While you’ve probably heard that meditation is a good practice, many people still don’t know why or how exactly it is beneficial. Meditation has the power to positively reshape the structure of our brains!

 

If you are curious about meditation, but find yourself routinely asking, “Why should I meditate?” this article is for you.

 

We’ll discuss the different long-term effects of meditation and how exactly these effects operate, as illustrated in research.

 

Meditation Balances Hormone Levels

 

Your brain is an incredible organ, capable of affecting much more than the muscles throughout your body. In fact, the biochemical makeup of your brain may have an even larger impact on your body’s functioning at large. 

 

That’s why it’s so important to strive for mental fitness, which is a mindset where you treat your brain like the muscle it truly is. This means exercising it regularly through the likes of meditation and neurofeedback so you maintain a proper balance of hormones & optimize your brainwaves. 

 

– Cortisol & Adrenaline

Cortisol and adrenaline are both stress hormones, designed to put your body in tense “flight or fight” mode. When adrenaline is present in higher levels, your blood pressure rises along with your heart rate. Meanwhile, cortisol works to suppress your digestive system and increase your blood sugars. 

 

While there’s certainly a time and place for these specific hormones, balancing their levels during the more normal periods of your day has become more important than ever. Stress at large has become the 21st century epidemic, estimated to be responsible for around 90% of all doctor’s visits.


Mindfulness exercises like meditation have been proven effective at lowering the levels of these hormones and eliminating stress from your life. 

 

– Melatonin

Melatonin is the hormone responsible for keeping our sleep-wake cycles in check and regulating our body’s internal clock.  The more melatonin our body produces, the easier it becomes for us to sleep. 

 

Studies suggest that meditation may help increase our melatonin levels. This falls in line with previous research that indicates meditation helps improve sleep issues and reduce insomnia symptoms.

 

– Insulin

Researchers have noted that regular meditation positively affects risk factors for diabetes mellitus. In a 2006 study, regular transcendental meditation improved the blood pressure and insulin resistance of the patients.

 

Moreover, the lowered cortisol levels that regular meditation practice brings also allows the insulin in our bodies to work properly.

 

– Prolactin

Prolactin is another hormone our body produces more whenever we are exposed to stress. At high levels, it can potentially disrupt estrogen and progesterone balance, which in turn can affect our emotional regulation.

 

By improving our stress levels and responses, practicing meditation can help down-regulate prolactin production. In turn, this may help prevent infertility, acne, and irregular menstruation.

 

– Dopamine

Research findings suggest that meditation techniques raise our dopamine levels. Getting a surge of dopamine helps improve our memory, focus, and problem-solving capabilities.

 

Dopamine is one of the “happy hormones” our body releases when we exercise. It causes feelings of pleasure, motivation, and satisfaction. It essentially primes our brains for peak performance.

 

– Estrogen & Testosterone

Chronic stress and lack of sleep can suppress women’s estrogen levels and adversely influence men’s testosterone release. As such, regular meditation, which reduces stress and anxiety, can aid in raising estrogen and testosterone levels.

 

Moreover, studies indicated that practicing meditation may boost the production of DHEA or dehydroepiandrosterone. Aside from being an “anti-aging” hormone, DHEA helps produce other vital hormones, including estrogen and testosterone.

 

 

How Meditation Relieves Stress

Woman Meditating

One popular benefit of meditation is reducing stress. In particular, a 2013 study noted that mindfulness meditation can help lower cortisol levels. As the main stress hormone in your body, cortisol works with several parts of your body to regulate your mood.

 

Research has also shown that meditation can help relieve stress as participants experience structural changes in their amygdala. This structure of cells lying in the middle of the brain are the ones responsible for stress, anxiety, and fear.

 

Meditation is referred to as a mind-body complementary medicine too. It allows you to experience a deep relaxation state and peace of mind. This is because when you meditate, you’re able to remove different conflicting thoughts that keep you preoccupied and give you stress and anxiety. 

 

As a result, meditation can help you improve both your physical and emotional wellness.

 

In another study conducted in 2014, transcendental meditation, wherein you need to quietly repeat either a sound or word to help you remain focused, has been shown to help reduce teachers’ stress and burnout. By utilizing stress scales before and after the transcendental meditation program, the researchers found out that participants had lower stress levels and burnout.

 

How Meditation Enhances Sleep Quality

Woman Waking Up From Restful Sleep

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 70 million people in the U.S deal with chronic sleep problems. 

 

So, if you’re wondering “why meditate?” it’s because the practice can help improve your sleep quality. 

 

A 2015 study from JAMA Internal Medicine examined the effect of mindfulness meditation on 49 adults experiencing moderate sleep problems. Results revealed that the participants who practiced meditation had fewer symptoms of insomnia.

 

They also experienced less daytime fatigue. While sleep-related problems are often caused by worries and stress, researchers noted that meditation can enhance your relaxation response. Moreover, the practice facilitates better control of the autonomic nervous system. As a result, your tendency to be awakened quickly is mitigated.

 

Meditation improves levels of melatonin too, which has a crucial role in regulating sleep. In particular, slowing hepatic metabolism or amplifying synthesis in the pineal gland makes the increase of melatonin concentration possible. Then, meditation techniques can manage the blood flow of the brain’s executive regions during sleep. Given that meditation practices influence several brain functions positively, it creates mind and body harmony.

 

Sleepium guided sleep meditations with neurofeedback app

 

At Healium, we’ve developed an application specifically catered to improve your sleep quality through meditation. By combining virtual reality, neurofeedback devices, and sleep meditation experiences, Sleepium provides users with an actionable means to achieve better sleep.

 

How Meditation Improves Age-Related Memory Loss

 

Long-term effects of meditation include managing age-related memory loss too. For example, a meditation technique called Kirtan Kriyas has been shown to help improve the memory of individuals experiencing cognitive decline. Various meditation styles may also enhance the memory and attention of older adults.

 

Even people dealing with dementia can benefit from meditation’s ability to provide partial improvement of memory. At the same time, the family members who take care of individuals with dementia can manage their stress and cope more effectively through meditation.

 

A 2017 study on adults experiencing early memory loss reported that meditation practices, along with listening to music, can provide several benefits. These include boosting cognition, enhancing mood and the quality of life, and helping reverse memory loss in older adults suffering from subjective cognitive decline.

 

How Meditation Facilitates Better Emotional Health

 

Practicing mindfulness meditation may also help you develop a better perception of life. A review on meditation programs, for instance, noted that meditation helps improve symptoms of depression among over 3,000 adults.

 

A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality emphasized that meditation exercises may mitigate the presence of negative thoughts. Meanwhile, another review noted the potential of meditation to combat depression by reducing cytokine levels. When you’re stressed, your body releases these inflammatory chemicals that may affect your mood and develop into anxiety and depression.

A dirt road disappears on the horizon. Text overlay says "10 moments in the day to take a mental health break"

How Meditation Helps Battle Addiction

 

Meditation can help people combat addiction. For example, a 2013 review highlighted that mindfulness-based interventions can significantly lower the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, and other substances. The same review noted other studies that suggest the link between these interventions and reduced cravings.

 

Another 2014 study reported that meditation can mitigate the risk of substance abuse relapse. It supports your ability to fight the discomfort related to drug cravings and other negative effects, which means that long-term outcomes can be expected.

 

Given the mental discipline that you acquire from meditation, you can have more self-control. In turn, you become more aware of the things that trigger your addictive behaviors. With meditation, you can control your impulses and emotions better as well as redirect your focus, thus helping combat addiction. 

 

A study conducted in 2018 also focused on the effect of transcendental meditation on individuals treated for alcohol use disorder. Results showed that this practice may help reduce alcohol use, alcohol cravings, and psychological distress. 

 

So, Why Meditate?

woman sitting cross legged with vr goggles

Meditation practices have been around for thousands of years, and for good reason. While the mysteries of the brain are still being unraveled, there is solid scientific evidence reinforcing the long term benefits of meditation for your mental fitness and overall health of your brain. 

 

These benefits include relieved stress levels, enhanced quality of sleep, improved age-related memory loss, better emotional health and empathy levels, and even help in combating addiction. 

 

What’s more? The advances in modern technology are even further capitalizing on these benefits!

a virtual reality landscape with text overlay that reads, "why is it important to see your feelings?"

If you want to take your meditation experience to another level, find out how new technologies like virtual reality meditations even further enhance this millenia old practice.

 

Woman meditating with VR headset and neurofeedback chartWhen supplemented with additional neurofeedback equipment, modern day virtual reality meditation has the power to optimize specific brainwaves, reduce stress, and increase your mental fitness as a whole. You can finally remove the mystery from meditation and track the improvements it’s making to your brain.

 

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. 

 

Is Neurofeedback Worth the Investment?

Benefits of Neurofeedback GraphicIn our humble opinion, yes, very much so!


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.

 

 

Identifying the Right Neurofeedback Equipment For You

 

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:

 

At-Home Neurofeedback Equipment 

 

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.

 

– The BrainLink Lite EEG Headband ($179)

Brainlink EEG Headband

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. 

 

– MUSE Headband ($249.99)

Muse HeadbandThe 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.

 

 

– An EEG Headcap (typically $400 – $500)

EEG HeadcapMore 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 ($29/Month Membership)

 

 

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

 

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 2×2 Clinical Biofeedback System with BrainAvatar 4.0 Package ($1,995)

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.

 

-BrainMaster Discovery 20 qEEG ($4,800)

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.

 

How to Find the Right Neurofeedback Practitioner and Center for Treatment

Neurofeedback Therapy in Action

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.

 

Get Started With a Brain Training Program With the Aid of a VR Neurofeedback App

vr meditation with neurofeedback

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.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to deliver physical and mental health benefits, including improving focus, reducing stress, managing pain, lowering general blood pressure, and even improving sleep.

 

At Healium, we consider meditation a vital exercise in achieving mental fitness, meaning you should try to develop a meditation routine just like any other form of exercise. A study from Harvard shows that regular meditation helps you sleep better and wake up feeling more rested. 

 

Our tip to developing a daily meditation practice? Begin by scheduling small mini-meditation sessions throughout the day whenever you feel the urge to relax your body and calm yourself in general.

 

While consistent meditation throughout the day is the goal (especially if it’s supplemented with neurofeedback training like Healium), more often than not people find themselves laying in bed at night wondering how to meditate to sleep right then and there. 

 

In this blog we’ll walk you through the basics of how sleep meditation helps you wind down, what’s happening inside your brain as you drift away, and even teach you step by step how best to meditate in bed right before you fall asleep. 

 

Does Meditating Before Sleep Help?

 

Meditation helps improve sleep conditions by adjusting brainwaves and alleviating internal stress and anxiety, which has been a well-documented strategy for those looking to gain quality rest.

 

In addition, sleep meditation brings about the following benefits, which may result in an easier time falling asleep (and deeper states of sleep in general). 

 

 – It relaxes the body and mind, making it easier to fall asleep.

 

– It trains the mind to focus on one thing at a time, creating a sense of inner peace that carries over into your sleep.

 

– People with insomnia often have racing thoughts or worries that keep them up at night. Meditation can help to clear the mind and ease these thoughts.

 

– The practice of meditation can help you become more aware of how you’re feeling, both physically and emotionally, leading to better sleep hygiene habits.

 

If you are looking for a way to get a good night’s sleep, consider trying meditation. At Healium, we offer guided sleep meditations in an immersive virtual reality format, all supplemented by neurofeedback training throughout the day. In other words, we provide you an active way to train your brain to sleep better!

 

The Neuroscience of Sleep

 

Different parts of the brain control aspects of our sleep-wake cycle. From the hypothalamus to the amygdala, there’s virtually no part of your brain that actually shuts down when your eyes close and you drift off. 

 

Sleep can be divided into several stages:

 

Wakefulness

Stage N1: Falling Asleep

Stage N2: Light Sleep

Stage N3: Deep Sleep or Slow Wave Sleep

Stage R: REM Sleep

 

Each stage of sleep is associated with different brainwave patterns visible on EEG sensors, meaning our brain activity differs between each stage. For example, during Stage N3 Deep Sleep, slow-moving delta waves are most active, suggesting the brain is resting and regenerating. 

 

Want to learn more? We’ve written extensively about the neuroscience of sleep in our blog here.

 

The extensive overlap between sleep mechanisms and meditation make it easy to draw the conclusion that the two can be fundamentally connected. When you consider how active your brain is throughout the various stages of sleep, it makes perfect sense that a mental fitness habit like meditation improves it. 

 

Steps for Meditating in Bed Before Sleep:

 

How to Meditate in Bed Before Sleep

Step 1: Get comfortable! Whether you’re laying in bed or sitting up, find a comfortable position free of any and all distractions. You’ll want to be completely focused and within your own mind throughout your bedtime meditation session. 

 

Step 2:  Concentrate on your breathing at first, taking deep breaths, and then allowing yourself to settle into a natural rhythm. 

 

Step 3: Instead of attempting to isolate yourself from the rest of the world, allow yourself to become aware of your surroundings, but only as an observer rather than as a participant in them.

 

Step 4: As thoughts begin to enter your head, let yourself acknowledge them and then allow them to pass by, separating yourself from the past and future and concentrating entirely on the present now.

 

Step 5: As you feel yourself becoming more mindful and relaxed, hold on to those feelings as long as you can. It may be tough to sustain this degree of concentration at first, but that is normal. The more you practice, the more quickly you will be able to go into a relaxed and present state, allowing your mind to stop racing and your body to naturally assist you in falling asleep once you have completed your session.

 

How to Do VR Meditation in Bed with Sleepium

A mental fitness tool, Sleepium is a new, active meditation app driven by your brainwaves, designed to improve your mental fitness. Train your brain with real-time data so that you can better regulate your anxiety, concentrate more intensely, and sleep better at the same time.

various brain waves diagrams are shown in an illustration. six brain waves are illustrated

Your brainwaves will be represented as a glowing orb we call the firefly, with an additional white line that represents your brainwave baseline. By providing you with actionable data on your brain, we give you the tools to practice neurofeedback at home and achieve better sleep!

 

Sleepium VR App

Sleepium is designed for virtual reality headsets and utilizes neurofeedback, so you’re simultaneously immersed in the meditation experience while also capturing and training specific brainwaves associated with stress and anxiety. 

 

We recommend you utilize the optional neurofeedback wearables throughout your meditation sessions during the day, while simply laying back and enjoying the meditation experiences without neurofeedback wearables in bed at night. 

 

In addition to Sleepium sleep meditations, there are four additional meditation categories on Healium:

 

Focus – increase your attention span

Calm – lower your stress and anxiety levels

Mindfulness – be more present at the moment

Positivity – shift your mindset towards the glass half-full

 

No VR Headset? No problem! With a smartphone or tablet and the Healium app (compatible with iOS and Android devices) you can train your brain on the go.

Augmented Reality App

 

Our Favorite Guided Meditation Experiences Before Bed

 

Here are our favorite samples of virtual reality and augmented reality stories designed to ease you into a restful state in a VR headset for 360-degree views.

 

  •     Cloud Vibrations

 

  •     Crystal Forest

 

  •     Dream Pool

 

Other Tips To Maximize the Benefits of Meditation Before Sleep

 

You can do a few other things to make the most of your meditation experience and get the best night’s sleep possible.

 

First, try not to eat or drink anything caffeinated at least four hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake and make it harder to fall asleep.

 

Second, avoid drinking alcohol before bed. While it may make you feel drowsy, alcohol disrupts sleep and can lead to wakefulness later in the night.

 

Finally, create a relaxing environment in your bedroom that promotes sleep. This means keeping the room dark, quiet, and calm. Consider investing in blackout curtains or an eye mask to block light, using earplugs or a white noise machine to drown out the noise, and sleeping on a comfortable mattress and pillows.

 

With these tips in mind, you can create the perfect conditions for a restful meditation session before bedtime that will help you sleep better at night.

 

Get a Good Night’s Sleep With Sleepium

Sleepium guided sleep meditations with neurofeedback app

 

If you want to learn how to meditate in bed properly, the best way is to try Sleepium. Our app has a wide variety of guided meditation experiences to help you relax and fall asleep. We also offer real-time data to see how your brain is responding to the meditation and make adjustments accordingly.

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? 

 

As experts on neurofeedback and sleep meditation, we’ve created an all-encompassing guide to the neuroscience of sleep to answer all of your questions!

 

Which Parts of Your Brain Are Involved in Sleep?

Computer displaying eeg of a brain during sleep

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.

 

 

What Part of the Brain Controls 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.

 

 

The Different Stages of Sleep

Graphic of the 4 Stages of 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.

 

Wake (W)

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: Falling Asleep

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: Light Sleep

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: Deep Sleep or Slow Wave 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: REM Sleep

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.

 

Your Brainwaves During Each Sleep Stage

 

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. 

 

Wake Stage: Alpha and Beta Waves

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.

 

Stage N1: Alpha and Theta Waves 

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.

 

Stage N2: Theta Waves, Sleep Spindles, and K-Complexes

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.

 

Stage N3: Delta Waves

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.

 

Stage R: Alpha and Beta Waves

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. 

 

How to Improve Your Quality of Sleep

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.

Healium has been selected by The NFL Players Association to pitch its revolutionary mental fitness and Sleep app to athletes, industry experts, and investors at the sixth annual NFLPA Pitch Day on April 28 in Las Vegas. You can read the full announcement here

 

Healium is a mental fitness product that in five peer-reviewed journals has been shown to reduce anxiety in as little as four minutes. Earlier this year, Healium launched an additional digiceutical called Sleepium. One-third of people struggle with insomnia and for athletes, drugless solutions to better manage sleep are critical for performance.

 

“​​Healium and Sleepium are already in use with worker athletes around the world so we’re excited to share how our products can help NFL athletes sleep and perform better,” says Sarah Hill, CEO.

 

Five additional startups, Bandwagon, Hydrostasis, Impact Biosystems, Point, and ZoneIn, will also pitch how their products and services will disrupt industries, connect to sport and lifestyle, and align with the marketing power of athletes.

 

All led by diverse thinkers and entrepreneurs, this year’s Pitch Day companies will compete for funding, mentorship, and the NFLPA’s unique assets. Pitches will be judged by a panel of professional athletes and notable experts. The winning startup will be awarded a prize package that includes $25,000 in marketing services from the NFLPA, $25,000 in services from OneTeam, strategic consultation from Allied Sports and Allied Global Marketing, and fireside chats with NFL players.

 

In previous years, the NFLPA has highlighted and supported some of the most unique athlete-centered product concepts, which have touched all aspects of sports and wellness.

 

Previous winning Pitch Day companies like wearable tech company WHOOP, sports lifestyle brand round21, and tech platform SwayBrand have all transformed their respective industries. This year’s participants are no different, and their products and services range from human performance to consumer products and fan experience technology. 

 

Pitch Day’s mission is to empower women, people of color, and other underrepresented business leaders. Healium is proud to be selected amongst a group of high-performing diverse-led startups representing the athletic and wellness industries. 

What is sleep anxiety?

Sleep anxiety occurs when you’re worried about not being able to fall asleep. It also goes in hand with general anxiety. You feel you have to stay awake to be watchful and alert. It’s a vicious cycle when you can’t sleep because of anxiety, but the inability to fall asleep gives you anxiety about not getting enough rest. 

 

If you’re experiencing sleep anxiety, you might often have trouble sleeping and wake up frequently during the night. You may also feel tired during the day because of your poor sleep.

 

What are some of the reasons that you might have trouble sleeping?

Some people have anxiety about sleeping because they have ruminating thoughts about their day or about what might happen tomorrow. Some people have poor sleep habits in general like going to bed or waking at inconsistent times.

 

Some people just don’t sleep well, waking up too early in the morning without being able to get back to sleep. And some people feel anxious because they can’t fall asleep easily, tossing and turning in bed for hours before finally falling asleep. 

 

If you’re struggling with the pressure to fall asleep, ruminating thoughts, or general sleep anxiety, there’s help.

 

What can you do if you’re struggling with anxiety about sleeping? 

It might be helpful to keep a journal near your bed so you can jot down any thoughts that seem to be on loop at night. When you lie down to fall asleep, you eliminate any distractions but sometimes that causes the anxious thoughts to become more noticeable. Putting your thoughts to paper can help get them out of your mind.

 

Another strategy to self-manage those anxieties is to use neurofeedback and guided meditation.

 

Guided meditation for anxiety and sleep

Meditation can help us sleep better, but how? Meditation for anxiety and sleep can help us better manage negative thoughts which can disturb sleep patterns. Meditation helps us avoid worrying about the past or future and instead focus on the present moment which helps with relaxation, this, in turn, helps with sleep quality. We’ve known for ages that meditation has many benefits, but for some of us, it can be a hard practice to engage in. Virtual reality can be a wonderful, visual supplement to your meditation practice because of the immersive quality. Neurofeedback is even more helpful to those who want to know if the experience is working because you can see your brain patterns change in real time. 

 

How to use virtual reality and neurofeedback for better sleep

Sleep hygiene begins during the day. To get the most effective results, you’ll want to use neurofeedback during the day before you ever think about getting ready for bed. Take a 5 minute break in the middle of the day. Frontiers in Psychology published a study showing a reduction in anxiety after a 4-minute Healium experience.

 

With an EEG headband and a virtual reality headset, you’re utilizing neurofeedback to increase your mind-body connection, see your own brainwaves patterns, and help yourself get into a focused calm state. In the Aurora Borealis experience above, you’ll see the screen tints red when you’re not in a focused calm state. That’s your visual indicator that you need to shift your thought patterns, take a deep breath or relax your body. Regular use can help you self-manage your mental resilience. 

 

After you’ve completed your self-guided neurofeedback and meditation, you’re better prepared to approach bedtime with a sense of ease. However, you might still feel some anxiety welling up as you approach bedtime.

 

That’s when you’ll engage in the second part of our protocol. Using only the VR headset without the EEG headband, use the same VR experience that you used earlier in the day. This helps your brain create an associative memory and tap into stored memories that you learned during the neurofeedback session.

 

You’ll also feel relaxed by the nature-based VR experience. Float through the clouds or pass through the stars in a night sky. You’ll find after just a few minutes, you’ve given your brain an opportunity to relax, helping you fall asleep.  

 

If you’re struggling with sleep anxiety and searching for solutions, consider virtual reality and neurofeedback. Our content is specifically designed to help you self-manage anxious thoughts and quiet your mind. We’ve added a new tab in our Healium app called Sleepium.

 

Sleepium is not a replacement for psychotropic medication and is not a treatment or replacement for professional counseling. 

 

Learn more about Sleepium

At Healium, we see the vast potential for using immersive technologies to better your mental health and mental fitness by reducing stress and anxiety. We leverage the immersive powers of virtual and augmented reality to help elicit positive changes in the physical world.

 

Immersive technology continues to evolve, and as companies like the newly rebranded Meta delve further into these spaces, it’s becoming increasingly important to educate yourself on the nuances of this new frontier. Even when it comes to the basic differences between AR vs. VR.

 

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality or VR in its simplest form is an environment that surrounds you and blocks out your view of the real world. In our shop, VR can mean a 360 degree computer generated environment like what’s built inside Unity or Unreal Engine, or a 360 video.

 

Explore examples of some of Healium’s VR experiences in 2D format.

 

Without a VR headset, you can see what these experiences look like on your screen, but when you put on a VR headset, you experience complete immersion with the content; meaning you see it all around you no matter how you shift your gaze. 

 

What is Augmented Reality?

 

Augmented reality or AR, on the other hand, is a 3D asset that’s superimposed over the real world. Your real world view is “augmented” by a different reality.

 

One common example of augmented reality are camera filters used on Instagram or Snapchat. You can see your face in real-time, but the filter is augmenting your view of yourself–whether that’s with a cat filter or a subtle makeup look.

 

AR can be consumed just on your phone or tablet or with a headset AR display.  AR can also be called immersive media but it’s around you instead of surrounding you.

Here’s an example of AR, which you can try for yourself with our augmented reality meditation app found on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Notice how you still see the real world living room. 

 

 

What are Some of the Major Differences Between VR and AR Headsets?

 

VR and AR headsets come in different flavors. 

 

The most popular VR headsets are the Meta Quest 2, HTC Vive and Vive Flow, and Pico (now Bytedance). For the most part, these headsets are standalone devices meaning you don’t need a PC or laptop to use them. The headsets come in 3 DOF (degrees of freedom) or 6 DOF meaning how far you can walk around the room. 3 DOF headsets enable primarily seated experiences so if walking around the room in VR is important to you, be sure to use a “room scale” enabled VR headset. 

 

AR doesn’t require a headset (for now) and can be consumed on your phone or tablet. Popular AR headsets include the Microsoft Hololens, and Nreal glasses which tethers to an Android phone. Apple is rumored to be making an AR or VR headset. 

 

Why We Need Both VR and AR to Reach Full Adoption for Businesses and/or Consumers

 

XR in our shop refers to an umbrella term called “extended realities” which just means the entire spectrum from VR to mobile AR and AR head mounted displays.

People routinely debate which is better…AR or VR? For digiceuticals to move forward, we need both.

While VR is more immersive and memorable, AR is more portable. Both types of “immersive media” are superior to audio or 2D media as it relates to shifting brain patterns. Ultimately, the brain believes what it sees.

Just ask the Healium user who reported one of his arms felt wet after gliding up the side of a waterfall in a VR headset. 

Why aren’t we sleeping well?

As a busy TV news journalist, I struggled with ruminating thoughts before bed for more than a decade. I just couldn’t turn off my mind enough to fall asleep. In the end due to my insomnia, my body revolted with panic attacks that made falling asleep even more difficult. I tried sleep medication but worried about becoming addicted. Only when I tried neurofeedback did I learn how to self-regulate my brain patterns and heart rate so I could naturally learn to downshift my nervous system. Now, I’m combining the power of Healium’s feedback with immersive stories designed to induce sleep. We call it Sleepium. It’s a digiceutical for the self management of sleep through anxiety reduction. You train with an EEG headband during the day for stress management and then view that same immersive content before bed at night. The point is to create an associative or stored memory you can go back to whenever you need to downshift your nervous system. Your own thoughts pack a lot of power to self-heal. 

 

Sadly, I was 40 years old before I learned how to shift my brain patterns into a more positive alignment. Don’t let that be you.  Neurofeedback has come a long way since the 90’s when I would have to literally glue electrodes on my forehead and sit in front of a computer to watch a boring dot move up and down. With augmented reality, you can now illuminate a solar system with your brain patterns or heart rate, grow flowers, just with your mobile device. With a VR headset you can gently glide through a beautiful butterfly island, immerse yourself in the sparkling galaxy, or touch the bioluminescent glow in virtual reality–all with the power of your brainwaves. These are immersive bedtime stories designed to prepare your mind for sleep. 

 

I know what you’re thinking: aren’t you supposed to cut out blue light before bed? Yes, but most VR headsets and even your mobile devices now come with blue light filters. Check your settings. In our FAQs, learn how to enable “night mode” on the most popular VR headsets.

 

Self-manage insomnia

How are you supposed to learn to control your brain patterns and heart rate when you can’t see them? Sure you can pull up a YouTube video and watch it but how do you know whether your brain is responding to the media? Traditional audio or even 2D meditation are not as engaging or memorable as Healium’s stories powered with feedback like an EEG headband or Apple Watch for heart rate because you can actually see those metrics personified as an object to know…am I doing this right?  

 

Virtual reality may be particularly effective for sleep as the experiences pull the user into a world specifically designed to calm the nervous system. This is a powerful and easy way to downshift after a long, busy day, allowing the body to relax and the mind to settle.

 

Healium is VR, AR + feedback from consumer wearables you may already have in your home that allow you to learn to self-regulate your brain patterns and heart rate because you can see them shifting in near-real time. It’s kind of like a video game powered by your body’s electricity. Increase your feeling of focused-calm and slowly float up the side of a beautiful waterfall.

 

Not only does the environment respond to your feelings, but science shows virtual reality can be a powerful tool for insomnia

 

What else can you use virtual reality for?

Beyond sleep, VR and AR are powerful tools to self manage anxiety, boost focus, mood, and improve human performance among athletes and “tactical athletes” like frontline healthcare workers. In this study recently published in Frontiers in Virtual Reality Medicine, 100 frontline healthcare workers used EEG headbands + Healium during the height of the COVID pandemic. Healium was shown to quickly improve their mood and reduce self-reported anxiety significantly more than just audio alone.  In fact, because VR helps you self manage your stress and improves your mood during the day, that can pay dividends when you try to go to bed at night. 

 

VR and AR create stored memories of picturesque landscapes and stories which you can recall in stressful situations or before you go to bed at night. 65% of the population are visual learners. While traditional audio meditation certainly still has value for people, the brain ultimately believes what it sees more than what it hears. 

 

What is the future of VR in sleep therapy?

The future of sleep therapy is sleep training that immerses the user into spatial computing environments to personify the data that comes from their wearables into something people can learn to self-regulate. Take Healium’s 3D Jaguar for instance. It’s a “stress animal” that you control by shifting your brain patterns and heart rate. The more you increase your feelings of focused-calm, the more the Jaguar transforms from an attack position to a relaxed position eventually sitting down right next to you and licking its paw. You can “tame your stress animal” by playing ball with it and learning when you control your thoughts and your breath, the Jaguar responds to your feelings. 

 

Healium’s newest digital drug “Sleepium” is a digiceutical for sleep but it’s not a replacement for psychotropic, insomnia medication or professional counseling which is one of the best things you can do to help you sleep. It’s a training tool and a new kind of bedtime story for adults that teaches people the power of their own thoughts to self-heal. 

 

Counting sheep has served us well since Medieval times and now those sheep are being brought to life in our own bedrooms, controlled by our own thoughts. If you’d like to learn how to better tame your stress animal, take the Sleepium challenge :  5 days of immersive stories before bed designed to help you sleep better at night. 

 

Take the Sleepium challenge

The definition of the term Metaverse is in the stereoscopic eyes of the beholder. In our shop, “Meta” is a town in Missouri of just 180 people. It’s less than an hour from our studio.

 

Meta is also the new brand name for Facebook’s VR and AR products that will one day live in the Metaverse with an unlimited population. In short, our company Healium defines the metaverse as an immersive internet where we’ll be able to live, work, play and heal with others.

 

But let’s be clear. In the words of Unity’s Tony Parisi, the metaverse isn’t built yet. The book “Ready Player One” which romanticized the metaverse was set in the year 2045. We have the scaffolding of an immersive internet but still lack mass adoption to reach these spaces that will make the Metaverse a ubiquitous place to live, work, and play. 

 

Facts can sometimes morph into a legend when the truth has been exaggerated to the point that products or concepts have taken on a romanticized, “larger than life” quality.

 

Even so, the metaverse may be closer than we think. These are some of the building blocks of the immersive internet that can give you a taste of a future world that is meta. The world is no longer flat. It’s already become a place you can step into singularly at first and now collectively with other people. 

To me my definition of the metaverse goes beyond VR and also includes immersive places you can step into via portals just on your mobile device.

 

How Do You Join the Metaverse?

If you’d like to experience a taste of the Metaverse, here are some stops I’d encourage you to make. I may just meet you there. 

1. Spatial: 

Spatial is an interactive immersive space for events where your real face is embodied on 3D avatars. I once hosted a 3D broadcast in Spatial and appreciated it’s easy to use user interface and access to assets that allowed my guests to discover how spatial computing feels. 

 

2. AltSpace:

A multi-user virtual world by Microsoft, Alt Space was one of the early pioneers of VR multi-user experiences. Whether it’s flying in VR, or making s’mores around a virtual fire, I’ll never forget the moment I tasted a 3D marshmallow 

 

3. Tetavi:

Tetavi’s Affordable and portable volumetric video capture technology creates high fidelity holograms that deliver immersive viewer experiences on any device. 

 

4. Foretell Reality:

Foretell Reality is building a metaverse for therapy and human interactions. Group therapy and collaborative educational sessions happen here. It is reducing the physical space between people. 

 

5. Healium

Healium is also one future “channel” in the metaverse which connects biometric data from consumer wearables to immersive stories to teach people to learn how to self-regulate their brain patterns and heart rate. Singular Healium experiences will transition to allow people to pool their own (anonymized & aggregated) biometric data to collectively change 3D assets. 

 

Five Predictions for the Future of the Metaverse

In the metaverse, you can go to school, try on virtual clothes, chat with your therapist who’s taken the form of a teddy bear,  and even walk your virtual pets in the “petaverse”. It will also have greatly inflated expectations. 

 

1. It will be overhyped.

In the Gartner hype cycle, we are headed up the peak of inflated expectations for the metaverse. VR companies are hyper familiar with what could happen next. VR experienced its own dip into a “trough of disillusionment” with the “VR Winter” in 2017.

 

2. The metaverse will reduce the physical space between us.

Someone in San Francisco can already shake the virtual hand or play Beat Saber with someone from Meta, MO. Transacting in the metaverse will further shrink the world.

 

3. The metaverse will funnel more technology and VC funding to places like the Silicon Prairie.

As momentum continues to build in this sector, investors will look to places where their investment dollars go further and the cost of goods is low. 

 

4.  It will raise ethical questions like we’ve never experienced before.

Moral dilemmas will arise about who can access your data when worlds appear seamless, one flowing into the other. Well worth listening to Kent Bye’s XR Ethics Manifesto.

 

5. It will contribute to mental fitness. 

The rise of immersive digital therapeutics and digiceuticals combined with the rise of 5G and consumer wearables will enable people to better learn to self-heal as an important first step. 

 

What are your predictions for the future of the metaverse?  If your travels bring you to the virtual Meta or the real world town near our studio, be sure to stop by and say hello. 

In 2003 two friends, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery met up in Melbourne, Australia for a couple of beers. Among their conversation was how the mustache was no longer fashionable and in an effort to bring it back, they recruited 30 of their bros who were willing to don a ‘stache along with them. What they didn’t anticipate was the power of the mustache in its ability to spark conversation and they decided to dedicate these conversations to raising funds and awareness for men’s health and prostate cancer. In 2006 they recognized the conversation needed to expand and include men’s mental health. Today, Movember is a truly global movement incorporating all aspects of men’s health, including mental health and suicide prevention. Movember continues to inspire support from over 5 million Mo Bros and Sisters across the globe and raised $99.5 million in 2020 alone. 

 

Why I’m talking about men’s mental health

That’s why this month, I’ve grown my mustache and want to have a conversation with you about men’s mental health. Some men think they’re not allowed to show emotions or talk about how they feel. There are many reasons for this, but the principle among them is the societal expectation surrounding masculinity. The belief is that they should be strong and in control all the time, which can make it very difficult for them to speak up when they’re struggling.

 

The media has contributed significantly to this stigma by portraying versions of masculinity that are unrealistic and dangerous. This depiction of a “real man” portrays men behaving in a way that promotes violence, uncontrolled emotional responses, and aggression. On the other hand, some men feel trapped by the inability to express their feelings or emotions at all for fear that they’ll seem weak. Men who find value in these stereotypes might believe that asking for help would make them appear less masculine or even feminine. 

 

These stigmas play a part in why men die by suicide at a higher rate than women. In 2019, men died by suicide 3.63x as often as women with an average of 130 suicides per day in America* alone, and that was before the pressure and stress of the global pandemic.

 

Here’s how you can help

This idea that men need to be aggressively physical or dangerously stoic can be harmful to their mental health and can have serious consequences for society leading to all kinds of social issues such as violence in intimate relationships, workplace stress, and even suicide.

 

The way we talk about men’s mental health should not be limited to how men themselves should behave but should also be used as a broader conversation with all stakeholders including employers and educators. This will ensure that we are addressing the issue from various angles instead of just focusing on individual behavior change.

 

When we create safe spaces for men to express themselves without judgment, to ask for help without fear, and to know that it’s okay to not be okay, we create a better community for everyone.

 

Talking about men’s mental health is important to me because…

…the only way to help break down the stigma regarding mental health and especially in the men’s community is by talking about it until it becomes perceived as normal. – AJ Diekroeger

 

…On a whole, we treat men’s mental health like a mild sprain in gym class…We’re just supposed to “walk it off” and get back into the game. – John Calvano 

 

…talking about our feelings and our experiences is a human need and shouldn’t be dictated by society’s stringent social construct of gender. Therapy is just one way to heal. There’s real value in providing access to a variety of mental health resources for everyone. – Bethany Schoengarth

 

… Mental health conversations haven’t been acceptable in any form for men. It isn’t just that we can’t talk about them, it’s that we aren’t allowed to have them [mental health struggles]. It’s the complete denial that we as men are even affected by anything that may attack our “impregnable mental state”. – Brandon Medici

 

…I’ve been there. When someone is deep in the hole of anxiety or a panic attack, the most calming thing possible is talking to other men that have had the experience and can tell you ‘this WILL end’. – Patrick Miller 

 

…I think we should talk to other men about how they have handled their stress, anxiety, or other mental health issues so we can begin to feel normalized and find solutions that have worked for others. – Sam Swofford

 

…men are 3x more likely than women to die by suicide. -Alyssa Stahl

 

…We tend to keep things bottled up and try to act like all is normal when in reality, we are internally battling our own demons and damaged baggage. Talking about it with other men takes away the stranglehold it has on us and allows us to work toward minimizing the effect it has on our daily lives and relationships. – Matt Searing

 

We can do this together

We need more discussions about mental health in general, including men’s mental health discussions with society at large but among friends and family members most importantly.

 

It started with a mustache. My mustache certainly gets a conversation going and it opens up the opportunity for me to shed some light on men’s mental health. I feel empowered by my mustache to make sure the men in my life hear from me about my mental health and know that they can talk to me about theirs. I hope you can feel comfortable talking about it with your friends and family too. These conversations don’t always come easily, but they could save someone’s life. 

 

*https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/

To speak with someone immediately, contact National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK), contact Lifeline Crisis Chat or contact National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at 800-950-6264 or Text NAMI to 741741.

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