Sleep State

Struggle with sleep apnoea or insomnia? Read on for some helpful tips.

Lack of sleep and sleep exhaustion is not healthy, but there is alarming new research emerging about the negative impact of sleep deprivation.

The Sleep and Learning Lab at Michigan State University conducted one of the largest sleep studies to date, and it showed that sleep deprivation affects us much more than prior theories thought.

"Our research showed that sleep deprivation doubles the odds of making 'placekeeping' errors and triples the number of lapses in attention, which is startling,” Associate Professor Kimberley Fenn stated.
'Placekeeping' is defined as the ability to complete a series of steps without losing one's place, so that means concentration, focus and cognitive ability.

"Sleep-deprived individuals need to exercise caution in absolutely everything that they do, and simply can't trust that they won't make costly errors. Often, like when behind the wheel of a car, these errors can have tragic consequences."

There is a misconception that sleep is when the body shuts done and rests. Sleep is a crucial time for our mind and body’s wellbeing; it is considered the time when all the vital and necessary housekeeping is done, like cleaning up unwanted proteins, and filing memories and information. Think of it as when you nod off to sleep the cleaners come in, put the rubbish in the bin, pack everything back into the cupboards and sweep the floor.
Lack of sleep deeply affects our mood and ability to cope with stress. It can also affect our overall behavioural responses - emotions like anger, frustration, mood swings, concentration, attention, and memory. Plus, it affects our decision-making.

If you're one of the 33-45 per cent of people suffering with sleep issues, here are some handy, practical tips that tap into the powerful techniques of hypnosis. The process of hypnosis is firstly learning to calm yourself. Once we’re in a calm state, we tap into our unconscious mind and can use visualisation and make suggestions to ourselves of what we want. The guiding principle of hypnosis is to help your body relax itself and train your brain to focus on what you want it to - in this case, it’s sleep.

1. The breath
Everyone seems to promote the power of the breath, and there’s a reason for that. Deep breathing activates the vagus nerve, which in simple terms tells your brain to relax, and engages the parasympathetic system - our “rest and digest” system.

Box breathing is a simple technique to start with…

Step 1: Slowly exhale

Step 2: Slowly inhale through your nose to the count of four.

Step 3: Hold your breath for another slow count of four.

Step 4: Exhale through your mouth for four.

Use the rhythm of your breath as a visualisation tool, so as you breathe in see the word ‘sleep’ in your mind, and as you breath out, let go of any thoughts.

2. Sleep blanket body scan
The progressive muscle relaxation technique of tensing and releasing different muscle groups, moving from your toes to your head, is also a powerful technique to signal to the body it’s time for rest. You can be creative with this technique and add in visualisation, as you move from the toes up the body. Just imagine each part of your body preparing for a state of deep calm.

Take this further and imagine that a comfy ‘sleeping blanket’ is being draped on each part of you, starting at your feet, it’s warm and comfortable and soothing, and slowly moving up the legs, all the way up the torso, up to the neck, and each part of your body deeply relaxes and is comfortable.

3. Turn the lights off… in your mind
Start with a breathing exercise: imagine the breath is calming your blood pressure, heart beat and nervous system. Now imagine just as you switch off the lights in your house when its bedtime, imagine you switch off yourself. Imagine a series of switches in your mind, so there might be a switch for ‘the buzz or busyness from the day’. Now imagine there’s another switch that says ‘chatter of your mind’ – turn off this switch, too.

4. Visualise calming scenes
Visualise yourself floating in water relaxing. As you float in water, imagine you are washing the cares of the day off you and floating into a place of a calm, restful night’s sleep. Try visualising floating on a cloud up into the skies, ready for a good night’s sleep.

Tweak, and find what works for you
Unfortunately, it’s easy to slip into a bad sleep routine so building a consistent new habit is important. Have a toolkit of relaxation strategies that work for you. If the thought of floating on a cloud is your worst nightmare, then don’t persist. Work towards creating a new sleep routine and habit for yourself. If you have a bad night’s sleep remember tomorrow is a new day where you can start again and tweak the routine.

Do what works for you, and this might be a case of trial and error. Be patient with yourself because building new habits takes time, but the benefits are worth it.

Claire Aristides is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Founder of Mindology App - an app to calm and empower the mindset available on apple and android. Follow her on Instagram @clairearistides and