Sleep – What You Need To Know
Sleep – what you need to know now
Troubling sleep problems
Sleep is essential for our emotional well-being and the maintenance of our health. Poor sleep patterns and general insomnia can be caused by physical illness and by emotional disorders and can include the medication which may be taken to deal with such issues. However, frequently sleep deprivation is about our habits and the way our bodies adapt to those habits, often bad ones.
You see, your body loves habits, it loves routines and it loves consistency and all too often lifestyles deprive our bodies of these reassuring and regular patterns of behaviour. When we disrupt those patterns we change the way our body works. It would be ideal if we could always go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time but life is just not like that. Very often your body is jumping from one set of time zones to another and that makes for seriously disrupted sleep patterns.
Irregular sleep habits
Another thing that causes problems – sleep is not a debit credit system, although often we treat it like that. Getting up at 6 o-clock every weekday morning and then laying in on the weekends, may seem like sheer luxury on the Saturday and Sunday, but to your sleep patterns it’s the equivalent to a bad case of jet lag. So it’s natural that we get out of sync and our sleep body clock starts to get confused and guess what…we have another bout of insomnia.
o The amazing sleep cycle
The fact is that sleep is important to us, without it we start to shut down much the same as an overloaded computer. And this isn’t just a case of grabbing 40 winks here and there, although that can help top you up especially in the early afternoon – the proverbial power nap. However, the sleep process is actually quite complex and involves two main stages which our bodies go through in order to regenerate us physically and mentally. Let’s take a look at them:
- Non-REM sleep
The first main stage of sleep is what is known as non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and occurs primarily at three levels:
First is the very light or drowsy comfortable stage that we drift off into when our brainwave activity starts to slow down. Breathing becomes more regular, you may be aware of sounds or activities around you but your body just doesn’t want to react. You may also experience short muscle jerks and no doubt we have all experienced that sudden falling sensation that is frequently associated with this sleep stage. This stage typically lasts less than 10 minutes.
Next we drift into a state that is now be more able to be described as sleeping. Your muscles are now relaxing and you are starting to lose contact with what is going on in the world around you. Your breathing and heart rate slows down and your brain starts to suppress any reaction to events around you. This stage lasts around 20 minutes.
The final stage of non-REM sleep is at the point where we enter deep sleep also known as Delta waves sleep. Delta waves are produced by the brain and allow our bodies to enter into deep healing and restorative sleep. During this period we may also start to dream and our response to external events is suppressed and we become difficult to rouse. However, it is also at this level that we may sleep walk or talk in our sleep if we are prone to do so.
Why is non-REM sleep important?
The important thing about non-REM sleep is that it prepares you for deeper sleep and starts the process of self-repair to your body both physically and mentally and strengthens the immune system while doing so. In the Delta wave stage, non-REM sleep is critical to what is referred to as sleep-dependant memory consolidation. This is a complex subject but in brief terms it allows our brains to process and consolidate our memories in a way that makes sense to us.
- REM sleep
The second main stage of sleep is REM sleep. This occurs around 70 – 90 minutes into our sleep but is not one continuous process and generally occurs in cycles of around an hour to two hours at a time. It accounts for around 25% of our sleep time, more in babies and the young and less in the elderly.
What happens during REM sleep?
At this point in our sleep cycle our breathing and blood pressure start to rise and our eyes randomly dart from side to side (Rapid Eye Movement). We start to have quite vivid dreams and our bodies become immobile and unresponsive in order to protect us from acting out our dreams.
What if we don’t get enough?
Research indicates that a lack of this deeper REM sleep can affect memory and the ability to carry out tasks. Further research also shows that we need more REM sleep following a period where we have had to learn new tasks. This research has shown that after learning a new task and then sleeping and dreaming about it, we are able to carry out that task up to 10 times better than if hadn’t. Perhaps that is where the saying ‘Sleep on it’ came from. Most people should experience between three to five of these REM sleep cycles per night.
Why is it important?
REM sleep is important because it is the part of the sleep cycle that restores and regenerates us both mentally and physically and helps us consolidate our learning. Poor sleep patterns disrupt what is known as our circadian rhythm, this is our inner body clock which regulates our bodily functions and our needs. Without adequate sleep our bodies are thrown into an imbalance, you will know the feeling. You feel drugged, uncoordinated, bad tempered and unable to function properly. Sleep deprivation can have a disastrous effect on our mental and physical good health.
- What’s the solution?
So how do we get a good night’s sleep? Well, I started off this article with saying that our body craves routine and consistency. Here are a few simple suggestions that may help you do that:
o Be consistent
Get into a regular sleep schedule. I know it’s not always possible but try and aim to get to bed at the same time every night
o Have a routine
Adopt a routing leading up to bedtime and sleep. Whether this may be having a hot drink (not caffeine), taking a warm bath or shower, listening to some soothing music, reading a book or taking time-out to empty and relax your mind. Possibly a combination of a couple of these ideas will be best. But certainly not playing on electronics or checking you social media just before bedtime.
o Empty your mind
Control your wandering mind. If you start to reflect on the day you’ve just had, or start planning tomorrow or thinking about your arrangements for the weekend, then you are just winding your brain up.
o Your safe place
So create a safe place in your mind, somewhere you can go to relax. This could be a favourite spot that you know or even a place in your imagination. Make it somewhere you would feel happy and safe, free from tension and anxiety. Visualise it, feel you are actually there. For instance if you decide your safe place is a river bank, you can conjure up the sound of the running water, the smell of wild flowers, the warmth of the sun and the spongy feel of the grass beneath you. Picture it, then make all the colours, the sounds, the smells and the sensations the best they can possibly be and immerse yourself in them.
o Empty your mind
Then just allow your mind to gradually empty itself of all thought. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of your safe and relaxing place. This will stimulate calming Alpha waves in your brain and will encourage restfulness and sleep.
Doing this it is actually a form of self-hypnosis and hypnosis for sleep is an effective and proven method of overcoming insomnia and sleep related problems. Try it tonight and enjoy a healing, rejuvenating deep sleep.
o Why is hypnosis for sleep so successful?
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that in many cases sleep deprivation is as a result of habits which we have adopted and our bodies have adjusted to.
Hypnosis has been used for many years as a way of changing learned behaviour. Hypnosis communicates with the subconscious mind and in doing so by-passes many of the thought conflicts that our conscious mind might create.
o Hypnosis for sleep is particularly effective as research indicates that hypnosis can induce Theta and Delta waves in the brain. These brain waves are those associated with restful sleep and deep meditation and are stimulated during the profound state of relaxation experienced whilst in the hypnotic state.