TMS & Other Therapies

Catch More Z's with TMS

August 9, 2019

Do you struggle with restless sleep, tossing and turning all night long? Or, do you find yourself still tired in the morning and struggling to get out of bed? 

Research suggests transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) could trigger slow sleep waves, offering a better night’s rest, along with higher rates of brain restoration. For those who struggle with sleep, this would mean a pill-free way to wake up feeling refreshed—in addition to the other benefits that accompany slow-wave sleep (including better memory!). 

Continue reading to find out more about: 

  • The science of sleep and the benefits of slow sleep waves
  • The versatile treatment method TMS 
  • The study and its results

The Science of Sleep

What happens when you sleep?

Though you might think of sleeping as a time during which your brain “shuts off,” there’s actually a lot of activity going on up there throughout the night. Here’s a simplified version of what happens. 

  • Time to detox: When you’re asleep, your brain flushes away waste and toxins to keep itself healthy and working properly. 
  • Consolidation: Sleep is also a time for your brain to consolidate the information it gathered over the course of the day. This process also makes it easier to learn new things moving forward. 
  • Preservation: You might be dreaming about something that you’ll forget by the morning, but your brain is busy storing memories so you’ll remember emotionally significant moments, both old and new. 
  • Maintaining order: During the sleep cycle, your brain solidifies the chronology of daily events so your timeline stays straight when you wake up. 
  • Movement prevention: This might be a little scary to think about, but while you’re asleep, it’s as though you’re temporarily paralyzed. Otherwise, you might find yourself moving in accordance to what you’re dreaming about. 
Woman sleeping in hotel bed
When you don’t get enough sleep, you body doesn’t get the time it needs to recharge itself—no wonder you get cranky!

What are the different kinds of sleep?

There are two different kinds of sleep: rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. 

Non-REM sleep is the first part of the sleep cycle and is composed of four stages. During the first and second stages, you’re only just beginning to fall asleep. This is when your heart rate and breathing slow down and your body temperature starts to drop. The third stage is deep sleep. This stage is when you becomes less responsive to outside stimuli and the body restores itself to get ready for the next day. 

The third and fourth stages of non-REM sleep are also when your brain waves become slower. This is known as slow-wave sleep, which is considered the deepest sleep and the points at which you’re most difficult to wake. 

REM sleep is the second part of the sleep cycle. During REM sleep, brain activity, heart rate, and blood pressure all increase. Throughout the night, you experience multiple periods of REM sleep, each lasting up to an hour. 

You cycle back and forth between these two kinds of sleep all night long. According to John Hopkins Medicine, “Though REM sleep was previously believed to be the most important sleep phase for learning and memory, newer data suggests that non-REM sleep is more important for these tasks, as well as being the more restful and restorative phase of sleep.” 

Woman sleeps in wooden cabin
The length of each of your sleep cycles change as you age, just like how much sleep you need changes as you age—for instance, an infant needs more sleep than an adult does. 

What are the benefits of slow sleep waves?

Slow sleep waves occur during the deep sleep stage of the non-REM cycle. This type of sleep is what the American Sleep Apnea Association calls a “regenerative period where your body heals and repairs itself.” 

Specific benefits associated with slow-wave sleep include: 

  • More energy 
  • Higher retention of information
  • Increased blood supply to muscles
  • Better growth and repair in bones and tissues
  • Strengthen immune system 

These benefits are largely due to two biological processes that take place during deep sleep. The first is an increase in glucose metabolism in your brain, which enhances memory and learning. The second is the secretion of human growth hormones that are essential to your body’s development. 

Health conditions linked to too little slow-wave sleep include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke

TMS: A Versatile Treatment Method

What is TMS, and how does it work?

TMS uses controlled magnetic pulses to stimulate cells in one or more areas of the brain. In this way, TMS can “rewire” faulty brain activity. 

Various degrees of magnetism can be applied through the TMS machine, but no matter the frequency, TMS is always non-invasive and without need for anesthesia or numbing of any kind. 

TMS is usually administered five days a week for up to six weeks. However, sessions are not typically very long and at most are only around forty minutes. 

What really sets TMS apart from other treatment methods is its minimal side effects. Prescription drugs are notorious for their long lists of unwanted side effects, but TMS has basically none. Some patients will report experiencing a mild headache after a session, but the duration of any discomfort should be brief and not at all severe. 

Technician administers TMS through electromagnetic coil.
Don’t be intimidated by its bulky technology! TMS is relatively painless—most patients only feel a slight tapping sensation. Image courtesy VAntage Point

What can TMS treat?

For the time being, TMS has only been approved by the FDA to treat depression. However, researchers suspect that it can benefit a much larger variety of patients. 

Because the brain plays a role in almost everything we do, TMS has been linked to improving symptoms of psychological, neurological, and physical conditions alike. From Parkinson’s disease to autism spectrum disorder, TMS has shown promising results, and the more research continues, the more possibilities seem to emerge. 

The Study: Effects of TMS on Slow-Wave Sleep

Background

The subjects in the study were 15 young men, ages 21 to 36. Researchers used a Brain Navigated Stimulation system to determine the optimal target spot for the TMS coil. 

In order to measure the results, the research team used an electroencephalogram (EEG) to record brain wave activity in the sleeping subject. 

What were the results, and what do they mean?

The researchers found that “slow waves and spindles can be triggered noninvasively and reliably by transcranial magnetic stimulation . . . evoked slow waves lead to a deepening of sleep and to an increase in EEG slow-wave activity . . . which is thought to play a role in brain restoration and memory consolidation.” 

These results suggest that TMS could help patients sleep deeper without having to take sedatives or any other kind of sleep-inducing drugs, which is ideal for people who struggle to sleep but don’t want—or are unable—to take medication to remedy the problem. 

Don’t Sleep on TMS! 

Because TMS is still relatively new in medicine, not many people know about it—but that doesn’t mean people are trying it. As TMS rises in popularity as a treatment for depression, more opportunities are emerging for researchers to examine its other benefits as well. 

One of these benefits could be deeper, more nourishing sleep. Soon, with TMS, patients will be able to wave goodbye to restless sleep and tired mornings! 

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