FEATURE — Does this sound familiar? ”It’s 1:30 a.m. If I can fall asleep right now, I’ll get five hours and 30 minutes of sleep.” At 2:20 a.m: ”If I fall asleep right now, I’ll get four hours and 40 minutes of sleep. I’ll be OK. I’ll get through the day, and then I’ll go to bed early, and it will be fine.” At 2:45 a.m….
‘2:45 a.m. + eternity + 3:23 a.m. + eternity = What It’s Like To Have Insomnia’
This nighttime plague has increased in the U.S. as the decades roll on, and formulas like the one above are all too familiar to many. If you find getting a good night’s rest to be a challenge — whether you have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up too early or not sleeping deeply enough — you’re in good company.
It’s estimated that between 10% and 30% of adults in the U.S. struggle with chronic insomnia, and 30-48% of those over forty years of age suffer from the condition.
Luckily, research over the last decade shows promising results beyond medication in two surprising forms: cognitive behavioral therapy and clinical hypnotherapy. Both have been proven to be equal to or more effective than sleep medications.
Lost sleep can leak into almost every part of your life
Struggling with getting a good night’s rest is, at best, frustrating. But when sleepless nights become more frequent, mental, emotional and physical health problems begin to take a toll. The issues stemming from not getting enough sleep start their leak in the central nervous system and brain, and then the effects spill into nearly every possible area of the body.
During sleep, the body heals itself; the brain not only wires in new thought connections and memories, it also restores itself to proper chemical balance. Without these key components of healing, the brain and body begin to slip in their proper functions, causing immediate problems such as an increase in accidents and brain/body miscalculations, short term memory loss, difficulty focusing and learning and episodes of microsleep – falling asleep for a few seconds at a time throughout the day.
As sleepless nights continue, those suffering from insomnia also experience suppressed immune systems, weight gain due to lowered insulin levels, weight gain due to low impulse control and binging on empty calories and higher heart disease rates due to cortisol changes. Because the brain is not directing the endocrine system correctly, insomnia also causes changes in hormone levels as well. The final tipper is that people who do not get enough sleep also have shortened life expectancies.
Once you are caught in a pattern of poor sleep, the brain is often so fired up over the challenge of the falling-asleep process, it has a difficult time sorting itself back to its normal state: getting hormones and thought patterns into a healthy place and connecting correctly with the body so that natural sleep patterns can be reestablished.
When the brain isn’t balanced by sleep, it can’t balance the body, and when the body isn’t balanced, the mismatch in hormones begins confusing the brain about whether sleep should happen at all. The paradox of being exhausted yet unable to sleep brings overwhelming frustration and disheartened feelings to most. Even for those who usually don’t struggle with mental health issues, depression and anxiety can spike, and those with more serious mental health challenges, such as bipolar or borderline personality disorder, can be more extremely affected.
“When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep, and you’re never really awake. Everything’s a copy of a copy of a copy,” Edward Norton’s character in the movie “Fight Club” said.
It’s no wonder that even if you’ve done all the obvious things the internet and your doctor say to do and nothing has changed, you may be at your wits end.
If you’ve found rest through medications but you’d like to be free of them, you may be facing a similar conundrum. Often, your brain and body have become so reliant on sleeping pills that you can’t fall asleep on your own. Whether you are dealing with a prescription dependency or a long-term sleeping issue without them, you are up against the challenge of getting your brain and body to work together to release the right chemicals at the right time to induce natural sleep.
Get to the root of the problem
When it comes to long-term results, cognitive behavioral therapy and clinical hypnotherapy both outrank medications, hands down. These types of therapies teach you to recognize and change beliefs and expectations that affect your ability to sleep, naturally shifting and rewiring your brain to control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake. They also eliminate the cycles of fear created over not being able to fall asleep.
Working with a clinical hypnotherapist for sleeplessness is a rapid way to get to the root of the problem. During this type of therapy, corrected neural pathways in the brain deepen quickly and more permanently, shifting thought patterns, feelings, chemical imbalances and hormonal problems and elevating health to a higher plateau in general. As the brain begins to realign, the body begins to heal naturally.
Before long, you’ll be getting relief, sleeping more soundly and having energetic days filled with clarity and brightness. Even better, after you complete therapy, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that if you do find yourself on an insomnia treadmill again in the future, you have the tools to switch your thoughts and brain pattern on your own to get right back into a healthy sleeping cycle.
If you’ve struggled to get a decent night’s sleep for a while, there’s no need to wait. Start your journey toward a balanced and healthy life today. A new love affair between your head and your pillow awaits.
Written by ERIN DEL TORO, clinical hypnotherapist with True North Mind Management.
This article was first published in the September/October 2021 issue of St. George Health and Wellness magazine.
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