How important is Sleep?
The answer is simple….VERY! We’ve all heard that we spend a third of our lives asleep and that is because it is essential to our physical and mental health.
In my practice I put a lot of emphasis of the importance of sleep and work with people who struggle with insomnia and those who are often surprised when they realise in the Initial Consultation, that their sleep pattern is actually an underlying symptom for Anxiety and Depression. A large number of people are suffering with sleep deficiency and they do not even realise or know of the damage it could be doing.
Let’s look at what happens when you have a sleep deficiency….
- Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
- Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity as sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.
- Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.
- Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds, meaning you are at greater risk from infections.
- Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change.
- Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.
- Children and teens who are sleep deficient may have problems getting along with others. They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. They also may have problems paying attention, and they may get lower grades and feel stressed.
It’s incredible to think that after several nights of losing sleep—even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night—your ability to function suffers as if you haven’t slept at all for a day or two. Studies show that sleep deficiency harms your driving ability as much as, or more than, being drunk. It’s estimated that driver sleepiness is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths.
Looking at all the harmful affects sleep deficiency has on our bodies and minds, it’s also worth remembering what an amazing job sleep does when we are getting the right amount and enough of each individual stage. Recent studies have shown that sleep improves learning, by helping you pay attention, make decisions and stay focussed for longer.
Physically we know that sleep is involved in the healing and repairing of your heart and blood vessels. Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility.
The Stages of Sleep
Stage One: Within minutes (sometimes even within seconds!) of nodding off, your brain produces alpha and theta waves and your eye movements slow down. Lasting up to seven minutes, this stage of sleep is very brief. In this light stage of sleep, you are somewhat alert and can be easily woken. It’s during this stage of sleep that people often indulge in brief “catnaps.”
Stage Two: During this stage, which is also fairly light, the brain produces sudden increases in brain wave frequency known as sleep spindles. Then brain waves slow down. If you were to schedule a “power nap” you’d want to wake up after this stage of sleep.
Stages Three & Four: This stage is the beginning of deep sleep, as the brain begins producing slower delta waves. You won’t experience any eye movement or muscle activity. At this point, it becomes a little harder for you to be awakened, because your body becomes less responsive to outside stimuli. As the brain produces even more delta waves, you move into an even deeper, more restorative stage of sleep next. This is the most difficult stage to wake up from. During this stage the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up energy for the next day.
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep: You generally enter REM sleep about 90 minutes after initially falling asleep, and each REM stage can last up to an hour. The REM stage of sleep is capped to around 20% of the whole night’s sleep. An average adult has five to six REM cycles each night. During this final phase of sleep, your brain becomes more active. This is when most dreaming occurs, your eyes jerk quickly in different directions (hence, the name!), heart rate and blood pressure increase, and breathing becomes fast, irregular, and shallow. REM sleep plays an important role in learning and memory function, since this is when your brain consolidates and processes information from the day before so that it can be stored in your long-term memory. It is the most important stage of sleep that Hypnotherapists focus on for mental wellbeing.
So how can Hypnotherapy help you with your sleep?
The process of Hypnosis/ Trance is one where you are taken into deep relaxation and your state of consciousness is altered in a way that relaxes the conscious part of the mind while simultaneously stimulating and focussing the subconscious part. This heightened state of awareness is reached using skilled relaxation techniques, which allows the therapist to then make appropriate positive suggestions.
As mentioned earlier, the most important stage of the sleep pattern for mental wellbeing is the period of REM, which is when we dream. During this process our brain is working tirelessly to move the emotional, negative experiences we have had from the Primitive mind into the Intellectual mind, where it has control and can see them as a narrative. Have you ever found that you have had an argument with someone in the day and you keep replaying it over and over in your mind when you are lying in bed at night, thinking of how annoyed you are, or what you wish you had said? It has really riled you up. Yet when you awake the following morning you find yourself thinking ‘what was I so worked up about?’ or ‘I can’t believe I let them upset me so much’. The argument has not been erased from your mind, but simply moved from a negative, emotional experience in the primitive mind, to a memory to be stored in the intellectual mind, where it can be assessed and rationally processed.
During the trance process you will learn the skills that will enable you drift into sleep quicker and easier allowing a fuller, more relaxed and effective night’s sleep. Trance can also be used to replicate REM sleep and allow the mental processes that occur during REM sleep to happen more effectively during the night. As you learn how to spend more time in your Intellectual mind through, positive thinking, positive activity and positive interaction, then you will reduce the amount of time you spend in your Primitive mind. This is turn, will mean that the sleep you do have will be more productive at emptying your stress bucket and allowing you to fall asleep quickly, easily and have a good night’s sleep.
National Institutes of Health
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz