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Sleep hypnosis has been a useful tool for people who have trouble sleeping for decades now. And yet, some people suffering from insomnia still have doubts about trying it because they fear it might not be effective.
In the following article, I will explain why sleep is important, why we need to sleep at least 7 hours per night, and how sleep hypnosis can help.
Why Do We Sleep?
Even though this might seem like a silly question, the truth is that scientists have not yet uncovered why we sleep. Despite the technological and scientific advances of recent years, nobody is able to say for certain why we sleep. Researchers have developed several theories on the subject, and understanding all of them might explain why we spend almost a third of our lives sleeping.
Why do we need sleep?
Why Do We Need Sleep?
Even though most of us don’t think about why we need sleep, we can appreciate that sleep makes us feel better. After a full night’s sleep we feel more energetic, more alert, and even happier. A good night’s sleep allows us to function better as human beings.
The easiest way to think about sleep is by comparing it with another life-sustaining ability – eating. Hunger is a well-known feeling for most of us, even if we come from plentiful backgrounds. When we’re hungry, we barely think about anything other than eating.
The feeling of hunger is triggered in our hippocampus, and it’s actually a protective mechanism. Our primitive brain is telling us we have to eat in order to survive. Our bodies need nutrients to grow, repair themselves, and function properly. And our brains use hunger to let us know it’s time to eat something if we want to survive.
Eating is easier to understand than sleeping. Our bodies need fuel, so we have to consume it. But despite the fact that eating and sleeping do not seem related, they’re not as different as you might think.
Both sleeping and eating are controlled by our primitive brain, so they are controlled by powerful internal drives. When we’re hungry, we cannot think of something else but eating, and when we’re sleepy we desire sleep. We urge for it. Our desire to sleep is so strong it was the source of many movie or book plots, such as the Russian sleep experiment or “One Hundred Years Of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
This brings us to the first theory – we sleep to fulfill our need for sleep.
How Long Can You Go Without Sleep?
Scientists have researched our need for sleep from many different angles. The Russian sleep experiment is only a story, but scientists have actually studied the effects of sleep deprivation on multiple occasions.
The current record holder for the longest time gone without sleep is Randy Gardner who stayed awake for 11 days and 25 minutes. The entire attempt was supervised by a Stanford sleep researcher who closely monitored Mr. Gardner throughout his ordeal. This experiment was supposed to help scientists learn why we need sleep, but it only managed to help them understand the effects of acute insomnia.
Theories Of Why We Sleep
Despite the fact that scientists examined what happens to humans or animals when they are deprived of sleep, or compared our sleeping patterns with those of other organisms, the question of why we sleep is still difficult to answer.
We now know a lot about sleep and the lack of it, so scientists have developed several theories capable of explaining this process. Since we already explained one theory in the previous section, we’re going to skip it.
1. The Energy Conservation Theory
Even though this is no longer significant for those living in modern societies that have plenty of food sources, one of the most important factors in natural selection is the effective use of energy resources. The energy conservation theory says that the primary role of sleep is reducing our energy consumption and prolonging our energy reserves, especially at night when we are less efficient.
We can still observe this theory in the wild if we examine other large mammals, such as lions. Wild male lions spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping, and wild females dedicate up to 18 hours per day to snoozing. Now, that doesn’t mean wild lions are lazy. Unlike their cousins that live in captivity, they still have to hunt if they want to eat.
Male lions living in captivity sleep up to 14 hours a day, and females rarely sleep more than13. You might think that lions in captivity sleep less because all the visitors disturb their naps, but that’s not the real reason. Lions living in captivity know they have a regular source of food, so they do not need to conserve their energy.
Wild lions don’t know when the next meal will come, so they will conserve their energy to make sure they’ll be able to catch food next time they’re hungry. And hunting is a taxing activity, so they try to hunt as rare as possible.
Now, back to humans. Research has shown that our metabolism is reduced by up to 10% while we sleep, so sleeping helps us consume less energy. Our caloric demands and body temperature decrease while sleeping, so sleep can be a useful tool for those who want to conserve their energy resources.
2. The Inactivity Theory
The inactivity theory, sometimes called the adaptive theory, is one of the first theories scientists developed and it’s grounded in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. According to the inactivity theory, we sleep because being inactive during the night kept us safe.
Researchers believe that sleeping at night served as a survival function because it kept our ancestors from being active when they were most vulnerable. According to this theory, the animals that were able to be still and quiet when they were most vulnerable had an advantage over those that didn’t.
Humans do not see well in the dark, so sleeping saved us from accidents and nocturnal predators. Since Darwin’s natural selection theory states that the species’ best traits are passed down to the offspring through natural selection, sleeping was presumably a sound defense strategy, so we inherited it from our ancestors.
Despite the fact that the inactivity theory could make sense from an evolutionary point of view, few researchers agree with it. One of the simplest counter-arguments to this theory is that being conscious and aware of your surrounding is always better than the alternative. Even though our eyesight might not excel, we could still react to an emergency so we could save ourselves and our tribes.
If sleeping was a good defense strategy, being awake without and defending your tribe would have been an even better one, so our ancestors would have probably passed on the latter.
According to the restorative theories, our body heals while we sleep
3. The Restorative Theories
There are plenty of restorative theories going on, so we’re not going to examine each one individually. Even though they might focus on different processes, all restorative theories have something in common. All of them say that we sleep to allow our bodies to “restore” what we consume when we’re awake.
Our bodies repair and rejuvenate themselves while we sleep. Recent studies found empirical evidence in both animal and human studies in this regard, so this theory has gained a lot of support from the scientific community.
Probably the most important evidence is that animals deprived of sleep eventually lose their immune function. And after losing their immunity, animals die in a matter of weeks. This finding is supported by studies which show that major restorative functions occur mostly or only when we sleep.
Our muscles repair themselves during sleep, and so do most of our tissues. The release of growth hormone happens only while we sleep, and our brain repairs itself mostly while we sleep. The neurons in our brain produce adenosine while we’re awake, and that might be responsible for our perception of tiredness. During sleep, our body clears the adenosine from the system, which allows us to feel fresh and awake in the morning.
4. The Brain Plasticity Theory
This is one of the most recent theories on why we sleep. This theory focuses on the changes of structure and organization we see in the brain when we examine it with an MRI machine during sleep.
The brain plasticity is not yet completely understood, but there little we know now brings forth several critical implications it has on sleep.
We know now, for instance, that sleep is critical for the brain development of infants and young children. Infants need 14 hours or more of sleep per day, half of which they spend in deep REM sleep. We also know that sleep is critical for young adults and that college students have different sleep-wake cycles than the elderly.
And children and adolescents are not the only ones who need to go to sleep early. Researchers are now studying a link between sleep and brain plasticity in adults as well. Experiments which show how people are less capable of performing certain tasks while they are sleep deprived are great examples of this.
Even though most of these theories are still unproven, the technological and scientific advancements will shed a new light on why we need sleep. None of these theories directly answer the question, but each of them teaches us something about our need for sleep.
What Is Sleep Deprivation?
Everybody talks about it, most people believe they suffer from it, but few of us can say what sleep deprivation really is. Well, sleep deprivation is a common occurrence in modern society, and experts believe it affects most individuals at some point in their lives.
Sleep deprivation occurs when you get less sleep than you need to feel awake, focused, and alert. But the problem with sleep deprivation is that it’s really difficult to pin down. Some people seem to be more resistant to its effects, while others seem to suffer from it more often.
Most people believe that occasional sleep interruption can be characterized as sleep deprivation, but that’s not necessarily true. Sleep deprivation is the result of an ongoing lack of sleep. This can lead to excessive daytime weariness, sleepiness, poor job performance, a lowered self-confidence, emotional difficulties, and even obesity.
But one of the most striking things about sleep deprivation is that it makes people have a lowered perception of their lives’ quality. Those who suffer from sleep deprivation do not enjoy life as they should, so they have a higher risk of suffering from anxiety and depression.
Sleep deprivation makes us clumsy and moody
What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Deprivation?
The main symptom of sleep deprivation is excessive sleepiness. Those who are sleep deprived are sleepy all the time, whether they’re at work or on vacation. Other symptoms include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Increased appetite and food cravings
- Difficulty learning new concepts
- Reduced sex drive
These symptoms might not seem as much if they’re taken separately, but their combined effect can significantly influence our lives. For example, lack of sleep leads to slowed reflexes, which in turn play a significant role in automobile accidents.
Children and young adults who are sleep deprived have poor school results, and they have a difficult time understanding new concepts, which leads to other poor results in the future.
Not getting enough sleep leads to a weakening of our immune response, which increases our chances of falling ill. People who have a weak immune system take longer to recover from illness and they have an increased risk of developing chronic diseases.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is defined as a sleep disorder that causes difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep, even when you have the opportunity to do so. People who suffer from insomnia are dissatisfied with their sleep and are usually tired throughout the day.
Acute insomnia is defined as a brief period during which you cannot sleep. Most people suffer from acute insomnia at some point in their lives, usually because of certain life circumstances. People will have trouble sleeping before important exams, before important life events, or after they receive some bad news. Acute insomnia is stressful, but people usually overcome it without any treatment.
Chronic insomnia is defined as a sleep disruption that occurs for at least three days per week and lasts for at least three consecutive months. Unfortunately, chronic insomnia has multiple causes, so it’s difficult to find a permanent cure for it.
Some people suffer from chronic insomnia when their sleeping environment changes. Moving into a new place where the neighbors are loud or where a street lamp illuminates your bedroom could ruin anyone’s sleep, and some people cannot accommodate to their new sleeping conditions.
Unhealthy sleep habits such as eating too close to bedtime or drinking caffeine in the evening can keep you awake for months on end. Using gadgets while you’re in bed can also disturb your sleep. Most gadgets emit light that engages our brains, driving out sleep. And the sad part is that no matter what you do, you are will not be able to sleep unless you quit these habits.
Insomnia makes us feel sleepy and decreases our work performance
What Are The Symptoms Of Insomnia?
Even though insomnia has multiple causes, most people show one or more of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Waking up frequently during the night and finding it difficult to go back to sleep
- Waking up too early and having trouble sleeping again
- Feeling exhausted or tired upon waking
All of us experienced one or more of these symptoms at one point in our lives, but experiencing them on a regular basis can be very stressful. People with insomnia often manifest:
- Low energy
- Extreme sleepiness
- Mood disturbances
- Decreased school or work performance
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory problems
- Reduced sex drive
What Causes Insomnia?
Insomnia has multiple causes, but most people make the same mistakes that ultimately stop them from sleeping.
1. Lifestyle Choices
Insomnia can be caused by certain behaviors and unhealthy sleep patterns, and it can also be aggravated by certain habits and choices. Here are some examples of lifestyle choices that can affect your sleep.
- You take naps – Taking short naps in the afternoon can be helpful for some people, but it can interfere with the sleep pattern of some adults
- You sleep in during the weekend – Sometimes we sleep in during the weekend in an attempt to make up for lost sleep. Instead of helping us, this behavior only manages to confuse our body’s sleep cycle.
- You work irregular hours – Working irregular hours can confuse our body’s internal clock, especially if we sleep during the day or if your schedule changes often.
- You work from home after work – Sometimes we want to make sure our projects will be perfect, so we work at them from home. This can make it difficult for us to unwind, which in turn will make it difficult to sleep
Most adults have experienced insomnia when they were nervous or worried. But some of us have trouble sleeping on a regular basis. Nights are quiet and our inactivity often brings on stressful thoughts or fears which can prevent us from sleeping. Anxiety can lead to insomnia, and here are some symptoms anxious people manifest before sleep:
- Tension – You think about past events over and over, calculating which action would have yielded better results, and that makes you tense.
- Worry – You worry about future events and your responsibilities, which can sometimes seem overwhelming.
- Overstimulation – You think about different things that get your mind going. This can make sleep elusive and it can provoke a sensation of overstimulation.
How Can Hypnosis Help With Sleep Deprivation And Insomnia?
Sleep hypnosis helps us rest at night
Hypnosis is a complementary therapy involving focused attention and deep relaxation. During hypnosis, you are awake but less aware of your surroundings.
One of the best things about hypnosis is that it can lower your anxiety levels. Studies show that hypnosis can significantly decrease worry and reduce anxiety, which will silence that voice in your head always bickering about past events.
The medical efficacy of hypnosis is still an emerging area of science, just as all the other mind-body therapies such as yoga or meditation, so the studies on its effects over sleep are limited. However, studies have proven that hypnosis is an effective treatment for anxiety and depression, and that alone could help you sleep better.
But a recent meta-analysis of previous studies on hypnosis and sleep showed that 58% of the studies done so far reported that hypnosis helped people sleep. Given the wide variety of things that could cause sleep problems, this percentage is actually very good. The analysis concludes that hypnosis is a promising treatment for sleep problems. The researchers believe further research could reveal more data about the beneficial effects hypnosis has on sleep.
The Benefits Of Using Hypnosis For Sleep
Using Hypnosis To Help Children Sleep
One of the advantages of using hypnosis to help you sleep is that it doesn’t produce any side effects. At this moment, sleeping pills are not approved for children. Does this mean children should suffer from insomnia?
No. Hypnosis is an effective treatment tool, and since it doesn’t produce any side effects, it can be used for children with good results. In fact, some experts believe children and adolescents can enter hypnosis easier than adults, making hypnosis even more effective for them.
Hypnosis Can Be A Complementary Method
Hypnosis does not interact with medicine, so you can combine it with everything you’re already taking for better sleep, from essential oils to OTC sleeping pills. But after trying hypnosis for a few times you’re going to realise you didn’t need sleeping pills all along. Hypnosis can relax your mind, facilitating sleep.
Hypnosis Facilitates Deep Sleep
A study published in the Sleep magazine suggests that those who listen to a hypnosis program before sleep experience an increase in their deep sleep cycle. Our brains rest best during the deep sleep cycle, so you will feel awake and fresh upon waking.
According to this study, hypnosis not only improves the quantity of sleep but also its quality.
The Advantages Of Using Sleep Hypnosis
Hypnosis can help your mind relax and unwind, facilitating sleep. Once you start listening to a hypnosis program before bed you will silence the nagging voice in your mind that always thinks about past or future events. This will allow you to get benefit from a full night’s sleep and awake well-rested and full of energy.
You can learn more about hypnosis and how it can help you sleep by clicking here