Sleep Issues and Hypnotherapy: Why Lifestyle Changes Matter
As my fingers hover over the keyboard thinking about how to start this blog post, I’m wondering to myself whether it’s superfluous to tell you about the importance of sleep. While we transit different sleep rhythms throughout life, some natural and some less so, most humans feel the effects of a lack of it.
Sleep is a fundamental and essential aspect of human life, playing a crucial role in physical health and mental well-being. Evolution did a funny thing, keeping sleep necessary, making it such that this human animal is vulnerable for a third of its life. Just that sentence alone tells you how important sleep is.
The importance of sleep extends across various aspects of our functioning, so neglecting it has profound effects on both short-term and long-term health.
Physical Restoration and Healing:
During sleep, your body undergoes various restorative processes. Your body repairs tissues and muscles, and strengthens your immune system, helping your body recover from daily wear and tear. During deep sleep, your body releases growth hormone, contributing to growth, development, and cell repair.
Cognitive Function and Memory Consolidation:
Sleep plays a critical role in cognitive functions, such as memory consolidation and learning. It enhances your brain’s ability to absorb and retain information gathered throughout the day. Lack of sleep impairs attention, decision-making, problem-solving skills, and cognitive performance. While you sleep, your brain clears our toxins that build up throughout the day. Recent research shows a build up of these toxins in the brains of people with dementia. This suggests lack of sleep (and therefore missed opportunities to clear out the toxins) is a contributing factor to the diseases that make up dementia.
Emotional Well-being and Mental Health:
Emotional well-being and mental health are closely linked to adequate sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of mood disorders, including depression and anxiety. Sleep helps regulate emotions, and a lack of it leads to heightened emotional reactivity and irritability.
Metabolic Health and Weight Management:
Sleep plays a role in regulating various hormones related to appetite and metabolism. Lack of sleep disrupts the balance of hormones like leptin and ghrelin, leading to increased hunger and potential weight gain. Chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of obesity and conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
A consistent lack of sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular problems, including hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and stroke. Sleep helps regulate stress hormones and supports the overall health of your cardiovascular system.
A robust immune system needs quality sleep. During sleep, your body produces proteins called cytokines that help combat infections and inflammation. Chronic sleep deprivation can weaken your immune response, making you more susceptible to illnesses.
Performance and Safety:
Sleep is crucial for optimal daytime performance, alertness, and reaction times. Lack of sleep can impair coordination, decision-making, and concentration, increasing the risk of accidents and errors. Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood of workplace accidents and impaired driving.
Adequate and quality sleep increases life expectancy. A consistent lack of sleep, on the other hand, may contribute to health issues that impact longevity.
I cannot overstate the importance of sleep. It is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle, influencing physical health, mental well-being, and functioning. It is also important to note that all stages of the sleep cycle are necessary. Although the terms deep sleep and light sleep suggest one is better than the other, both have equally important roles. If you miss either deep sleep or light sleep, you miss an important part of a necessary daily process.
Many people turn to hypnotherapy, in the hope of finding a cure for their sleep troubles. While hypnotherapy is effective for some, it’s essential to recognise that a holistic approach, incorporating lifestyle changes, is crucial for long-term success. Hypnotherapy will help you deal with any historical or current issues that cause you to toss and turn at night. If you have symptoms of trauma that prevent you sleeping, your hypnotherapist will help you process the experience/s and realign your mind and body, so it no longer feels the need to run.
Your hypnotherapist will give you tools to use at home to settle your mind, so sleep comes easily. You’ll also learn how to use the state of hypnosis as a meditative tool, so you can ease your central nervous system and find slumber easier to access. However, those things will not work if your lifestyle means you prevent your body from sleeping physiologically.
Blue Light and Circadian Rhythm
The exponential improvements in technology mean a constant barrage of artificial light, particularly blue light. Your circadian rhythm is the process in your body that wakes you in the morning and sends you to sleep in the evening. It revolves around the sun, which emits blue light. Most strongly during sunrise. When your eyes take in the blue light, they send a message to your brain to release cortisol, the hormone that wakes you. When they receive constant darkness for a couple of hours, they send the message to release melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep.
Exposure to blue light in the morning, during sunrise, is a brilliant way to reset your body clock. However, evening exposure disrupts your body’s production of melatonin. Unfortunately, pretty much every screen you look at and every LED light that lights your space emits light in the blue spectrum. Evolution is a lot slower than technology – we haven’t changed much in 10,000 years! Therefore, your brain perceives blue light from screens / unnatural lighting as the sun, and continues to behave as if it is high in the sky.
Hypnotherapy alone may not be sufficient to counteract the negative effects of excessive screen time. Establishing a healthy sleep environment involves minimising blue light exposure in the hours leading up to bedtime. Incorporating lifestyle changes, such as implementing a digital curfew or using blue light filters, is essential for synchronising your circadian rhythm and optimising sleep quality.
Shift Work and Sun Exposure
If you work irregular hours or night shifts, hypnotherapy may not fully address the challenges posed by a disrupted circadian rhythm. Your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle is closely tied to exposure to sunlight. Shift work can lead to a misalignment between internal body clocks and external cues, making it challenging to achieve restful sleep. Combining hypnotherapy with lifestyle changes, such as strategic exposure to natural sunlight and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, is paramount in addressing sleep issues related to shift work.
Nutrition, Hunger, and Caffeine
Diet plays a crucial role in sleep quality. Certain foods can disrupt sleep due to their stimulating effects. Additionally, going to bed hungry or consuming caffeine late in the day can pose challenges for those seeking a good night’s sleep. Although the exact time is person dependent, caffeine has an approximate half-life of six hours. So, a coffee at 10am is the same as half a cup of coffee at 4pm.
As your blood sugar crashes during the day, the same can happen at night. When this does happen, it can wake you with feelings of anxiety. Hypnotherapy alone may not address these dietary aspects. A holistic approach involves mindful choices about nutrition, timing of meals, and caffeine intake, ensuring that lifestyle changes support the hypnotherapy and your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
Sleep Issues and Hypnotherapy
While hypnotherapy offers valuable tools for addressing sleep issues, it is essential to recognise that a comprehensive approach with lifestyle changes is necessary for sustained success. Understanding the impact of factors such as blue light, shift work, sunlight exposure, screen time, nutrition, hunger, and caffeine helps you make informed choices that support your goal. By combining the benefits of hypnotherapy with lifestyle adjustments, you can foster a conducive environment for restorative sleep and improve your sleep quality.