What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, which can lead to sleep deprivation or an assortment of potentially debilitating side effects such as drowsiness, difficulty paying attention, and even memory loss.

Interestingly, insomnia isn’t necessarily defined by the number of hours you sleep on a nightly basis; instead, insomnia is measured by the quality of sleep a person gets. Even though you may be getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, the quality of the sleep you are getting may still result in the negative symptoms caused by sleep deprivation.

Treating insomnia usually encompasses two strategies: lifestyle changes and prescription medications, and while both of these treatment protocols have shown be effective, nearly 25% of Americans still experience bouts of insomnia each year.

This article will provide an introduction to insomnia, including some of the likely causes of insomnia, as well as how the Drake Institute helps individuals find relief from their sleep deprivation symptoms.

Insomnia Symptoms

Suffering from insomnia can lead to a variety of secondary symptoms, including:

  • Feeling exhausted after a night’s sleep
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Impaired Executive Functioning
  • Increased frequency of mistakes

Indeed, identifying the root of these symptoms can be tricky, especially when symptoms like daytime drowsiness, irritability, and difficulty paying attention can have multiple causes.

However, if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, there’s a chance that they could be related to your sleeping habits.

What Causes Insomnia?

Insomnia and sleep deprivation can be caused by a number of psychological and physical ailments, some of which are listed below:

  • Stress
  • Sinus allergies
  • Sleep apnea
  • Acid reflux
  • Arthritis
  • Neurological conditions
  • Chronic pain
  • Back pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities
  • A general feeling of being “revved up” or overstimulated
  • Tension

The Devastating Effects of Insomnia

Insomnia can have a devastating effect on our health: from increasing our risk of being involved in a traffic collision to impairing our ability to think and recall events, few of us truly understand how important sleep is to our ability to function day-to-day.

Below you’ll find a list of some of the most harmful effects associated with sleep deprivation.

Traffic Accidents

Insomnia and sleep deprivation can have a detrimental effect on our ability to drive; in fact, a recent study conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that sleep deprivation was responsible for nearly 10% of all crashes in the U.S.

Of these crashes, 70% of them occurred during the day, suggesting that the fatigue was the result of inadequate sleep the night before. In a recent study conducted by AAA, 29% reported having a hard time keeping their eyes open in the past month while driving. [i]

Indeed, sleep deprivation is so dangerous that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving accounts for nearly 6,000 fatal crashes a year, and the situation doesn’t appear to be improving. [ii]

Impaired Cognitive Ability

While many of us, especially college students, miss out on sleep in an effort to improve our knowledge and “get more work done,” sleep deprivation can actually limit and impair our cognitive functioning.

Additionally, sleep deprivation and insomnia can severely limit our ability to recall events or form new memories, leading to poor performance at work, school, and even in leisurely activities.

When we sleep, many of our memories from that day are consolidated and “stored” into long term memory, allowing for retrieval of this information at a later date. However, when we don’t get the rest that we need (7-8 hours a night), the brain’s capacity to consolidate these memories is reduced, which can result in significant impairments in memory.

Health Risks

There are also serious health risks associated with chronic sleep deprivation and insomnia, including:

  • Suppressed immune system functioning
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes

Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s

According to recent studies, a chronic lack of sleep may increase our risk of Alzheimer’s.

As it turns out, sleep is a vital process for clearing beta-amyloid from the brain; however, a lack of sleep can cause beta-amyloid to clump together and form amyloid plaques, which has been associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s. [iii]

In this study, participants had their brains scanned after getting a full night’s rest and after a night of sleep deprivation, and the findings were stunning: for participants who underwent sleep deprivation, the brains scans showed a 5% increase in beta-amyloid, with the thalamus and hippocampus being affected the most.

What’s more, scientists also discovered that a lack of sleep not only increased beta-amyloid but increased negative symptoms related to mood as well, which supports other studies that found the thalamus and hippocampus play a significant role in mood disorders.

Impaired Immune System

Finally, insomnia has been shown to have a negative effect on our immune systems, and in many cases, can actually extend the time it takes to recover from an illness.

Simply put, sleep deprivation disrupts our body’s immune system from properly functioning, decreasing the presence of T-cells and increasing inflammatory cytokines.

This means that when the body is in a sleep deprived state and it encounters harmful pathogens, it may not be able to effectively respond and prevent the infection from taking hold.

Insomnia Treatment: Can Insomnia Be Cured?

Insomnia is a condition that is certainly treatable for most people; however, there isn’t necessarily a “magic bullet” that works for everyone.

In some cases, all that is needed is a simple lifestyle change. However, at times greater interventions including medications or therapy may be required.

Home Remedies for Insomnia

For some individuals, relief from insomnia can be achieved through simple home remedies and lifestyle changes, like practicing meditation, sticking to a strict sleeping schedule, and eliminating addictive stimulants like coffee.

Indeed, once a person’s overall well-being improves from better sleep quality and duration, physiological and psychological issues related to insomnia tend to resolve on their own.

Additionally, supplementing with magnesium, lavender oil, and melatonin are also viable options for combating insomnia.

However, supplements like melatonin do carry some side-effects, such as depression, dizziness, headaches, irritability, stomach cramps, and wakefulness at night—so it’s best to take it slow and to consult your physician before taking any supplements.

Medication for Insomnia

Treating insomnia with medication is a viable option for some; however, we do want to point out that medications can carry risks and potential negative side effects.

Side effects of prescription sleeping medications can include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Daytime Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Changes in appetite
  • Muscle weakness
  • Impaired cognitive ability
  • Shortened attention span
  • Short-term memory problems

In addition to these side effects, sleeping pills can also induce parasomnias, which are movements, behaviors, or actions that are uncontrollable, like sleepwalking.

Treating Insomnia at the Drake Institute

For over 35 years, the Drake Institute has successfully treated anxiety and stress-related disorders, like insomnia, without the use of potentially addictive medications or invasive procedures.

By using state-of-the-art Biofeedback and Neurofeedback technologies in conjunction with brain mapping and Neuromodulation, the Drake Institute is able to create treatment protocols that are custom-tailored to each patient’s individual needs and physiological findings.

Indeed, insomnia can cause individuals to become stuck in a negative feedback loop of sorts, where the anxiety, stress, and drowsiness caused by sleep deprivation can actually make it more difficult to get a restful night’s sleep.

By relying on qEEG brain mapping technology to identify the location and severity of the dysregulation within the brain, we can develop a treatment plan that is not only highly effective but individually tailored to the patient’s specific needs (linking symptoms to the dysregulated brain activity).

Our treatment plans utilize neurofeedback, biofeedback therapy, and neuromodulation to strengthen the brain’s natural ability to regulate itself properly. Through our treatment protocols, the patient is able to reduce their tension and fully relax, while at the same time training their brain to properly regulate neuronal activity, thus creating the healthy homeostasis and physiological balance necessary for restorative sleep.

What’s more, because our treatment protocols are drug-free, patients can enjoy long-term symptom relief due to an improved ability to self-regulate, which reduces and sometimes eliminates the reoccurrence of insomnia entirely.

Contact the Drake Institute

If insomnia and sleep deprivation are significantly impacting your quality of life, please call us today to schedule a no-cost screening consultation.


[i] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/07/drowsy-driving-may-be-the-cause-of-1-out-of-every-10-auto-crashes.html

[ii] https://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdrowsydriving/index.html

[iii] https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/sleep-deprivation-increases-alzheimers-protein

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dr david velkoff headshot

“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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