Waking Up to Wellness: TMS Could be Unlocking the Secrets of Sleep

Sleep is essential for our survival. Beyond that, it’s necessary for our well-being. After less than five sleepless nights, you will start to hallucinate. Sleep can be elusive for anyone who grapples with a sleep disorder. From insomnia to sleep apnea, sleep conditions will disrupt your night, leaving you weary and unrefreshed in the morning. Traditional treatments can offer some relief, but many continue to search for solutions that will finally give you the restful sleep your body craves.

In recent years, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), an alternative treatment option for depression and other disorders, has become a promising avenue for treating sleep disorders that coincide with mental health disorders. Since sleep disorders and depression are strongly linked, it only makes sense that this clinical depression treatment in Tacoma and offered throughout the state of WA could also treat sleep problems.

What Sleep Disorders Can TMS Therapy Treat?

Sleep disorders encompass a spectrum of conditions that interfere with the quantity or quality of sleep, affecting millions worldwide. Although these disorders share a common consequence, fragmented and inadequate sleep may manifest in diverse ways. This means that TMS can’t treat every sleep disorder–yet. Here are the sleep disorders TMS can help with and better sleep:

1. Insomnia

This disorder means you have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or simply experiencing non-restorative sleep even with an adequate opportunity for sleep. It can be acute, lasting for a short period, or chronic, meaning it lasts at least three nights a week for three months or more. Insomnia can lead to daytime impairments such as fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and impaired performance at work or school.

Insomnia can be difficult to treat because it may involve addressing the underlying causes. Stress, anxiety, depression, certain medical conditions, medications, caffeine, alcohol, irregular sleep schedules, or poor sleep habits are just a few of the factors that can play a part in insomnia. Traditional treatments may include lifestyle changes, behavioral therapies, or medication.

TMS researchers can treat insomnia by targeting specific brain regions involved in sleep regulation, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). For example, this study found TMS is one of the only treatments for depression that increases REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. These researchers found that TMS and acupuncture worked together effectively to improve sleep and overall quality of life.

2. Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move them. These sensations typically occur when you’re at rest or overly tired, especially during the evening when you try to fall asleep.

RLS can significantly disrupt sleep, leading to trouble falling or staying asleep throughout the night. If you struggle with RLS, you may experience insufficient restorative sleep. Traditional treatments may involve avoiding caffeine and alcohol, regular exercise, establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, addressing any underlying medical conditions that could be contributing, and medications.

Studies show that applying TMS to the motor cortex in your brain has transient benefits for patients with RLS. This research found TMS to be a safe and effective treatment for the primary sleep disorders of restless legs syndrome, insomnia, and sleep deprivation-related cognitive impairments.

3. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea are pauses in breath, or shallow breathing during sleep. These pauses can occur multiple times per hour and may last for several seconds to minutes. It can have serious health consequences if left untreated, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, immunity dysfunction, and daytime fatigue-related accidents.

Traditional treatments may include changing your sleep position, weight loss, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliances, surgery, or medication. However, studies have found TMS can improve airflow in sleep apnea.

4. Narcolepsy and Cataplexy

Narcolepsy is another chronic neurological disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and disturbances in your sleep-wake cycle. You can often experience sudden, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the day or “sleep attacks” that can occur at any time, regardless of your activity or environment. Narcolepsy can also include cataplexy, sudden episodes of muscle weakness, or a loss of muscle tone temporarily. Strong emotions such as laughter, surprise, or anger can trigger these. It can be mild, drooping eyelids and slurred speech, or a severe complete collapse.

Narcolepsy typically emerges in adolescence or early adulthood. Traditional treatments may involve stimulants to promote daytime wakefulness, sodium oxybate to manage cataplexy, medications to regulate sleep patterns, lifestyle modifications, and anything else to address other associated symptoms. However, researchers have found that TMS, especially over the DLPFC, could be an alternate choice for treating symptoms in patients with narcolepsy with cataplexy.


While TMS shows potential as a treatment option for these sleep disorders, we need further research to look at its mechanisms of action and optimize treatment protocols before they’re available to the public. You should also keep in mind that individual responses to TMS vary. Consult a healthcare provider specializing in sleep medicine familiar with TMS therapy to determine the appropriateness and availability of TMS for your specific sleep conditions.

Looking Ahead

As research continues on the application of TMS in disorders to improve sleep outcomes, it may be the treatment sleep medicine needs to address the complex interplay of biological, psychological, and environmental factors contributing to sleep disturbances. TMS could pave the way towards a future where restful nights are no longer an elusive dream but a tangible reality for you.