Not surprisingly we are all experiencing mounting levels of stress which may have affected our sleep. However, people react differently to pressure and the physiological, mental, emotional effect of sustained long-term challenges causes nervous tension. This begins in the brain and spreads throughout the body affecting the adrenals, thyroid, neurotransmitters, digestive system, and the heart. Stress over an extended period can lead to so much energy being channelled into ‘coping’ and if left unchecked can lead to a cascade of effects including exhaustion and extreme fatigue.

Stress cause changes in the body’s chemistry and alters the balance of hormones which affects the whole body. It can make it difficult to concentrate, enjoy emotional balance and restful sleep. Increased cortisol elevates the stress response and shifts the sleep-wake balance in the brain which increase sleep fragmentation and leads to insomnia.

More time during the lockdown spent on screens, viewing constant news updates, or just simply streaming endlessly make it much harder to fall asleep. The blue light of our screens is a trigger to the brain to STOP producing the friendly sleep hormone melatonin! Sleep fragmentation and insomnia can also be due to consistently low moods caused by individuals having more downtime at home in isolation. This in turn leads to a lack of energy, daytime napping and further problems with sleep during the night. Lack of exercise and disrupted lives just add to the toxic effects.

To support a healthy nervous system and sleep cycle and to be able to wind down and relax for restful sleep we need to give attention to simple and effective ways to relax the body and  calm the mind. Our daily routines have been disrupted and the normal outlets to reduce stress by meeting up with family and friends have been severely impacted due to social isolation and distancing. The brain processes information during our sleep and the added stress we are all experiencing may cause night-time waking at odd hours. Consequently, disturbing or vivid dreams may result as they are closely related to frequent nocturnal awakenings.

Dreaming is a characteristic of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. During the night we experience various stages of the  sleep cycle as the body relaxes and tension built up during the day fades away. The dreaming cycle known as the hypnagogic stage happens when you begin to relax and drift off to sleep. It usually takes the form of random flashes of imagery mostly drawn from daily events. Our dreaming adventures form part of the sleep cycle and in an average night we can experience  potentially five cycles and so create five dream episodes. The first lasts 10-15 minutes and the final episode can last 40 -45 minutes. As we reach the end of the final cycle, we pass through the hypnopompic stage which is the threshold between dreaming and waking.

Disrupted sleep patterns due to a build-up of daytime stress means that we may be waking up from REM sleep and this will lead to the recall of vivid, disturbing dreams. Stress may also cause increased dream recall. There is a connection between anxiety and disturbing dreams as it triggers extreme dreams in individuals suffering from PTSD. Frontline health care workers and those who have lost loved ones may experience this type of dream more often.

In my Hypnotherapy practice I use hypnotic and psychotherapeutic techniques to help clients to  manage their anxiety and stress levels which may be causing sleep disturbance and insomnia. Hypnosis is restful and relaxing. Neuroscientists compare hypnosis to the alpha-theta state, which is like that experienced in meditation. When a suggestion is given to the client, in Hypnosis by the Hypnotherapist it penetrates deeply into your unconscious mind. Hypnosis helps your unconscious mind to promote desired changes and physical well-being. In Hypnosis breathing rates, heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones will all be slowed down with the suggestions given by the therapist. This altered state of deep relaxation helps you to contact your unconscious mind to induce deep sleep. When you are relaxed in this way it is possible to effect positive changes in your life. The unconscious mind houses your emotions and so directs your behaviour.

Hypnosis is the doorway for positive transformation in your emotions...

Ann Hamilton : ARTEMIS HYPNOTHERAPY - Analytical Hypnotherapy & Psychotherapy.