Light levels can wake you up
Research from Switzerland has at last found what happens in our brains for us to wake up from deep sleep, not the smell of bacon frying for breakfast or your cat licking your face, but changes in light levels.
Through a technique called optogenetics, which causes neural activity to be tripped by pulses of light, researchers using mice discovered that the sleep circuit lies between the hypothalamus and thalamus deep within the limbic system. Melotonin, which is secreted by the pineal gland, is also located in the same area and it’s secretion about 2 hours before we retire to bed helps us get off to sleep and it’s rhythmic release is regulated by the central circadian rhythm generator located in the hypothalamus.
So we know what helps us go off to sleep and now what wakes us up. The mice were found to experience prolonged wakefulness when the neurons in this part of the brain were stimulated for longer, and slept more deeply when they were inhibited.
We shouldn’t really be that surprised by these findings. I have for years not been able to sleep with LED clocks in my bedroom, the light from them wakes me up and once awake stops me from going back to sleep again, so I use a back-lit clock which only lights up when pressed, but even so, I find looking at a clock in the middle of the night unhelpful as it can put you in a bad mood – only 30 minutes until you have to get up – there’s no point in going back to bed. Etc.
This could become a treatment for those who suffer with sleep problems associated with dementia and Alzheimers, where medication has failed. The problem with these kind of sleep disorders is the chicken and egg dilemma – did the bad sleep cause the dementia OR is it a symptom of it?
I have over the years had potential clients come to me with a variety of problems where I have had to refer them on to their GPs. One lady was having problems sleeping, but she was worried because her father had just past with Alzheimers and she was tossing and turning all night worried she might get it herself. She didn’t know insomnia was a marker for Alzheimers. I suggested that it would help her to have tests because if she was free from showing signs of it, it would help empty her stress bucket and she’d sleep again. If it showed she did have it, catching it so early would help her.
Case Study – How hypnotherapy helped a GCSE student sleep better
During the Christmas holidays I was contacted by a worried parent, her son M was studying for his GCSE’s and to top that he was also entering a sports event which needed his best physical performance, and his lack of sleep was a problem. At the initial consultation I was met by a very tall young man, who looked much older than his 15 years, he was intelligent and polite and was really motivated to crack the problem. He understood my description of how the brain worked and why we need good sleep. We went through his typical sleep pattern and routine as he prepared for bed. It became apparent that he was working on his tablet or watching TV far too close to his bed time.
Together we worked out a routine, giving him the best wind down, I taught him some mindfulness techniques to stop him worrying during the day and he had my Sleep well CD to listen to.
His sports event was the middle of February so it gave us plenty of time to work, so over the coming weeks he was able to move into the healthier routine, and to see when it was better than others. Within the first week alone he noticed he had more energy at school and was better equipped at concentrating in class.
By week 4 he had only one major blip, which he realised was caused by the screen on his TV being too bright and it had been over stimulating and his sleep had been terrible for that night, that had impacted on the next day during his sports training session.
I then went on holiday and intended to see him for one more session before he did his event, but he sent me a text – “I just wanted to let you know I’ve been sleeping very well for the past 1 1/2 weeks and therefore don’t feel the need any further sessions. Thank you for your help. It was a great experience!”
Please note results may vary from person to person
Using hypnotherapy to help you sleep
Generally hypnotherapy is a very good way to induce a good night’s sleep, but it’s worth checking first that you have a completely dark cool room, and maybe get your symptoms checked out by your GP if you’ve tried all the sleep hygiene regime and it’s not working.
If you would like to try hypnotherapy in helping you sleep better then please text “sleep” to 07508 658934.