Sleep deprivation appears to be an emerging global epidemic which has enormous physical and mental health consequences such as irritability, depression, weight gain and dementia. This is why it is often said that the best thing you can do to improve your general health is to go to sleep an hour earlier than you do. A great suggestion if you are a person who enjoys good sleep but not very helpful if you are experiencing insomnia. If this is you, it will be a relief to know that there is a lot you can do to rediscover the pleasures of bedtime because sleep is a natural human ability that we can all do, have done and will be able to do again. Your powerful subconscious mind has got you into this predicament which means it will be able to get you out of it.
Function of sleep
Sleep is a super power that many of us take for granted without actually knowing the ways in which it keeps us and our brains healthy. The fact is that while we sleep, the brain is very busy with vital functions such as washing out the beta amyloid toxin from brain cells, repairing damaged cells, replaying the days activities and consolidating useful memories while pruning unused neural pathways and integrating new ones. What we learn today needs sleep tonight for that information to stay there. This is why children and teenagers need good sleep every night for optimal learning and brain development and why studying through the night is never a good idea for information retention.
Benefits of good quality sleep
The better a person sleeps, the stronger their immunity and ability to heal. Good sleep enhances mood stability, clarity of mind, memory and concentration. Sleep lowers blood pressure and supports healthy heart function. People who sleep well tend to naturally maintain a stable weight and also enjoy lower pain perception.
Recipe for a good night
A few minutes of natural daylight early morning, as well as late in the day, is essential for a balanced circadian rhythm. Bright daylight on the retina triggers a cortisol pulse and sets the timer for melatonin release at bedtime. Exercising during the day helps support healthy sleep cycles and morning exercise outside is first prize.
Creating a “calm before bed” routine with relaxing music or whatever cues work for you. Most important for everyone is a hot shower or bath which paradoxically cools our core temperature and triggers sleepiness hormones. Body temperature needs to drop for good sleep so turn off the electric blankets and go easy on the layers. Natural fabric linen is best and those who sleep naked report better quality sleep. Orgasms before sleep are also very beneficial. Make sure devices are at least a meter from your head and/or on aeroplane mode.
Best not to check the time during the night as this only adds to the stress of not sleeping. Same with the sleep apps. Continuous monitoring draws attention to the sleeplessness which feeds straight back into the negative cycle. Very important to avoid bright light between 11pm-4am because this inhibits dopamine release which can contribute to depression as well as learning and memory disruption. Bright lights in the middle of the night also disrupts blood sugar regulation.* Keep lights very dim for bathroom visits and if need to use screen at night, keep light dim as possible. Remember that every action and thought is a subconscious suggestion. Be mindful which thoughts you think at bedtime. Start to train your mind to look forward to relaxing sleep by changing your bedtime narrative..
Consider these two bedtime stories (autosuggestions):
1.John stays up later and later every night avoiding his bed and the voice in his head sounds something like this“ Oh #%##@, I’m not tired, I won’t be able to sleep. I will never be able to focus at work tomorrow. I will definitely be too tired to gym in the morning which means the day will be a mess…” When he does eventually go to bed he is bothered by every little noise including his partner’s breathing. The more he tries to sleep the more irritable and stressed he gets. John is literally hypnotising himself not to sleep night after night and the days become an exhausted, stressful blur.
2. Judy is physically tired having exercised earlier. “What a long day, ready to close my eyes. Can’t wait to shower and flop into bed and read my book. I’m already so sleepy I probably won’t get far, definitely have nice dreams about that guy I met. I’m so tired I’m sure I will sleep soundly through the lovely sound of the rain. Will be so nice to wake up early and enjoy the crisp morning, maybe even go for a run.” Judy is in a positive feedback loop giving her brain all the right cues to sleep well.
Falling asleep is a subconscious function which means it is not something you can consciously force yourself do. Paradoxically one of the rules of the mind is that “The harder you try to do something the more illusive it becomes”!
How can hypnotherapy help?
Hypnotherapy addresses the subconscious glitch which is responsible for this issue and different techniques are used depending on the cause of the sleeplessness. An interference in sleep ability is a sure sign that the homeostasis of the body or mind is out of balance and change is necessary. Whether you have relationship issues, fears, anxiety or depression, the insomnia will be contributing which means you are in a negative feedback loop. Allowing sleep can be the key to reversing this downward spiral.
During stressful or traumatic times it is normal to have sleep disruptions however the brain can easily learn faulty sleeping habits which means that sometimes we need to reset and relearn healthy sleep patterns.
For some people uncovering a subconscious cause of insomnia and dealing with it can be all that is needed. Others benefit hugely from learning self hypnosis which they can use to relax to a point that they allow themselves to fall asleep. A very exciting discovery by neuroscientists is that during hypnosis or meditation, the brain performs similar restorative and neuroplastic functions as it does during sleep and in a much shorter time. This means that there is no reason to fear a disruptive sleep as it can easily be topped up by a short self hypnosis session very similar to a “cat nap” leaving you refreshed, focused and clear headed. The more you practise self hypnosis, the easier and more effective it becomes and if you’re not sleeping then you certainly have the time to practise this skill.
People who travel or do shift work benefit enormously from this as they can literally catch up missed sleep and reset their circadian rhythm using these techniques. Interestingly, sleep scientists have proven that alertness the next day often depends on how well you think you have slept rather than on how well you actually slept- yet another example of the power of autosuggestion!
Another fascinating phenomenon is how when we set an alarm to wake up (even for an unusual hour) we so often wake up just before the time. This is all due to our amazing circadian rhythm and biochemistry. The body produces stress hormones an hour or so before anticipation of waking up which increase your heart rate and temperature. It much prefers a gradual awakening and hates the alarm and especially the snooze function which sends these stress hormones into reverse and confusion. This can leave you feeling really groggy when you finally get up. (If your clock regularly has to wake you up you probably are not getting enough quality sleep.)
The good news is that using your powerful subconscious mind and a bit of practice, you can soon start to sleep better and the better you start to sleep, the easier it becomes to relax and allow better sleep. When you are tired of counting sheep and are ready to take back your super power, I would love to help you to start the process of retraining your mind to experience restorative sleep that leaves you alert, calm and focused for being your best self through the day.
“Many things — such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly — are done worst when we try hardest to do them.” — C.S. Lewis