Written by Jane Pendry
Discover the extraordinary health benefits of sleep, and how Solution Focused Hypnotherapy helps resolve insomnia and other sleep disorders to improve your health and wellbeing.
“Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer”, writes neuroscientist and sleep expert Mathew Walker in his book “Why We Sleep?”
Professor Walker’s spoof advert refers to the benefits of sleep. It challenges us to believe that such an efficacious treatment could exist. We barely believe it. However, Walker goes on to explain the dramatic impact regular sleep has on memory, creativity, attractiveness, weight, cancer, dementia, heart disease, stroke, colds and flu, diabetes, and just plain happiness.
Professor Walker’s book ‘Why We Sleep?’ is a collation of all the evidence that proves the benefits of sleep beyond any shadow of doubt.
First of all, it’s clear that we need eight hours sleep. Collated research shows that any less will have an overwhelmingly negative impact. And too much more is detrimental too.
I am sure you agree that we all need a good night’s sleep. That’s common sense. But for some of us that’s easier said than done.
In the UK, restful sleep eludes one in two over the age of 65.
Insomnia can become very frustrating, stressful, and lead to exhaustion, anxiety, and depression. There are many other sleep disorders that impact on our wellbeing too, and it’s always wise to see your GP to get a referral to a specialist sleep clinic if sleep issues are ongoing and causing you evident problems now. However, for many people, hypnotherapy addresses many of the key issues quickly and effectively.
So how does hypnotherapy help sleep disorders?
Hypnotherapy mimics Rapid Eye Movement dream sleep, when we process emotional memories and turn them in to narrative memories. During REM sleep, the brain moves in to the theta state, producing the same brainwaves we see during hypnosis and meditation. Dream sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, allows the experiences of the day to be processed, turning emotional memories and upsets into narrative memories over which you have control.
Both regular patterns of sleep and hypnotherapy help us resolve anxiety, depression, OCD, stress, and so forth. One of the most powerful and readily-observed phenomena when undertaking a course of hypnotherapy is that sleep patterns become more settled.
By helping to get your sleep routine into a healthy pattern, Hypnotherapy has a powerful impact on a number of serious health issues, as well as improving your concentration, your performance at work, sex life, relationships, and so much more.
For people with insomnia, hypnosis help the body and mind to relax enough to get to sleep more easily, and to stay asleep through the night. Hypnosis also helps to deepen sleep increasing the amount of time that you spend in delta wave deep sleep by as much as 80%. Deep sleep is important for learning, healing and memory.
How common is insomnia
Insurers, Aviva, completed their Aviva Health Check UK following a survey undertaken by Censuswide in September 2017, and drawing from information from the National Sleep Foundation on Sleep Duration Recommendations. The company estimates that as many as 16 million UK adults suffer from sleepless nights. A third (31%) of the survey’s respondents said they have insomnia. In addition.
- Two thirds (67%) of UK adults suffered from disrupted sleep
- Nearly a quarter (23%) manage no more than five hours a night
- Half (48%) of UK adults admit they don’t get the right amount of sleep
- Improving sleep is the biggest health ambition for a quarter (26%) of UK adults but half (51%) don’t take any measures to help them sleep
- More than one in ten take sleeping tablets (13%) or drink alcohol (13%) to aid sleep (a bad idea).
How do we define insomnia?
Many of us will experience times when our sleep is disrupted for one reason or another. However, insomnia becomes a problem when we experience prolonged periods of sleep deprivation.
You know if you have insomnia when you are:
- Finding it hard to fall asleep at night
- Using medication or alcohol to get to sleep on a regular or frequent basis
- Waking up in the night and struggling to get back to sleep
- Experiencing extreme tiredness during the day
- Irritable and have frequent headaches
- Finding it hard to concentrate at work
- Anxious about going to bed or trying to sleep.
It isn’t always possible to spot the root cause of insomnia, but often it lies in the following. Here are just four of the main reasons we develop sleep issues.
1. Stress, anxiety, and emotional distress
Day to day stresses and worries can lead to difficulty sleeping. Thoughts of the past day’s events turn over and over in our minds, or we begin to ruminate on what is to come in the future.
Obviously emotional concerns are linked to stress and anxiety. As Professor Walker explains, “One of the few times that we stop our persistent informational consumption and inwardly reflect is when our heads hit the pillow”. So, bedtime is the time we start to ruminate on what is wrong in our lives or with our relationships, and what might go wrong. It’s the time our concerns come to the surface and we toss and turn.
Sometimes insomnia persists even after the stressful event has resolved. The brain has associated going to bed with being unable to sleep and this in turn results in anxiety about sleeping.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is founded on changing the negative habits and programmes embedded in our primitive minds, and on soothing and calming our central nervous system, reducing emotional stress, and increasing our resilience.
If you listen to a professional hypnotherapy recording each night, you are much less likely to ruminate on things that have happened, or obsess about what might happen. Instead, you will be gently soothed into light to medium trance state, and will more seamlessly slip in to sleep.
We know a good night’s sleep helps us deal with emotional distress caused by relationships, separation, divorce, or concerns about children. By sleeping well, you will find all your challenges easier to face and manage. However, when we are stuck, the Solution Focused questioning of an experienced SFH practitioner will help you uncover new solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and help you develop the resilience, critical faculties and energy for any challenges that may lie ahead.
2. Poor sleep hygiene
Inconsistent bed times, use of electronic equipment running up to bedtime, and limited time to relax naturally prior to going to bed all contribute to insomnia, or poor sleep hygiene. If you want to find out more about sleep hygiene, and for more advice on creating a good pre-sleep routine, see the National Sleep Foundation website.
Social media is one of the biggest contributors to insomnia in modern times. It’s wise to leave your mobile downstairs and buy a good old-fashioned alarm clock, if this is proving an issue for you.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help you break disruptive or negative habits, and equally help you create new healthy habits including breaking your social media addiction, or changing your routine so you get to bed on time. Or apply a parental control app to control your own social media use!
3. Lifestyle factors
Excessive caffeine intake, nicotine, eating close to bedtime, recreational drugs, and shift working take their toll. Evidence suggests that alcohol significantly reduces the quality of your sleep, meaning you wake up even more tired and stressed the next day.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is an ideal therapy to help break bad habits like eating late, snacking, surfing the internet late in the evening, or taking occasional recreational drugs. Strong addictions may also need other medical interventions and support too, most particularly addiction support groups.
Of course, one-off stop smoking hypnotherapy session may be just the ticket to break the smoking habit. You have to be ready to give up of course, and it’s important to sort out any stressful events that might be underpinning the smoking habit. The biggest issue with smoking is that, as we get older, the smoking habit creates anxiety. The longer your smoke, the more the anxiety builds, so, breaking this habit will really help you get your sleep back on track.
4. Winter blues
The NHS describes 'Winter Blues' as feeling depressed in the winter, otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). When the clocks go back, Winter has officially arrived. It means getting up in the dark and heading out in the cold, dark and often rain. November and December might be the best time to escape on a long-haul wellbeing holiday.
A short series of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy sessions can help you manage seasonal change by keeping your sleep regular. Winter can be a time when we want to hibernate, and we inevitably become deficient in vitamin D quite quickly. So, try to get out and walk in daylight hours, invest in a daylight lamp and explore taking vitamin D supplements or food rich in vitamin. Do your own research on vitamins and minerals that help calm the central nervous system and aid sleep, such as magnesium.
Some physical and mental conditions worsen in cold, damp weather, most notably arthritis, increasing pain and impacting sleep. Sleep deprivation impacts on how much we feel pain too. Hypnotherapy in general can help reduce the experience of pain, which will aid a good night’s sleep so creating a virtuous circle.
To help to address these issues, you can’t go too far wrong in following Professor Walker’s advice.
Professor Walker’s Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even after a bad night’s sleep or on the weekend.
- Keep your bedroom temperature cool; about 65 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for cooling your body towards sleep.
- An hour before bedtime, dim the lights and turn off all screens. Blackout curtains are helpful
- If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something quiet and relaxing until the urge to sleep returns. Then go back to bed.
- Avoid caffeine after 1pm. Never go to bed tipsy. Alcohol is a sedative and sedation is not sleep. It blocks your REM dream sleep, an important part of the sleep cycle.
The central nervous system needs to ramp down towards sleep. Hypnotherapy, meditation, a bath, or soothing music can all help to soothe your central nervous system ready for sleep.
Introduce soothing smells and soft lighting in the bedroom before bed, and aim to keep your bedroom tidy.
In addition to the Professor’s advice, Solution Focused Coaching can help you work out new routines and patterns for yourself that help you achieve a regular 8-hours sleep and to identify the very real benefits as you get back in to a healthy routine. Painlessly and quickly. It’s the first stage of changing your life for the better.
So, if you get your sleep routines sorted, and achieve your 8-hours optimal sleep, what benefits will it bring?
Benefit 1: Sleep, Memory, and Learning
Even missing a night of sleep can affect your ability think and plan. In an experiment, 18 men were given a task to complete. The first task was completed after a full night’s sleep. The next task after skipping a night of sleep.
Researchers suggest that sleep is critical to the process of consolidating the things we consciously learn. In other words, we need proper rest to lock in new information and commit it to memory.
Brain functions including memory, decision-making, reasoning, and problem-solving worsen, along with reaction time and alertness to a significant degree if you are sleep deprived. Many research projects support the observation that regular loss of sleep, even just one or two hours a night, impairs cognitive function (thinking).
The idea that you need to work harder and longer couldn’t be more wrong. If you don’t get enough sleep, all research confirms, your ability to learn, remember, and function rapidly declines. The ability to solve problems or find solutions also declines.
If you start a course of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy and find your sleep improves, you may also notice how it impacts on your ability to remember, think, plan, make decisions, and solve problems. Many people come to me for one issue, only to find, as their sleep patterns are sorted, their stress is reduced and emotional issues are resolved. They often report other benefits at work and in their relationships.
Solution Focused Brief Therapy is all about the client finding solutions themselves, making and observing incremental changes, and building on them to create positive thoughts, positive actions and positive interactions. Good sleep habits help to underpin that process.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy also supports learning, memory and study not only by creating regular sleep patterns, but also by helping students to change their study and learning habits, to resolve limiting beliefs and reducing anxiety overall.
Benefit 2: Immune System
Losing sleep affects your body’s ability to fight illness. So poor sleep means it’s more likely you will get a cold or flu, and other viruses.
The National Sleep Foundation states, “Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, causing a double whammy if you skimp on shut-eye. Chronic sleep loss even makes the flu vaccine less effective by reducing your body’s ability to respond.”
So, there is a strong link between sleep and your immune system. Again hypnotherapy, by sorting your sleep, improves your immune system. A lack of sleep also affects how quickly you recover from illness. It doesn’t work to have short sleep in the week and try to make it up at the weekend either!
Benefit 3: A healthy heart
When we sleep too little (less than five hours a night) or too much (more than 9 hours per night) our heart is affected.
According to an analysis published in the European Heart Journal, we are more likely to develop heart disease or to have a stroke if we have less than five hours sleep. The impact is exacerbated if those sleep patterns persist over time.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy not only sorts sleep and helps prevent heart disease by doing so, it helps you change your lifestyle. If you have heart disease or have had a stroke, you will be given a great deal of advice and guidance, some of which you may find hard to follow.
Complementary therapies like hypnotherapy – as well as coaching, counselling, CBT and psychotherapy – can support you to change your lifestyle so you can be as healthy as you can be. But underpinning those healthy lifestyle changes that will make a difference, lies sleep.
Hypnotherapy, as we know, is one of the most effective therapies for helping you get enough shut-eye.
Benefit 4: Coping with Serious Illness
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine explains that sleep is associated with higher rates of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer. Night shift workers are impacted most. Men and women who sleep 7 hours or more every night have the best mortality rates in the world.
So, getting your sleep sorted really does become a matter of life and death, although we know that sleep is only one factor among many. Lack of sleep is not a causal factor however, but along with many others, it has been proven to be contributory.
Of course, serious illnesses can disrupt sleep patterns so Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can be a helpful support for anyone chronically or acutely ill, helping manage anxieties and fears, as well as reducing the experience of pain and helping the recovery process or improving patients’ quality of life if the diagnosis is terminal.
Benefit 5: Better Sex Lives
Not getting enough sleep could reduce your sex drive. In one study from a trusted source (via Professor Walker), young men who lost sleep over a one-week period showed a decrease in testosterone levels. Sleeping 5 or fewer hours reduced sex hormone levels by as much as 10 to 15 percent. The men also reported that their overall mood and vigour declined with each consecutive night of interrupted rest.
Professor Walker often shocks his audience of Alpha sleep-deprived men by stating that their penises may be smaller!
Benefit 6: Weight Loss and Increased Fitness
Lack of sleep can cause weight gain. A study examined the relationship between sleep and weight in 21,469 adults over the age of 20. Those who slept less than 5 hours each night, over the course of the three-year study, were more likely to gain weight and eventually become obese. Those who slept between 7 and 8 hours fared better on the scale.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is often used to support weight loss, effortlessly and naturally. Solution Focused Brief question process, which elicits a picture of the healthier, slimmer and fitter you, works well with hypnosis, which reduces the anxiety and stress that can lead to weight gain. Over time, habits are permanently changed, and new healthier habits are embedded resulting in healthy weight loss and increased fitness.
Benefit 7: Preventing Diabetes
Along with a bigger waistline, people who don’t get enough sleep (or who get too much) increase their risk of developing adult-onset diabetes. Researchers examined 10 separate studies focused on sleep and diabetes. Their findings uncovered that 7 to 8 hours of rest is the optimal range to avoid insulin issues that could lead to diabetes.
Benefit 8: Safer Driving
You’re three times more likely to be involved in a car accident if you get 6 or fewer hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The most vulnerable people are shift workers, commercial drivers, business travellers, and anyone else working long or odd hours. Think twice before getting behind the wheel if you’re not sleeping enough.
Benefit 9: Keep Young and Beautiful
In one study, a group of people aged between 30 and 50 were evaluated based on their sleep habits and their skin condition. The results revealed that those with too little sleep had more fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin colour, and marked looseness of the skin. Poor sleepers were also less satisfied with their appearance.
Before you stay up watching that box set, going to that all-night party, or obsessing over social media until the early hours, think twice. Those 8 hours of sleep each and every night are the key to health and happiness.
So, there you have it. Sleep is good for you. Who knew?
Jane is working exclusively online during the coronavirus crisis, through Skype, FaceTime, What’s App, or Zoom.
Jane Pendry DSFH, HPD, BA Hons (London), PGCE (Cantab)Reg CNHC, AfSFH, ABNLP, ABH, IARTT
Sense-Ability Hypnotherapy & Coaching
07843 813 883
Previously based at The Wellbeing Clinic, 1 Windmill Road, Headington, Oxford