Many effects of lack of sleep, such as feeling grumpy, lack of concentration and not working at your best, are well known. But did you know that sleep is as essential for your well-being as food and water and sleep deprivation can have profound consequences for your physical health?
When you’re scrambling to meet the countless demands of your day, cutting back on sleep might seem like the only answer. Who can afford to spend so much time sleeping, anyway? The truth is you can’t afford not to. Even minimal sleep loss takes a toll on your mood, energy, and ability to handle stress. But the real cost of sleepless nights is more than just bad moods and a lack of focus. Chronic poor sleep can put you at risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. A lack of sleep can shorten your life and it has become clear that a solid night’s sleep is essential for a healthy life.
It is difficult to define what ‘normal’ sleep is as everyone is different. It is dependent on lifestyle, age, gender, environment and diet. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than seven hours per night. In today’s fast-paced society, six or seven hours of sleep may sound pretty good. In reality, though, it’s a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation.While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between seven and a half to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best. A good rule to follow is, if you wake tired and spend the day longing for the chance of a nap, it is likely that you did not get enough sleep.
Most of us have no idea just how much lack of sleep is affecting us. So, how is it possible to be sleep deprived without knowing it? Most of the signs of sleep deprivation are much more subtle than falling face first into your dinner plate. Furthermore, if you’ve made a habit of skimping on sleep, you may not even remember what it feels like to be wide-awake, fully alert, and firing on all cylinders. Maybe it feels normal to get sleepy when you’re in a boring meeting, struggling through the afternoon slump, or dozing off after dinner, but the truth is that it’s only “normal” if you’re sleep deprived.
What happens if we don’t sleep? Everyone experienced the fatigue, short temper and lack of focus following a poor night’s sleep. The occasional night with little sleep makes one feel tired and irritable the next day, but it won’t harm one’s health. However, after several sleepless nights, the mental effects become more apparent. Your brain will ‘fog’, affecting your judgment, coordination, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. You may start to feel low in mood, experience a lack of motivation and energy, you may feel easily irritated and the risk of injury at home and work increases. In fact, sleep deprivation can affect one just as much as being drunk.When drowsy, it may make you feel tense and preoccupied, and the worry over your inability to sleep can add to this.
The importance of deep sleep and REM sleep. During sleep, we usually pass through four phases of sleep: stages 1 (light sleep), 2 (sleep), 3 (slow wave, deep sleep) and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.Each stage of sleep offers benefits to the sleeper. However, deep sleep is perhaps the most vital stage. It is the first stage that the brain attempts to recover when sleep deprived, and the strongest effects of sleep deprivation are from inadequate deep sleep. If your body is deprived of deep sleep, it will try to make that up first- at the expense of REM sleep. REM sleep, or dream sleep, is essential to our minds for processing and consolidating emotions, memories and stress. There are different theories as to why you dream. Freud thought that dreams were the processing of unconscious desires. Today, researchers wonder if it may be the brain’s way of processing random fragments of information received during the day. Much of dreaming is still a mystery. If REM sleep is disrupted one night, your body will go through more REM the next to catch up on this sleep stage. Studies have shown that better REM sleep helps boost your mood during the day.
Do you suffer from insomnia? Insomnia is a difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to enter into the different stages of our sleep cycle in order to feel refreshed the next morning, even though you’ve had enough opportunity to sleep. Stress, anxiety and an inability to ‘switch’ off are common causes of insomnia, but it can also be caused by conditions such as depression.
Whilst most people experience problems sleeping at some point in their life it is thought that a third of people in the UK have regular episodes of insomnia.
The most common symptoms of insomnia are:
- difficulty falling asleep
- waking up and staying awake during the night
- waking up early in the morning
- feeling irritable and tired and finding it difficult to function during the day
Tips for self-help
- Limit alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, especially late in the day.
- Exercise regularly, but don’t overdo it before bedtime.
- Meditation and yoga can be relaxing, preparing your body for sleep.
- Don’t take naps during the day.
- Don’t eat too much late in the evening, but don’t go to bed hungry either.
- Establish a routine of going to bed at a certain time and getting up at a certain time each day.
- Have a warm bath before bedtime.
- Have a milky drink or listen to soothing music to create a relaxed mood.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable, and your room isn’t too hot or too cold.
Hypnotherapy for ‘hopeless’ sleepers. Many of my clients have tried all the above and still despair over getting a good night’s sleep. Some have used sleep medication but are uneasy over the long term effects. The first step in helping a client overcome insomnia is to identify and address any underlying conditions, such as anxiety, that may be causing their sleep problems. Hypnotherapy is a powerful tool as it transforms the subconscious patterns which are keeping us awake. Hypnotherapy can also help an individual to understand some of the causes of insomnia and sleeping problems. Many people suffering from insomnia believe they are not going to be able to sleep, which often means they don’t. Hypnotherapy can help to re-educate an individual’s mind to expect a good night’s sleep.
Using varying relaxation techniques, Hypnotherapy can help an individual to relax, both mentally and physically. Hypnosis deals with those deeply ingrained issues that generate anxiety, worry, anger, frustration, tension and even fear. Never, ever, give up and give in to insomnia. Through hypnotherapy you can let sleep happen naturally and sleep like a baby. You are entitled to enjoy perfect sleep every night of your life.
You can make you sleep!
For more information on how Hypnotherapy can help you achieve a good night’s sleep, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org Angela Winterton Dip.Hyp, MHS, GQHP,GHR reg., NRH, Dip.CP,MCS Acc, Dip.SMC
Clinical Hypnotherapist & Psychotherapist, Aspired Therapies