Sleep is an essential component in our continuing health and
well-being. It is an important process. The restorative cycle of sleep means the body is able to rest, refresh, recover and
continue functioning normally.
many of us, sleeping is a natural part of our routine. While we know the health benefits and importance of sleep, few of us
truly appreciate how much we need it to know what happens when we don't get enough. On average, an adult will need seven to
eight hours of sleep each night, however, it is thought that one in three adults are affected by sleep problems.
These problems may include:
restless leg syndrome
- teeth grinding (sleep bruxism)
- sleep paralysis
is a sleep disorder?
is a strong chance that we will all find ourselves lying awake on rare occasions. This can happen when we feel anxious, excited or roused by a bad dream. However,
it is likely that we will be able to return to our normal routine when things have settled down. For others, problem sleeping
is a far more common occurence. Sleep disorders are now considered to be one of the most common health complaints. They can
seriously affect the physical, mental and emotional functioning of many individuals.
Sleep disorders is the term used to describe any
problems relating to sleep. This can include insomnia, excessive sleep, night terrors, sleep bruxism (teeth grinding) and
nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting during sleep). Some sleep disorders may stem from an underlying medical condition such as a
psychological disorder. Others may occur as side effects of prescribed medication.
There are a variety of warning signs whcih may be indicators of a sleep
problem such as:
- feeling as though you have had sufficient sleep but are very tired throughout the day
- drifting off mid-conversation
- a partner disturbing you regularly by snoring,
physical movements, sleep-talking or sleepwalking - starting a new medication and finding your sleep affected
Please note that not everyone who exhibits all
or some of these symptoms will have a sleep problem. People will have their own experience of sleep disorders.
The sleep cycle
To many of us, sleep may seem like one continued
state of unconsciousness. When in fact, it is a process made up of several stages. Sleep is a reoccuring cycle which can be
split ionto two main categories. Rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement(NREM).
The first phase of the sleep cycle we experience
is known as non-REM sleep and occurs in four stages. Often, the first stage is referred to as "light sleep". Here
the muscle activity slows down and though we are sleeping, we can be easily roused. We move into stage two after about ten
minutes. Stage two on average will last 20 minutes, during this time our breathing and heart rate slow down.
The third stage sees us entering deep sleep. This
is where our brain begins to produce delta waves and the rate of breathing and heart rate slow to their lowest levels. After
this, we enter the final stage of non-REM sleep. This is characterised by a combination of limited muscle activity and rhythmic
breathing. It is this stage of sleep where we may feel disorientated when woken suddenly.
During non-REM sleep, the body has the opportunity
to fix any wear and tear from the day. The body will repair and regenerate tissue, build muscle and bone and strengthen the
Approxiamately 25 per cent of the sleep cycle is spent in REM sleep. This phase occurs
70 to 90 minutes into sleep. It is at this stage that the brain is the most active: our breathing rate and blood pressure
rise and our eyes dart from side to side. Despite increased activity in the brain, it is assumed the muscles remain paralysed
due to the body protecting us from acting out the dream.
We experience three to five REM episodes each night. During the night, each cycle will
become less dominated by non-REM phases, progressively becoming more dominated by REM sleep.
It has been reported that dreams are at their most
vivid when woken from REM sleep.
How can hypnotherapy help?
It is important to contact your GP if you are experiencing
a sleep disorder. They will be able to provide you with a diagnosis and advice, as well as being able to rule out any underlying
medical conditions. At this stage your doctor may recommend a special treatment or service, such as hypnotherapy. Over the
last twenty years we have had some tremendous success helping patients to recover healthy sleeping patterns.