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Is it a tight deadline that’s keeping you awake, or your baby’s sleepless night or have you just got a lot on your mind? There are times when we wish we could survive on less shut-eye but would that be sensible?

It can seem surprising that human beings, who can be so full of life, energy, and activities, can, at a certain point each day, withdraw from life, lie down and apparently become oblivious to the outside world for up to eight hours. (We spend up to one-third of our life asleep.) Nobody really knows why we sleep although we have a good idea of how we do it. During sleep complex changes occur in the brain as we repeat a 90 minute cycle 5 or 6 times. There are 2 main types of sleep

REM (rapid eye movement sleep when we dream) and non-REM sleep, also called slow wave sleep (SWS).

When we are awake and active we draw on a huge amount of the bodies resources to function. During Slow Wave sleep the body recuperates and replenishes itself. By contrast, in REM sleep, large amounts of the brain’s energy reserves are expending on dreaming. Dreaming is clearly performing a very important function and the theory I like most is that it clears any excess emotional arousal from the day so we can start the next day ready to deal with whatever life throws at us. So sleep is a release and recovery process.

Sleep problems affect every age group. 17% of the population now has a serious insomnia problem. For millions more people the body’s need to have an appropriate amount of quality sleep is frequently compromised. If they knew the likely price, they would give an adequate night’s sleep a much higher priority.

Sleep is much more than time out from busy schedules; it is essential to the maintenance of physical and psychological health.

There is a good reason why they use sleep deprivation as a form of torture in Guantanamo bay. The emotional processing during REM sleep is very important; the National Sleep Foundation in the USA reports that people with chronic insomnia are more likely than others to develop several kinds of psychiatric problems.

Even temporary sleep loss can impair our ability to concentrate, cope with minor irritations and accomplish tasks, all of which can put a strain on our relationships. When we lose sleep we — and those around us — are at high risk from accidents at work and on the road. For example, a report prepared for the National Commission on Sleep Disorders in the USA arrived at the conservative estimate that sleepiness accounted for 42%of road accidents. In 1988, a total of 269,184 accidents and 17,687 deaths on the road were caused by sleepy drivers.

So sleep is a very important element of keeping mentally and physically healthy.  We all have periods of sleeplessness when we have things on our mind but protracted sleeplessness or insomnia can become habitual and can cause havoc in our waking lives. Cognitive hypnotherapy is a very powerful way to change sleep patterns and by working out why the unconscious mind thinks it’s a good idea to keep us awake in the first place. Once you get to the bottom of this and get into some good sleeping habits again, your insomnia can become a thing of the past.

Jill Tonks

Jill Tonks

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