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Solution Focused Hypnotherapy and Sleep
The importance of sleep is becoming more apparent within our world however for many people the ideal of 7-8 hours sleep each night can seem like an unachievable goal as our busy lives keep our minds buzzing late into the night or from early hours of the morning.
Insomnia is a growing problem and can all too often be linked with increased stress, anxiety and daily demands and pressure. The trouble with insomnia or a poor sleep habit is that this lack of sleep will actually lead to an increase in anxiety, stress and in many cases a general decline in an individual physical health. This is because sleep is actually our natural antidote for anxiety, stress and low mood. There is more to this however as recent scientific research shows that sleep can also strengthen our immunity and is essential for our physical as well as mental well-being.
How hypnotherapy helps with insomnia.
It could be viewed as a bit of a “chicken and the egg” scenario. Many of my clients will report an improvement in their sleep pattern and along with this an improvement in their motivation, self-esteem and energy levels. They will report a general increase in their mood together with a reduction in their anxiety levels. I often find myself wondering what actually came first, the anxiety or the insomnia as neuro-scientific findings now indicate just how much affect sleep has upon a individuals overall health.
I think anyone reading this will know how a day after a good night sleep turns out compared to a night when they were up keeping the owls company. It makes a huge difference and it doesn’t take long for our mental state to decline when insomnia strikes.
Brain waves, hypnotherapy and sleep.
There are 4 different brain waves to consider when understanding how hypnotherapy can help with insomnia. Each state has its own characteristics that indicate the specific level of brain activity together with a unique state of consciousness
Beta – this is the brain frequency we are within throughout large part of our waking day. It is associated with a heightened state of alertness, logic and critical thinking. This beta frequency is also associated with anxiety stress and restlessness. This is not usually a helpful frequency to find yourself within as you lie awake at 3am or when initially trying to go to bed.
Alpha – These brain waves are in effect when we are in a state of deep relaxation. Daydreaming, meditation and hypnosis all achieve this brain wave state. Within this state the individual has access to their subconscious mind. The imagination can be freed and new more positive thought patterns can be embedded without the constant critical voice of the conscious mind bombarding us with anxious thoughts, negative words and a list of reason why making a change is simply not a good idea!
Theta – These brain waves are present during deep hypnosis, deep meditation and during light sleep. This includes the magical realm of REM sleep. Understanding the role of REM sleep is crucial when it comes to gaining clarity on why lack of sleep can cause your mental state to decline.
Delta - Delta waves are present within deep sleep and in some cases very deep hypnosis and meditation. This is the slowest of brain waves and is associated with rest, repair and regeneration. It has recently been proven that within this state the brain actually gives itself a good clean as toxic waste gets flushed out of our brain by the release of cerebal fluid. During this state there is no conscious awareness and the subconscious is left to run free.
R.E.M (dreaming) sleep
As mentioned above neuroscientific findings have now identified that one of R.E.M sleeps key functions is to process the events of the previous day. This includes events that produce anxiety, stress and other negatively charged emotions. These events are held within the subconscious part of the brain. During R.E.M sleep the brain works through and processes these events as they are transferred to our more rational, problem solving part of the brain. In essence the emotional experience is taken out of the equation. Many people can relate to this as quite often a problem that seemed to cause you a lot of anxiety and upset will often appear more rational and less important following a good night’s sleep. I believe this is where the common phrase “sleep on it” may could well have come from. This could help to explain why the onset of insomnia can cause an increase in anxiety as these processes are not worked through within the night. As a result you can wake up, or get up after a lot of tossing and turning, carrying these anxieties with you into the next day and in all likelihood the many days that follow. Even if you do manage to sleep a bit in the night the brain uses up a lot of energy during R.E.M sleep and quite often this energy will wake you up in the middle of the night amidst the anxiety and worry that the previous day’s events had provoked. This night time waking is different to when a loud noise waking you up as it can be incredibly hard to get back to sleep.
An important point to mention here is that the more anxiety and emotional events that need processing during sleep the less time you are going to spend within the deep (delta wave) part of sleep, which as mentioned above is crucial for brain and body regeneration and repair, hence why the immune system can become compromised.
So, how can hypnotherapy help?
From the first contact with me you will be provided with an audio to listen to each night when you go to bed. This audio acts as a form of self hypnosis and will quite rapidly take you down from the overactive thinking mind (beta wave) to the more relaxed, less critical and more creative mind (alpha wave) state. This in itself can help an individual relax and fall asleep with more ease as you stop obsessively churning through the events of the day (this is often why people find themselves unable to fall asleep, in effect they are unable to switch down their brain from beta to alpha wave)
The audio itself is aimed at installing new more positive habits of thought due to the fact that when in the alpha and delta wave of awareness you have direct access to the subconscious mind (where all habits are stored and ingrained) It is now believed that 95% of our actions throughout the day are driven by these habits of thought within the unconscious mind. We are basically creatures of habit and leading the majority of our lives under the influence of past experience and past emotions. The 5% of the time when we are using our more rational, creative and positive conscious mind we are often stopped in our tracks as the unconscious habits of thoughts and behaviour come up with all the reason why change is not safe and not possible. When experiencing high levels of anxiety or low mood we can almost lose touch altogether with the positive part of our conscious mind as the individual becomes stuck within the constant adrenaline filled arena of the fight, flight and freeze response which is triggered by the primitive part of our subconscious mind, the limbic system.
Therefore to make changes within our lives we need to gain direct access to the subconscious mind and create more positive, life affirming and encouraging habits of thought. Once this is achieved instead of unconscious negative feedback we receive much more supportive messages from our subconscious mind. This is where the audio really starts to come into its own. The audio is filled full of positive ideas, visualisations and suggestions which, when in the alpha and delta wave of awareness our subconscious mind can absorb without interference. When listened to repeatedly the individual cannot help but install more positive habits of thoughts, which will create a much more positive sense of self and life experience. So not only will the audio help you relax and get to sleep but it will also work on changing those anxiety producing negative thoughts which are likely to have caused your insomnia in the first place.
The individual weekly sessions also encourage the client to think more positively however the client is much more conscious of the fact they are doing so. This works extremely well as the client begins to consciously recognise negative thought patterns and is able to stop them before the anxiety builds. They will become accustomed to consciously focusing on possible solutions instead of focusing on the problems itself. Each session finishes with some relaxing hypnotherapy which, together with the night time audio, acts to strongly reinforce this work and will encourage the client to experience life from a much more positive, confident and self assured view point.
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