How is your sleep? We spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping. Sleep is a basic human need, much like eating and drinking, and good quality sleep is essential in maintaining our both physical and mental health and wellbeing. We can all recognise the difference in how we feel both physically and emotionally when we have had a good night’s sleep, we wake up feel refreshed, recharged, and ready for the day ahead!

Nearly one in three of us suffer from poor sleep, and figures from The Mental Health Foundation have found that nearly 48% of UK adults agree that sleeping badly has a negative effect on their mental health, this figure increases to 66% for teenagers. Sleep problems can be both a symptom of, and a contributor to, poor mental health.

A few more interesting sleep statistics and facts:

Approximately 50% of individuals with insomnia have anxiety/depression and/or other mood disorders.

Research shows there to be a 70% increased risk of injury when young athletes get less than 8 hours of sleep.

Sleep loss impacts the hormones involved in appetite regulation, reduced sleep leads to an increased appetite.

Sleep plays a critical role in emotional processing. Poor sleep can reduce our ability to manage our emotions, impact on impulse control, reduce positive thinking, increase worry, and lead to or worsen depression.

60% of working adults report that a lack of sleep has made them less able to concentrate at work, and more than one third (35%) report that it has caused them to make more mistakes.

Directly or indirectly, disrupted sleep can have a negative effect on family life and relationships by affecting a person’s mood and the way in which they are able to perform daily activities and interact socially.

Sleep regularity is positively associated with academic performance.

37% of working adults report that their work (for example workload, problems with colleagues and worries about job security) reduces the amount of control they feel they have over their sleep.

Research shows that people who get better quality sleep are perceived to be more youthful, alert, and attractive!

Insufficient sleep duration and poor sleep quality have been associated with several adverse health outcomes such as obesity, diabetes, inflammation, reduced immunity, cardiovascular disease, and poor mental health.

Evidence indicates that light from device screens can be a cue to our bodies that it is not yet time for sleep, delaying our circadian rhythm.

Sleep problems constitute a global epidemic that threatens health and quality of life for up to 45% of the world’s population.

Most sleep disorders are preventable or treatable, yet less than one-third of sufferers seek professional help.

So, what does healthy sleep look like? The three elements of good quality sleep are:

Duration - The length of sleep should be sufficient for the sleeper to be rested and alert the following day.

Continuity - Sleep periods should be seamless without fragmentation.

Depth - Sleep should be deep enough to be restorative.

Ideas for improving your routine and making sleep a priority:

Allow for an adequate amount of sleep every night (sleep duration). Although opinions vary as to how much you need, it’s recommended that 7-9 hours per night is the optimal sleep duration for most adults. Note this is the optimal sleep duration, therefore giving ourselves a “sleep window” to allow for this is important (i.e., a 7 hour sleep window will inevitably result in less than 7 hours sleep).

Establish regular sleep and wake up schedules. If you change your usual sleep schedule, try to return to your regular schedule as soon as possible.

Eliminate as many sleep disturbances as you can. Remove any distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible. If helpful try earplugs or headphones that can be used during sleep, eye masks or darker curtains and blinds.

Avoid eating heavy meals, sugary or spicy foods in the four hours before bed. Also, try to reduce your caffeine, and avoid excessive alcohol consumption, especially in the 6 hours before you go to sleep, and do not smoke.

Avoid screen use at bedtime. Aim to turn off all electronic screens at least 60 minutes before bedtime. There are even benefits from turning off 30 minutes before bedtime so perhaps try a gradual step down. Instead use the hour before bed to relax and clear your mind. Try simple stretches or mindful relaxations, listening to relaxing music, or taking a soothing bath to help calm the body and mind and prepare for sleep.

Take part in regular exercise and spend time out in natural daylight (but avoid exercise too close to bedtime as this can have the opposite effect!)

Make your bedroom a calm, inviting and safe space for sleep. To make it easier to fall and stay asleep, it’s recommended that the room is restful, quiet, cool, and dark and used mainly for sleep or sex, and not for things such as work or eating. Don’t use the bed as an office!

Sleep statistics and guidance referenced from World Sleep Day, The World Sleep Society, and The MHFA Sleep report.

How can Solution Focused Hypnotherapy help to improve sleep?

We all have a metaphorical ‘stress bucket’ where we offload any day to day stresses and worries, sometimes if we have a lot going on in our lives, and we have lots on our mind, our stress bucket can get too full and overflow. Our brain gets a signal when our stress bucket is full - to be on alert for danger; our sympathetic nervous system gets triggered into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Here it is important to understand that the brain and body respond in the same way to physical danger (being chased by a bear) as it does to psychological ‘danger’ (hard things, emotional things, stressful things, new things, brave things). Our brain will still stay on high alert until the stress bucket is emptied, or at least reduced to a ‘safe’ level. This has a negative impact on our ability to sleep well. This is why so many more of us have struggled with poor sleep over the pandemic, we have had more worry, stress, anxiety and uncertainty - life has felt less 'safe'.

Luckily, we have a natural way of emptying our stress bucket…….

When we sleep our brain goes through a variety of sleep patterns, one of these is REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement sleep) this is where we dream, and it’s through this dream state that we empty our metaphorical ‘stress bucket’! This is a natural process that occurs every night allowing you to wake up with a nice empty stress bucket every morning – feeling refreshed and emotionally ready for the day ahead. However, if your stress bucket is too full and overflowing you may find yourself waking up at 3 or 4am and unable to go back to sleep. This is because REM sleep is limited to about 20% of our overall sleep patterns – if our stress bucket is too full, we are unable to deal with all the anxiety and stress added to it during the day….so we need more REM sleep to efficiently empty it, unfortunately our mind wakes us up when we try to get more than 20% REM and we struggle to get back to sleep. We start the day with our stress bucket only slightly emptied, which inevitably gets filled up and overflows again very quickly. This becomes a vicious cycle as our brain is encouraged to stay on high alert…. our sleep continues to be disrupted….and so this unhealthy cycle repeats itself night after night.

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy helps to reduce anxiety levels, gradually lowering the amount of stress and worry we add to our stress bucket each day, this combined with the wonderful therapeutic effect of hypnosis/trance which replicates the REM state, allows any surplus in our stress bucket to be reduced gradually before we enter into sleep. Trance is also an extremely deep form of relaxation, and when we fully relax, we calm the body and mind, triggering the parasympathetic nervous system (also known as rest and digest) which allows our brain to come out of fight or flight and off high alert. So, you can see how this unique therapeutic combination can help to start getting back on top of things.

Reducing the overload in the stress bucket helps you to sleep better, and improved sleep means you will be able to empty the stress bucket regularly and consistently and start to feel calmer and more in control – more able to cope with any day to day stresses – adding less to the stress bucket…. and so on…. over time this will become a positive loop instead of a negative one!

If you are overwhelmed with feelings of stress, anxiety, worry, and it’s having a negative impact on your sleep, it's important to remember that you are not alone. Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is an enjoyable and empowering therapy that can help you to take back control of your emotional wellbeing and support you in breaking free from that unhealthy ‘overflowing stress bucket/poor sleep’ cycle, helping you to start each new day feeling refreshed, recharged and ready for the day ahead!

“Sleep in peace, and wake in joy”

Walter Scott

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