Sleep is important to mental and physical health

Cutting back on sleep, it seems, is bad for us and, as the average Briton only gets six hours and 30 minutes sleep a night, we are chronically sleep-deprived. Lots of studies have shown that cutting back on sleep, deliberately or otherwise, can have a serious impact on our bodies.

A few nights of bad sleep can upset blood sugar control, leading to over eating and can even affect DNA and a study for a BBC programme a few years ago showed that getting an hour’s less sleep a night affected the activity of a wide range of the volunteers’ genes, including some which are associated with inflammation and diabetes.

A more recent study, to examine the effect of sleep deprivation on mental health, showed shorter sleeping patterns led to increases in anxiety, depression and stress as well as increases in paranoia and feelings of mistrust.

A study conducted for Trust Me I’m A Doctor by the University of Oxford took volunteers who sleep soundly and let them get undisturbed eight-hour sleep nights for four nights before restricting them to just four hours’ sleep for the next three nights.

Sarah Reeve, a doctoral student who ran the experiment, was surprised by how quickly their mood changed.

There were increases in anxiety, depression and stress, also increases in paranoia and feelings of mistrust about other people,” she said. “Given that this happened after only three nights of sleep deprivation, that is pretty impressive.”

Daniel Freeman, professor of clinical psychology at Oxford University who led another sleep study, thinks one of the reasons why sleep deprivation is so bad for our brains is because it encourages repetitive negative thinking.

“We have more negative thoughts when we’re sleep-deprived and we get stuck in them,” he told the BBC.

Referring to the likeliness of mental illness, he said: “It’s certainly not inevitable. In any one night, one in three people is having difficulty sleeping, perhaps 5% to 10% of the general population has insomnia, and many people get on with their lives and they cope with it. But it does raise the risk of a whole range of mental health difficulties.”

Clinical hypnotherapy can help ease stress, anxiety and even insomnia and the National Council for Hypnotherapy, the UK’s largest not-for-profit professional organisation for hypnotherapy, has almost 1,800 fully qualified therapists across the UK who can help people get a good night’s sleep.

Referring to stress and anxiety, the NCH says insomnia is one of the common physical signs, along with a racing heartbeat, a dry mouth, nausea, sweating and panic attacks while common psychological signs can include inner tension, a fear of losing control, an irrational dread that something catastrophic is going to happen and phobias and fears.

“After sessions with a hypnotherapist you may feel more confident; more relaxed in situations that have previously challenged you,” says the NCH. “Many people say that they are calmer and that they have more clarity of thought – able to make decisions more easily.

People who have experienced side effects of anxiety such as insomnia, find that they are sleeping much better and as a result are able to work more effectively. It is as if hypnotherapy unlocks the potential you have to break free of negative thought patterns, and to react more positively and more confidently to situations in your life that may have previously made you anxious.”

With insomnia, the NCH says insomniacs generally respond very well to hypnosis.

“A hypnotherapist can create a programme of personalised treatment that identifies your sleeping patterns and teaches you self-management techniques which make a big difference not just to how long you sleep but the quality of sleep you enjoy. Research shows that hypnosis combined with cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective treatment for insomnia.”

If you are having trouble sleeping, contact an NCH therapist near you by clicking here and start looking forward to a better and healthier life.

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