How brain stimulation techniques can help improve sleep

Written by by David McAfee, CNN

Dizziness is a common complaint of teenagers with sleep disorders. But a new study from the University of Nottingham found that most parents are not aware of certain brain stimulation techniques that could significantly reduce that crippling affect.

Sleep deprivation, or insufficient sleep, makes teenagers feel sleepy and drowsy, but it can also have the potentially negative effect of prompting a series of unwanted “side effects” such as high drowsiness levels, tremors, muscle weakness, impaired concentration and sleep disturbances.

And thanks to a high prevalence of sleep deprivation in UK teenage girls, the disorder is considered a medical condition under the Disability Discrimination Act in the UK, but many parents have no idea of its true existence.

Enter a study from the University of Nottingham, which set out to “demystify sleep deprivation and sleep disorders in teenage girls.”

In order to do this, the team set out to find out which brain stimulation techniques worked and which did not. Specifically, they wanted to know whether exposure to certain brain function modulations can be used as a way to potentially alleviate sleep disorders.

“We also wanted to determine if there are specific brain activation changes experienced by sleep deprived teens that vary between people of similar age, regardless of their race, gender, or lifestyle,” said professor Geoffrey Harriott, who led the study.

Specific brain scanning techniques can effectively test the effects of brain activation techniques on brain function, and these allowed the team to determine that there are strong and different differences in the brains of adolescents with sleep disorders compared to their peers.

A large finding of the study is that the “main benefit from brain stimulation is more rapid breathing, which in turn has a very pleasant effect on the brain,” said Harriott.

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While many parents may not be aware of these brain changes, they can likely be helped by a number of brain stimulation techniques that can be adapted to teens. One such technique is (Brain Stimulation) BTN , in which dampening down specific brain regions, such as the parietal cortex, was effective in restoring normal brain function.

Another technique was (Brain Stimulation) SEAMAN , which is used in response to uncertainty that can lead to sleep deprivation or poor function of sleep. It does this by injecting people with a placebo which causes a hypnotic response and a vivid, bright image to appear on the retina.

This technique is known as a “sleep placebo” in order to “provide a natural and safe placebo with a sedative effect,” said Harriott.

Whether parents are aware of these techniques, or know what to do if their teens begin experiencing symptoms of sleep deficiency, the research points out that educating families on these brain stimulation techniques could be beneficial.

In the future, the research team hopes to increase awareness of the research, and explore more specific ways in which these brain stimulation techniques can be used to improve adolescent sleep habits.

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