to repair and grow our bones and muscles. Sleep is also necessary for our brain to sort and store memories, as well as maintain healthy overall cognitive performance.
But what exactly is going on inside your brain as you sleep throughout the night?
While it might seem like a safe assumption to believe your brain “ramps down” during sleep, the truth turns out to be quite the opposite. Your brain remains highly active throughout the entirety of your sleep in order to facilitate continued sleep, memory and emotion processing, dreaming, and much much more.
Without enough sleep, your brain simply does not function properly.
This high level of sleeptime brain activity is the biggest reason why methods of meditation aimed at specific brainwaves are so effective at improving your sleep.
These levels of high activity are especially prevalent during rapid-eye-movement or REM sleep.
Different parts of the brain control different aspects of our sleep-wake cycle. The hypothalamus, in particular, acts as the control center for sleep and arousal or wakefulness.
The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus controls our behavioral rhythm using light exposure, thus matching our sleep-wake cycle with the external light-dark or day-night cycle.
Other parts of our brain that are involved in sleep include:
– The Brain Stem: Your brain stem controls the transitions between your wake and sleep times. It is made up of three parts: the pons, medulla oblongata, and midbrain. The pons and medulla are responsible for relaxing our limbs during REM sleep, preventing us from acting out our dreams.
– The Thalamus: The thalamus sends information from our senses to the cerebral cortex or central processing structure of our brain. The thalamus is particularly active during REM sleep.
– The Pineal Gland. Upon receiving signals from the SCN, this part of our brain produces more melatonin, the hormone that helps promote sleep and control our sleep-wake cycle.
– The Basal Forebrain: This brain structure is responsible for releasing adenosine, which helps support our sleep drive, and is the opposite of the midbrain, which acts as an arousal system.
– The Amygdala: The part of the brain responsible for processing emotions. As such, the amygdala becomes more active during REM sleep.
There are two basic types of sleep (REM, or rapid-eye-movement sleep, and non-REM sleep) and four major stages.
We go through these four stages of non-REM (or NREM) sleep and the solitary REM sleep stage several times when we sleep at night. The NREM sleep stages occur first, with the REM sleep stage happening around an hour to an hour and a half after we fall asleep.
Here is a more detailed look at the different stages of sleep.
The wake stage is sometimes not considered a sleep stage due to its nature. However, it is undeniably part of the sleep-wake cycle. The wake stage or stage W can be further divided into two: eye-open and eye-closed wakefulness.
For those looking to improve the quality of their sleep, this is the stage in which you can take active steps to achieve just that! Sleep meditation is very effective just before bed, especially if you’ve supplemented your routine with additional neurofeedback training earlier in the day.
Stage N1 or the first stage of the NREM sleep is when our heartbeat and breathing start to slow down and our muscles start to relax. This stage typically lasts for only a few minutes. It is also known as the lightest stage of sleep.
As we are still transitioning from wakefulness to sleep, we can be roused from our sleep quite easily in this stage.
Stage N2 may be deeper than the first stage but we can still be awakened easily. This stage takes up most of our total sleep time. During this stage, our heartbeat and breathing slow down even more, while our body temperature also starts to drop.
This stage is also characterized by the presence of sleep spindles, which indicate NREM sleep, and K-complexes, which indicate a shift to deeper sleep.
Stage N3 is considered the deepest stage of sleep. It is the most difficult sleep stage to wake up from. It is during this stage that our body facilitates various health-promoting bodily functions, including bone and tissue growth and repair, cell regeneration, and immune system strengthening.
This stage is also further divided into two substages: NREM stage 3 and NREM stage 4. Deep sleep starts in NREM stage 3, while we are firmly in the deepest sleep stage in NREM stage 4.
Stage R or REM sleep is widely known as the “dreaming” stage. This stage starts roughly 90 minutes after we fall asleep. During the first sleep cycle, stage R only lasts about 10 minutes. Its duration increases with each complete cycle, lasting between 30 to 60 minutes at its longest.
Our brain activity fluctuates throughout each sleep stage. This means the brainwaves during sleep go up and down accordingly. The predominant brainwaves during sleep also change, depending on our brain activity.
Both alpha and beta brain waves are present during the wake stage. Beta wave activity is predominant during eye-open wakefulness. Beta waves, the most common daytime brain waves, are associated with engaging activities, such as problem-solving and other cognitive tasks.
Meanwhile, alpha waves, which can boost creativity and reduce symptoms of depression, are more dominant as we start to become drowsy and our eyes close.
During the early portion of stage N1, the brain produces more of the alpha waves that became predominant in the latter part of the wake stage. However, theta wave activity starts to increase as we move towards the end of stage N1.
Theta waves are often observed in deep states of meditation and are associated with implicit learning, information processing, and making memories.
Theta waves are one of the three characterizing traits of stage N2. Although theta waves dominate our brain activity, they are regularly interrupted by sleep spindles.
Sleep spindles are brainwave spikes especially noticeable on any piece of neurofeedback equipment or EEG device. They are a trademark of NREM sleep stages, and are believed to mediate many sleep related functions, from memory consolidation to cortical development.
Moreover, K-complexes, which are single, long delta waves, may also interrupt the theta waves. These K-complex delta waves will eventually replace all brainwave activity as stage N2 continues and transitions to stage N3.
The slow delta waves only occur during the deepest stage of sleep, and as such are predominant in stage N3. Delta brain waves are the slowest brain waves, measuring at 0.5 to 3 Hertz.
When delta brain waves are most dominant, your brain is involved in resting and regeneration.
During the REM sleep stage, we have very similar brainwaves to when we are awake. Our brain exhibits mixed frequency brain wave activity, most likely due to our dreams.
Improving the quality of our sleep helps us improve our physical and mental fitness. Although it is difficult to fully control the various factors that may interfere with our sleep, we can adopt habits that can encourage longer and higher quality sleep.
Some ways we can improve our sleep quality include:
–Sticking to a strict sleep schedule
–Limiting daytime naps to around 30 minutes
–Getting regular physical activity during the day
–Avoiding intense physical activity close to bedtime
–Increasing exposure to sunlight or bright light during the day
–Avoiding caffeine during the afternoon and evening
–Starting a pre-sleep relaxation routine to clear the mind
–Incorporating Sleepium, a clinically validated mental fitness channel, into our pre-sleep relaxation routine can make it easier to fall asleep.
Sleepium utilizes neurofeedback together with virtual and augmented reality apps to calm our aves and heart rate, which allows for better self-management of stress and anxiety. This allows us to specifically target brain waves associated with sleep and “train” our brain to sleep better.
Sleepium has proven effective in reducing moderate anxiety by up to one-third in as fast as four minutes.
Using Sleepium together with an Apple watch or EEG headband lets us keep track of our brainwaves and heart rate, which allows for better self-management of stress and anxiety. This allows us to specifically target brain waves associated with sleep and “train” our brain to sleep better.