Struggling to sleep?

Posted on 22nd May 2020

With the significant changes to the way that our society operates – social distancing, shielding, furloughing and some lock-down restrictions being loosened, it’s no wonder that many people are lying awake at night wondering what the impact of these would be for themselves and their family.  What will our society look like in 6 months?  Worry about the unknown and an ever-changing landscape plays heavily on the mind and can make anxiety and stress even worse.  Not being able to get off to sleep at night, tossing and turning or waking up frequently only to lie awake and not be able to get back off to sleep leaves us feeling exhausted and out of sorts for the whole day.

When this becomes a familiar pattern, we can become stressed about our lack of sleep.  As bedtime approaches, we can become more anxious about wrestling with a busy brain or that feeling of being wide awake.  The body is in a state of hyperarousal where the stress response is activated, and the adrenal system flooded with cortisol and adrenaline.   When we finally fall asleep, the quality of sleep is compromised, and we awake in a state of exhaustion, confusion and stress.  And then the cycle repeats.

This is where well practised solution focused hypnotherapy brings about effective change.  Deep relaxation is known to be the most powerful treatment for symptoms caused by stress and anxiety.  When we trigger the parasympathetic nervous system or ‘the brake’ in our autonomic nervous system, we can rest and digest, slowing down the heart rate, calming down the racing thoughts and taking our amygdala (the alarm that activates the stress response) off high alert.  During a deep state of relaxation, we can mirror REM sleep – that part of your sleep that processes all the thoughts and events of the day from your limbic system (emotional part of your brain) to your narrative memory where you have control over them.  Thoughts are calmer and slower, and your body is relaxed and in effect, your metaphorical ‘stress bucket’ (your body and mind) is emptied so you feel refreshed and ready to start the day.

This is so important as sleep deprivation has a negative effect on many areas of our lives: our ability to learn and retain new information, our blood pressure, our immune system……  it is vital for the maintenance of our physical and mental wellbeing.  In neuroscientist Matthew Walker’s book ‘Why we sleep’ he summarises the necessity of sleep in the phrase

the shorter your sleep – the shorter your life.

So, sleep is not an optional lifestyle luxury …. It is a non-negotiable biological necessity.

Maybe you could try some of these tips for establishing better sleep ….

  • Keep the same bedtime routine – same time to go to bed and same time to wake up
  • Keep the bedroom cool around 65 degrees F / 18 degrees C
  • Keep the bedroom dark and avoid bright screen lights
  • If you lie awake – get up and do a relaxing activity like reading, meditating, journaling

However, if you need help putting on the brake to calm that racing mind, then it is good to know that you’re not alone and through solution focused hypnotherapy you can take back control of your emotions which will help you cope with whatever circumstances and situations you are in.  And ultimately you can start to look forward to a regular good quality night’s sleep.

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