TMS Therapy for Sleep: Does it Work, and Why?

TMS Therapy for Sleep: Does it Work, and Why?

TMS Therapy for Sleep: Does it Work, and Why? 2221 1481 Aware Behavioral Health

Aware Behavioral Health is one of the few psychiatrists in the Dallas area able to offer TMS therapy, also known as “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.” This type of medical treatment is incredibly exciting, as it is medication free and uses safe radiofrequency waves to stimulate long term brain activity.

The technology is, in many ways, new. As a result, we are still in the process of determining ways to use it effectively to help patients with a wide range of mental health and psychiatric issues. One area that has been extremely promising, and an area that it is being used often, is in the world of sleep. Psychiatrists may be able to use TMS therapy to address sleep disturbances, thereby allowing those that struggle with sleep a way to receive treatment without medication.

What is TMS Therapy?

TMS therapy involves a machine that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. It targets specific parts of the brain believed to be underactive in many psychiatric conditions, especially depression. The procedure is typically performed in a clinical setting and does not require anesthesia, allowing patients to remain awake and alert throughout.

How Can TMS Therapy Improve Sleep?

TMS therapy is very safe and well tolerated, and research has proven it to be quite effective at treating many psychiatric conditions. But the exact mechanism is not entirely understood (which is surprisingly common in the psychiatric world). It has been shown to improve sleep in those that have sleep problems, and may be an effective, non medical treatment.

But how does it work? There are several theories:

  • Neurotransmitter Regulation – TMS is known to influence neurotransmitter levels, including serotonin and dopamine, which play crucial roles in regulating mood and sleep patterns. Adjusting these neurotransmitters may help stabilize sleep cycles, particularly in individuals with mood disorders.
  • Circadian Rhythm Adjustment – TMS may have effects on the brain regions that regulate circadian rhythms—the body’s natural sleep-wake cycles. By targeting these areas, TMS might help correct disruptions common in psychiatric conditions, leading to more regular sleep patterns.
  • Reduction in Depression and Anxiety Symptoms – Since TMS is effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, this improvement in mental health can subsequently lead to better sleep. Often, sleep disturbances are a secondary effect of underlying mood disorders.

Several studies have begun to investigate the relationship between TMS and sleep improvements, and the results have been promising, though a lot more research is needed. Some clinical trials have reported that patients undergoing TMS therapy experienced improvements in sleep quality, including reduced time to fall asleep and increased total sleep time.

There is preliminary evidence suggesting that TMS could help alleviate symptoms of insomnia, particularly in depression-related cases where insomnia is a prominent feature.

Does This Mean that TMS Therapy Should Be a Treatment for Sleep Disorders?

While the potential of TMS to improve sleep is promising, we are still in the early stages of determining how effective TMS can be. Not all patients may experience sleep improvements with TMS. The effectiveness can vary based on individual differences in brain chemistry and the nature of the sleep disturbance.

In addition, the parameters for TMS treatments (e.g., frequency, intensity, and duration) that best improve sleep are still under investigation. More research is needed to standardize these protocols. When it does work, it has been found that TMS is often most effective when used in conjunction with other therapies, such as medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).

Still, TMS therapy offers an interesting potential approach to potentially improving sleep, particularly for individuals with psychiatric disorders where traditional treatments may not have been fully effective. Although more research is required to fully understand and optimize its use for sleep disturbances, early findings are encouraging. As TMS technology and techniques continue to evolve, so too will its applications in sleep medicine, potentially offering a new avenue for those suffering from sleep-related issues linked to psychiatric conditions.

Dallas Psychiatrist Dr. Surin Sehdev

Dr. Surin Sehdev is the lead psychiatrist at Aware Behavioral Health in Dallas (formerly Bedford, TX). He has been working in the psychiatric field for 7+ years. He specializes in opioid withdrawal, ADHD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction. Content on this blog and this website should be considered informal and should not be considered medical advice, as may be written and/or edited by non-medical staff. Please contact Dr. Sehdev for specific and accurate diagnoses and treatment information.

All stories by : Dallas Psychiatrist Dr. Surin Sehdev