I am a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist. Originally from the North of England and after living and working in London for 12 years, I have now made Essex my home where I practice Solution Focused Hypnotherapy across the county. I am privileged to be able to help people from all walks of life in a compassionate, discreet and non-judgemental way, using Hypnosis as a catalyst for positive change.
Due to CoVid-19 I am currently offering sessions online or via phone. Please get in touch to book an appointment.
During these uncertain times, many of us feel disconnected from ‘normal life’ as a consequence of not doing the things we normally do and not seeing the people we normally connect with for such a protracted period of time. The practical arrangements of working, socialising, shielding, educating and exercising from home, clustered with a small group people (or in isolation) have left many of us feeling lonely, sad and anxious about the future. It is no surprise then, that mental health is in the spotlight by Government Ministers, education leaders, parents and teachers and why many therapists are concerned about the impact of the virus on sleep, addiction and stress-related ill-health.
But, in the darkest of times there can be hope, realisation and rediscovery. It has been a personal pleasure working with clients during lockdown. I have been fortunate enough that my personal circumstances allow me to continue offering sessions via Zoom with new and existing clients. The stories of achievements I hear, of coping and adjusting to a ‘new normal’ have been truly inspiring and as is often the case, I remain in awe of clients. Their resourcefulness, their creativity and their unshakable attitude to make things better. But it doesn’t always start off like that and sessions with me involve redefining needs and expectations then putting in place a manageable future plan – however tenuous that future is. This combination of coaching and goal-setting along with trance, which acts as a catalyst for change, means that clients can and have been, emerging from the Coronavirus pandemic with a very different outlook.
Aside from the obvious advantages of meeting in a virtual way at the moment, online sessions are focused, effective and time-efficient for the clients. So whether you are exploring Hypnotherapy for low mood, agoraphobia, anxiety or sleeping problems, the trancework feels even more comfortable, as it is conducted in your home, on your own familiar bed or sofa . You also get access to your own Hypnosis audio recording to play after the session. Finally, online sessions are currently offered at a reduced price so not only are you saving on fuel, time and risk, you are saving money too. That said, I’m really looking forward to welcoming you back to the Practice, hopefully in the near future.
As a Psychotherapist, one of the areas of brain science I get most excited about is that of Neuroplasticity. This daunting word is actually the concept of the brains’ ability to change and it is fantastically inspiring stuff! This organ has such a propensity for growth and survival, that even following significant brain trauma where large areas of the brain have been severely damaged, it can regenerate itself to a point.
Until about 15 years ago, Scientists largely believed that the brain and personality was pretty much fixed and stable and Personality Theory was in my opinion, overly emphasised in Psychology Degree courses, categorising and labelling ‘personality types’. But relatively recent advances in Neuroscience have shown that the brain is adaptable, like plasticine and it can change throughout our life.
An everyday example of Neuroplasticity is learning a new skill. Remember that first driving lesson? Certainly, for me there was almost too much to take in, the clutch, the steering wheel, changing gear, let alone navigating busy London roads. In that first lesson I remember thinking it impossible I’d ever be able to do all of it at once. Yet here I am, many years later, tootling the kids around in the middle of rush hour, debating with both of them about whether the song on the radio is ‘cool’ or not whilst simultaneously thinking about what we’re having for dinner, whether my youngest has brought home their reading book and keeping an eye on the cyclist 200 meters ahead. I am NOT thinking about what my feet and my hands are doing. That’s automatic now. I have wired in pathways in my brain related to that skill which is ‘driving’. But it took practice, repetition and time to establish those pathways. It also helped that I wanted to learn in the first place.
Its’ the same with most of the ways we think and many of our behaviours and decisions. The more we do a specific ‘something’, we create a pathway for that ‘something’ in the brain. Whether it be snacking when we feel stressed and worried, biting our nails when we’re concentrating on a task or perhaps thinking about what we feel confident and willing to do. As the chemicals in our brain travel down a familiar route, they flow across the same synaptic gaps in between brain cells as they did last time and the gates at the end of the brain cell open more readily in response to those chemicals. Quite literally, a structural path is formed which gets stronger and more resilient the more we repeat it. So much so, that its’ difficult, inconceivable even, to act or think in a different way. Essentially the brain repeats what is familiar and follows the path of least resistance and…..tah dah, a habit is formed. Imagine pouring water down a brick wall. The water flows down grooves in the brickwork it has carved out over many rainy days.
The good news is that we really can make Neuroplasticity work in our favour to achieve something new. Even if this something new is to go to the gym more often, make a cup of tea rather than open a bottle of wine or simply be kinder to ourselves or others. The second piece of good news is it’s never too late to do so. Whilst children and teens have an enviously plastic brain, we can still influence the connectivity of our grey matter well in to late adulthood. In fact, my oldest client in her early nineties surprised herself in discovering she’s a great watercolour artist! Not only that but she CAN be assertive and self-confident, much to the amusement and support of her family and friends.
This, self-directed Neuroplasticity is why people chose my approach as a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist. We use our sessions to create the optimal environment for breaking down old unhelpful pathways and building new, albeit fledgling, helpful ones. Indeed, we can even generate new brain cells if clients are up for the challenge! With intent, repetition, practice and time for nature to do its physiological thing, it really is possible to rewire your brain!
Setting a new year’s resolutions is hugely common. A recent YouGov poll found the most common are 1. Eating better 2. Exercising more and 3. Spending less money. During the course of this year we may set ourselves additional goals as we work towards holidays or significant life events.
However, it seems January 17th is D-Day for resolutions. A vulnerable day that many people give up on good intentions and slide back into old habits. In fact Strava, the social fitness app for running and cycling, analysed data and found this to be the date when we are most likely to bail out on fitness resolutions.
But why is it sometimes so hard to stay on track with our best intentions and find ourselves slipping towards old ways even though we know we will feel fitter, happier, healthier, wealthier etc if we don’t?
Imagine the analogy of an adult and child. The child wants its treats immediately- its’ new toys, magazines, sweets etc. It can’t wait. Waiting feels uncomfortable and boring. The child is less able and willing to think ahead like the adult. It acts on impulse- the here and now. The child is a part of our brain that is there for survival. A fight-flight-freeze centre evolved over millions of years. The child revels in habit and routine. It wants to feel comfort and doesn’t like change. When it comes to willpower, the child has none.
The adult on the other hand has seen it all before. Its’ experiences allow it to know that acting impulsively can have very negative consequences. The adult is a part of the brain associated with higher executive functioning- planning, organising and innovation. The adult can cope well with discomfort if it’s for the greater good. The adult has useful skills and techniques for staying on track. The adult has willpower. The adult can be strong and motivated.
Most of the time, the adult is in control. Managing the child well and having successful outcomes. But occasionally, difficult variables arise and the adult loses influence over the child. It gives in to it more and more, then the power shifts from adult to child. The more occasions the adult gives in, the more empowered the child feels and out of control the adult becomes.
So what are these difficult variables?
The first is time. If we are wanting to lose weight for example the best way to do so is to by getting fit and eating healthily. Change takes time. We need to put the hours in at the gym, we need to allow more time to walk instead of get the car, we need to plan our meals, prepare our lunches for work or shop more mindfully at the supermarket. All of this takes time. Adding in the pressure of a busy job, juggling the school run and an urgent report for work time becomes pressured. Here we have sabotage factor number 1.
The second is focus. If we are serious about making a long-term change that may, feel ‘uncomfortable’, we need focus. Lots of it. It’s no use saying ‘no’ to biscuits and cakes all week at work then falling off the wagon at the weekend. We need to have a plan and stick to it. Consistently. When our adult brains are distracted by a plethora of grown-up pressures; that presentation for work, a family member becoming ill, the car failing its MOT. Then the adult loses focus on its goal and the needy child takes over. If feels harder to think ‘outside of the box’. Willpower fails. Here we have sabotage factor number 2.
Limited time, distractions and discontentment is exhausting for the adult who is trying hard to stay in control. When the adult is exhausted, the child seems noisier than ever and it is too tempting just to ‘give in’ to quieten it down.
We therefore must make sure that we look the adult. Allowing it the energy to do what it does better than any other part of the brain; cope with modern day living. This frees up energy for willpower, that all important ability to steer the child away from temptations to take us towards our goals.
Hypnotherapy works with both the adult and the child to make sure both are heading towards the same goal. Willpower then becomes less necessary because the whole brain is working towards the same goal rather than its own whims.
Most of us have experienced stress at some point in our lives. Stress can be uncomfortable but is a very normal reaction to life’s demands. Stress is a powerful way of mobilising ourselves to work quickly and effectively in time of challenge, giving us energy and drive to act. That feeling of being overwhelmed, irritable or worried is the brain’s way of communicating to us that ‘something is not right and needs to be put right quickly’. But chronic stress, stress which is prolonged and severe, can be very harmful both physically and psychologically. Here are just 10 examples of how it affects the body:
1. Can speed up the development of cancer
2. Increases our vulnerability to infection
3. Exacerbates plaque formation in the arteries increasing the risk of blood clots and heart attacks
4. Can accelerate the onset of diabetes
5. Can lead to ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract
6. Can damage the Hippocampus in the brain and impair memory
7. Wounds take longer to heal as does recovering from illness and diseases
8. Raises blood cholesterol
9. Leads to weight gain around the stomach
10. Reduces responsiveness to vaccines
The good news is that stress is a state of mind. States of mind can, with the right approach, be altered. Here are my top tips for combatting chronic stress:
• Identify each stressor in your life in a list. For each stressor identify an immediate, medium and longer-term action for dealing with that stressor. Review and adhere to your actions as often as you can. • Reflect on what has helped you deal with stress in the past. If you have no previous experience on which to base this, identify your preferred methods for relaxing and enjoyment down. These can be as simple as reading a book or indulging a hobby or interest. Once identified, schedule in at least one of these activities daily. • Communicate your feelings of stress with at least one significant other. Identify how that person might be able to help relieve some of your stress in the short and longer term and don’t be afraid to ask for help. • Eat well. When stressed, our desires for certain types of food (fatty and high sugar) is increased as our body operates in Fight-Flight mode which requires a lot of energy reserves. Be aware of the body’s natural tendency to want to stock up on unhealthy foods and create a realistic plan for healthy eating. Treats are fine in moderation but can lead to weight gain and health problems if defaulted to long term. • Exercise. By exercising you will release Serotonin, Dopamine and Endorphins which will naturally lift mood and help you feel like you can ‘cope’. Simply taking a ‘walking lunch break’, a high impact 5 minute skip in the garden or ditching the car in favour of a brisk stroll can have a positive impact on stress levels. • Sleep is the brain’s way of both decluttering, problem solving and emptying our metaphorical ‘stress buckets’ (See my previous blog https://freshleafhypnotherapy.co.uk/5-great-pre-sleep-tips-for-a-super-human-tomorrow/ ) We require a certain amount of sleep every day in order to do so. As tempting as it is to ‘burn the midnight oil’ regularly. You will be more productive and less stressed the next day if you prioritise sleep during periods of stress. • Time travel. Imagine that you are fast-forwarding yourself 10 years into your future in a hot air balloon and looking down at your current situation. How will you be feeling about this current time of stress? This technique can be helpful in reminding ourselves that phases or life are both temporary and not as significant as we can feel they are in that moment. • Relax deeply using meditation or Hypnotherapy
Whether 2018 is the year for you to take to the skies for the first time, stop smoking, restart an old hobby or learn a new skill, Hypnotherapy can be very effective in helping you find your strengths and resources to do so!
January is notoriously the time of year for resolutions. We probably all know someone right now who intends to do ‘Dry January’, loose weight, declutter their house or even search for a new job. Most of these resolutions are started with the very best of intentions but unfortunately, sometimes end in failure. This is because the human brain is notoriously resistant to change. It ‘likes’ the status quo, how things have always been and detects difference as an ‘error’. When a new action or behaviour feels unusual or uncomfortable, an area of the brain associated with habit formation and ‘safe behaviours’ responds by giving us a whole heap of seemingly convincing propaganda for not going through with our plan. Gym memberships are one such example. Ask any Gym owner and their busiest sign up period will be January, but by March, attendance rates with have dropped significantly.
But it is good news! Most people find their inner resolve and the dawning of a new year is a positive excuse for kicking a bad habit in to touch.
For those that struggle, their is Hypnotherapy and this can help in a number of ways:
The solution focused sessions explore the underlying reasons for the old, unhelpful behaviour and the benefits of an alternative behaviour. A coaching style is used as a means of helping the client take steps towards their ultimate, positive goal.
Brain chemicals (Neurotransmitters) that increase the chances of success are boosted and those which may hinder and impair are reduced.
The trance state is used as a psychotherapeutic tool for enabling the brain to repeatedly rehearse a new, more beneficial outcome using visualisation, metaphor and positive suggestions that focus on confidence and motivation.
Thousands of people are stopping smoking this month as part of the UK’s #Stoptober campaign and the good news is, you can too. Here are 10 things you perhaps didn’t know about smoking. All the more reason to make today the day YOU decide to quit for life.
1. We smoke as a result of both brainwashing and chemical addiction
2. It is not as addictive as we are lead to believe. Some scientists estimate the addictive element (nicotine) is only 10% addictive
3. Most people that are hooked as adults disliked the taste of that first cigarette when they were adolescents
4. There is evidence to show that substitutes for smoking eg. gums, patches actually make stopping harder and pangs seem worse
5. Cigarettes kill hundreds of thousands of people more every year than Heroin
6. The UK government makes £8,000,000,000 per annum out of nicotine addiction
7. Smoking affects the brains’ feel-good chemicals. Regular smokers are up to 80% more likely to be diagnosed as clinically depressed than non-smokers
8. Smoking is not a relaxant. It is a stimulant. Increasing blood pressure and putting extra strain on the cardiovascular system
9. Smoking increases the chance of contracting 14 different types of cancer. (Not just the lungs)
10. Cigarettes contain Cyanide, Lead, Mercury and Carbon Monoxide
To make an enquiry about stopping smoking using Hypnotherapy or to book your 2 hour ‘Stop Smoking Hypnotherapy’ session and quit for good, contact me today on 07951776608 or Elizabeth@freshleafhypnotherapy.co.uk.
As a Therapist, I am increasingly meeting clients that are struggling to moderate the amount of alcohol they are drinking. And I don’t just mean at the weekends or special occasions! For greater numbers of people, having that ‘odd glass of wine’ during the week is getting out of hand and many are worrying about the amount of alcohol they consume- as a treat, as a reward and also as a coping strategy. In fact alcohol is such a major part of modern society and how we socialise, that it isn’t surprising hear more and more people (increasingly women) concerned about their tendency to reach for that ‘well–earned’ drink.
The impact alcohol consumption can have on our health is well understood:
It has been linked with higher rates of seven types of cancer
It impacts the heart- causing it to enlarge and has been linked with heart disease
It can increase the chance of Diabetes
Can play a role in increasing blood pressure
Affects the immune system- causing us to pick up and stay ill from infectious illness
Increases likelihood of Pancreatitis and liver disease
Can affect fertility
Can lead to weight gain
But as part of the #Stoptober campaign, I’d like outline what is less widely known- how it can impact our mental health:
Firstly drinking affects sleep. Yes, we may find it easier to drop off to sleep after a drink but alcohol disrupts sleep cycles. Specifically, REM (rapid eye movement). When we have drunk alcohol, our normal REM cycles are disrupted. It is these vital cycles that have been associated with learning, memory, concentration and mood. It is no surprise then that long term disruption to sleep increases the likelihood of mental ill-health including chronic stress, depression and anxiety.
Secondly, alcohol affects the chemistry in our brain. Regular drinking lowers the levels of Serotonin– a chemical that helps to regulate your mood, motivation, coping and happiness.
For some alcohol can be seen as a way of helping them cope with difficult situations and emotions, or as a means of reducing stress or anxiety. This is as a result of the initial surge of Dopamine which tricks you into thinking that you feel great by stimulating the brain’s reward center. However, once this Dopamine ‘high’ has subsided, Serotonin has been depleted. In the short term this can lead to a low or anxious mood (often the next day). Longer term, there is strong evidence of its linkage with a range of mental health problems including depression, anxiety, risk-taking behaviour, Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia and higher rates of suicide.
If you are concerned about your alcohol consumption, would like to cut down or to stop, Hypnotherapy may be able to help you find the motivation and resources to do so. Please get in touch to book a free, no obligation consultation on 07951776608 or firstname.lastname@example.org. There are also a range or resources you may find useful:
With ever-increasingly busy lives and consistently greater demands on us modern humans, very rarely do we stop to consider how our activities before bedtime might affect our tomorrow. Often crashing into bed, exhausted and over-loaded. But what if we came to understand that our pre-sleep activities might work to our advantage. Enabling us to be more efficient, creative, focused, confident, calmer and just that little bit more Super-Human the next day.
Below are some excellent suggestions for improving your Super-Human tomorrowness that are based on the latest research findings and validated by experiences within private practice
1. Detox Begins (as early as you can during the day)
We all understand the importance of a good nights’ sleep for physical health but when it comes to mental health, sufficient, healthy REM (Rapid Eye Movement Sleep) cycles are hugely important for cognitive processing, problem solving and memory consolidation as I outline in a previous blog ‘You are What your Sleep’. When we are short on REM, memory is impaired, our attention falters and our ability to successfully think through a problem hindered.
So priority one has to be cutting out those stimulants which interfere with a good night’s sleep.
Caffeine is sleep enemy number one. Found not just in Coffee but Tea and Chocolate and let us not forget the other baddies- sugar, alcohol narcotics and certain foods containing a chemical called Tyramine which in turn triggers the release of noradrenaline, a brain stimulant, keeping us alert.
Other examples of foods to avoid include bacon, cheese, nuts which can keep us awake at night.
Eating a large, heavy meal too close to bedtime may also interfere with sleep. Spicy or fatty foods can cause heartburn or indigestion which leads to difficulty in falling asleep and discomfort and waking throughout the night.
If our bedtime is 10pm a great goal is to cut out caffeine at around, cut out alcohol completely and be selective in what snacks we chose before lights out
2. Turn off the Blue Light (2 hours before sleep)
Neuroscientists understand the importance of smart phone screen time before bed for a good night’s sleep. This is because the stream of photons omitted from the device tells brain to ‘stay awake’ and not to secrete Melatonin which we need in order to feel sleepy. This is damaging because the active brain cells need to rest but also very importantly, we need sleep to allow our supportive cells ‘glial cells’ to clean up the toxins that the neurons produce. If we don’t get enough sleep, these toxins cannot be broken down and build up remain there.
Let us also not forget the importance of those REM sleep cycles for memory consolidation, creative insight and cognitive processing. For the vast majority of us is 7-9 hours’ sleep is about right. By setting a timer to activate our blue light filter on our devices a couple of hours before bed (there is a setting for most phone to do this) and resisting the urge for one last check your emails or Social Media sites in that last twilight hour before lights’ out we can prioritise sleep again and all the positive advantages resulting from it.
3.Treasure-hunt the Positives (Before lights out)
Being positive might sound a little new age, but the impact it has on us is no myth. Neuroscientists are adamant that our brain can be shaped at a cellular level by the way that we think. If we consistently think in a positive way, we strengthen the connections between brain cells and create a circuit of positivity which becomes our brain’s default mode. The term for this is Neuroplasticity. It is now widely understood that we can deliberately rewire our brain by how we think and behave, both positivity and negatively. It figures then, that if we go to bed thinking about how dreadful our day has been and everything that has gone wrong, we strengthen a pathway of negativity which cycles around the brain in a loop, day in day out. Whereas if we reflect on everything that has been positive at the end of the day, the positive circuitry is strengthened.
How do we do this?
Make a note of at least 3 (more if you can find them) positives about your day and what you are grateful for. However small and trivial. Even a bad day can be coloured by positives…. “My car broke down and I was really late for work but it was lovely how that man stopped to offer me assistance and I could then get the car into the garage”.
Rehearsing the positives is a skill which takes enormous practice but like any skill, the more we practice, the easier it becomes and the more physically embedded it becomes in the pathways within our brain.
4.Send you Subconscious on a Mission (Lights out and eyes closed)
We understand far more about the conscious part of our brain than we do the subconscious, but what we do understand is that if we assign our conscious brain a task before sleep or Hypnosis for that matter, the subconscious will work hard during our REM sleep cycles to find a way of moving forward.
A challenge or a problem that we have been consciously battling with to come up with an effective solution can be actively passed to the subconscious during sleep. The subconscious is creative, innovative and pragmatic and we often see it at work with those ‘Ah ha’ or ‘Eureka’ moments when we come up with a solution to a seemingly incomprehensible problem out of the blue when we least expect it. This is because the roaming brain, whether it be asleep, day-dreaming or in a hypnotic trance sets off on a journey to find solutions to issues when we are not consciously thinking about them anymore. Once the train has left the station, there is no going back so to speak.
If we have had a challenging day and there is some problem or issue that we may face in the future, a great tip is to consciously engage the subconscious. Sounds confusing right? But in actual fact all we need to do is spend a small amount of time before drifting off to sleep focusing on that issue, bringing to mind possible courses of action, reviewing the positives and negatives of each then ‘turning off’ the conscious switch. By that, I mean, actively telling yourself ‘I have thought about that issue, my options, the pros and cons of each and now I am handing it over to you, subconscious. I am going now to focus on step
5.Relax with Hypnosis
Playing a Hypnotherapy recording as you drift off to sleep has the wonderful effect of putting you in the optimal brain region for sleep. The Left Prefrontal Cortex. Doing so promotes a peaceful sleep with healthy cycles of REM. Remember, the sleep cycle responsible for problem solving, insight and solution formation.
Hypnosis can also have the powerful additional advantage of producing Serotonin (our feel good, coping hormone) and allowing interference from our Conscious Critical Faculty, a brain area associated with resistance to new ideas and change, to quieten down. This in turn allows our thought energy to be directed to the higher, intellectual regions, The Cortex. If we can calm down our ‘Chimp Brain’ as it has been referred to, we can become more creative, solution-focused and objective and our Subconscious can open up to the positive advantages of Suggestion and Visualisation inherent in Hypnotic trance work.
In a nutshell, for a more Super-Human you tomorrow (motivated, focused, rational, confident and calm): Wind down the body and the mind and navigate your subconscious resources towards your end goal.
We all know life can be a rollercoaster for both adults and children. One minute things are going great, the next minute, we’re thrown a curve ball that can set us back. Making us feel unhappy, stressed or worried, and sometimes affecting our physical well-being and our sleep.
It’s no surprise then that more and more people are choosing alternative strategies for overcoming life’s challenges, with Hypnotherapy becoming a popular choice.
Hypnotherapy is a very natural technique, using relaxation, positive suggestion and visualisation. In a very relaxed state, the emotional area of our brain becomes less aroused, allowing the intellectual regions to focus on solutions. The trance state also releases neurotransmitters; chemicals that help us cope better, feel motivated and more positive.
Adults may work with a Hypnotherapist for a number of sessions for a range of issues, from Anxiety, Low Mood, Sleep Problems, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Migraines. Not forgetting reducing obsessive behaviours and overcoming phobias.
Elizabeth Newton of Fresh Leaf Hypnotherapy provides a free initial consultation to all clients and offers condensed Hypnotherapy sessions with children. ‘Children over the age of about six can respond very well to Hypnotherapy. There are no negative side effects. Consequently increasing numbers of parents are seeking out a natural intervention for common issues such sleeping problems, anxiety, self-esteem, bed-wetting (nocturnal enuresis), fears of Doctors and Dentists and nervous habits like nail biting and thumb sucking. It can also be a useful technique in helping children overcome academic exam and performance nerves, including driving tests.
Life is not a dress-rehearsal and we deserve to enjoy it to the full whether we are big or little!
So many times are we told that sleep is SO important for us and those old mantras ‘It’ll be alright in the morning’ or ‘Sleep on it!’ are all too familiar. But what IS actually going on during this mysterious phase of our day which require us to place so much emphasis on a ‘good nights’ sleep?’
As a Hypnotherapist, an important part of my role in helping clients get a handle on their lives or achieve their goals is normalising their sleep patterns. In therapy, for many people, this is often the first place I start. If I can get you back to sleeping properly: falling asleep relatively quickly, staying asleep throughout the night and enabling you to get up at the desired time the next day, then one of my most important tasks is done. But why? Why is it so important that we sleep well from a mental wellbeing perspective?
We know more about the brain than ever before and advances in Neuroscience and brain scanning devices have enabled us to open up the black box of sleep and decipher what is actually happening. Sleep as we know is a circadian rhythm, part of our internal body clock. It is controlled by the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus in a region of our ‘primitive’ brain called the Hypothalamus. Changes in light levels and environmental cues stimulate the release of certain brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters which facilitate sleepiness.
But like our waking physiological state, sleep has rhythms and cycles too. Over the course of a night our brain fluctuates from periods of relative inactivity to working with almost a ‘turbo charged energy’. But what is going on in the ‘turbo phase’? Let’s first understand the stages of sleep before we understand the importance of this one, highly crucial stage for mental health:
The brain cycles through four distinct phases during sleep: stages 1, 2, 3, (non rapid eye movement), and 4, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep makes up about 25% of your sleep cycle and first occurs about 70 to 90 minutes after you fall asleep. Because your sleep cycle repeats, you enter REM sleep several times during the night. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep or ‘Paradoxical Sleep’ as some as described it as the body is virtually paralysed, but the brain is incredibly active. During this stage the brain is operating at almost a ‘wakeful’ state of arousal suggesting this phase of sleep has a specific function. This is especially likely, given that REM is essentially ‘rationed’, limited to only around 20% of our total nightly sleep.
It is thought that each REM cycle becomes progressively longer, up to 90-120 minutes. It is for this reason that we need long, uninterrupted periods of sleep.
But what do we think is happening during REM? Brain waves become rapid and it is now widely understood that we replay and process the mental ‘baggage’ from the day in either a clear or a metaphorical way, giving rise of course to dreams. Essentially it is thought that we move stressful memories from our limbic system (Amygdala, Hippocampus, Hypothalamus) into the intellectual mainframe of our brain. Extracting memories, rationalising and resolving decisions. Allowing us to wake the next day with a sense of resolution to that ‘troublesome issue the day before. If we have insufficient sleep therefore, we have limited capacity for REM and reduced ability to resolve and rectify any stresses and strains from the previous day or come up with creative new solutions to move forward. In the short term, severe sleep deprivation can result in hallucination and paranoia, over a sustained period, sleep deprivation has been linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, risk-taking behaviour and suicide.
Additionally, we understand that sleep deprivation leads to reduction in decision making ability, learning, memory, problem solving and emotional control. It’s no surprise then that children spend a much greater proportion of their time in REM sleep with babies, interestingly, spending up to 50% in REM suggesting brain growth and learning with new neuronal connections being formed. This is evidenced again by research demonstrating we spend more time in REM after days learning new skills.
Hypnosis has been referred to as the creation of an artificially induced REM state allowing new patterns of thought to be rehearsed without the interruption from the Conscious Critical Faculty. Perhaps it is no surprise then that many of my clients come round from trance reporting they feel much brighter, clearer and able to think straight.
If you’re wanting to understand how you can improve your own sleep without Hypnotherapy you may find the following links useful:
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