User experiences of pre-sleep sensory alpha brainwave entrainment for people with chronic pain and sleep disturbance

Stephen J. Halpin, Nicole K. Y. Tang, Alexander J. Casson, Anthony K. P. Jones, Rory J. O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: To explore the user experiences of pre-sleep alpha entrainment via a smartphone-enabled audio or visual stimulation programme for people with chronic pain and sleep disturbance.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were held with 27 participants completing a feasibility study of pre-sleep entrainment use for 4 weeks. Transcriptions were subject to template analysis.
Results: Five top-level themes generated from this analysis are presented. These report on the participants’ impressions of the pain-sleep relationship, their previous experiences of strategies for these symptoms, their expectations, and their experience of use and perceived impact on symptoms of both audio and visual alpha entrainment.
Conclusions: Pre-sleep audio and visual alpha entrainment were acceptable to individuals with chronic pain and sleep disturbance and perceived to have symptomatic benefits.

Plain Language Summary
In this study, people who had used an experimental treatment for chronic pain called alpha entrainment, which was delivered by audio (tones through headphones) or visual (flickering light) stimulation just before sleep each night for four weeks, were interviewed about their experiences. Analysis of the interview transcripts generated findings in five large areas; the participants’ impressions of the relationship between pain and sleep, previous strategies they had tried, expectations of using this intervention, and their experiences of using it and how it affected their symptoms. Overall, they found using this type of sensory stimulation last thing at night to be acceptable in a real-life setting, coherent with prior understanding and many felt it to have benefits for sleep and pain symptoms, with few side effects. Comfort of the equipment and having the choice of different types of stimulation were important. Further development should be guided by these user experiences.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPain Management
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 May 2023


  • Pain
  • sleep
  • neuromodulation
  • brainwave entrainment
  • alpha entrainment
  • template analysis
  • qualitative


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