Updated: Nov 18, 2020
When at rest, the brain works harder. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep enables the events we have experienced during the day to be processed and changed into a memory we have control over, AKA – dreaming. In turn, we choose to keep or discard this memory. The perfect processing machine utilising our Intellectual Mind, our Primitive Emotion Mind and our Subconscious Mind. The result is a restful night’s sleep and ability to get through the day without anxiety, anger, depression, stress or fear.
What happens when this perfect processing machine breaks down or a part stops working properly? We start to build up daily events without processing them in a metaphorical “stress bucket” which starts to overflow. We slowly or maybe even rapidly realise that we are not coping the way we used to, we are not feeling like the best version of ourselves. Work situations become stressful. Socialisation begins to be something we dread. Negativity dominates our thoughts and feelings. Then we cannot sleep. That 4am wake up; we have a cigarette to calm us down and relieve the stress. Or a nightcap just to take the edge off the day and help us sleep. Or a sweet midnight cup of tea or coffee to help us feel rested and ready to return to sleep. Nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and sugar, four of the sleep thieves perpetuating the cycle of sleeplessness.
· “Smoking calms me down and helps me sleep”, I must have heard this a hundred times from friends, family and clients in clinic. The reality is the addiction to nicotine can cause the brain to wake us up as it craves it’s next nicotine fix. The brain of smokers has accepted nicotine as an alternative to the natural neurotransmitter, dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Nicotine causes narrowing of the blood vessels, reduced lung capacity, asthma and sleep apnea. All conditions that will wake a resting brain in the middle of the night. Vapers are not off the hook, sadly. Some of the vaped stimulants are even more powerful than nicotine and disrupt sleep even more.
· “I will just have a little night cap to help me sleep” another well rehearsed statement I have heard all too often. Alcohol may absolutely help to get us to sleep quicker, however, the process involved in breaking it down in our system has a stimulant effect. Consumption of alcohol before sleep steals the ability to access the REM sleep we need to ensure that we process the events of the day so the quality of our sleep is negated. Alcohol also changes the levels of the most important neurotransmitter, serotonin such that anxiety is increased and created.
· “How about a quick cuppa before bedtime? One lump of sugar or two?” tea and coffee both contain caffeinate. Caffeine is a stimulant, increasing the production of the neurotransmitter adrenaline which in turn increases the heart rate, encourages rapid breathing and evokes a state of alertness and vigilance. Sugar, don’t get me started ! Sugar
increases blood sugar levels suddenly which can interfere with a restful night’s sleep when consumed before bedtime or when waking in the middle of the night. Caffeine and sugar combined create the perfect team to steal restful sleep.
So what can we do about these sleep thieves? How do we arrest them and return to sustained, peaceful, regular sleep? Avoid them all at least 4 hours before sleep is a good start. Buy decaffeinated tea and coffee, reduce sugar intake. Sometimes easier said than done. Think carefully about the starting point of your own reasons for sleeplessness. Sleep thieves; alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, sugar. The result can be a very unbalanced emotional state of mind. Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is a recognised effective therapy with a high success rate to beat these thieves at their own game. You were not born addicted to caffeine, alcohol, sugar or nicotine and you can beat these and other addictions. Contact kwshypnotherapy and speak to Karen to book a FREE Initial Consultation to begin the journey back to peaceful sleep and restored emotional balance.
1) Florida Atlantic University (FAU) — with help from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard University, Emory University, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and the National Institutes of Health — focused on the evening consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine among 785 African-Americans over a combined 5,164 days.
2) Brian Krans, Healthline
3) Sleepscore labs.