Festival of Sleep, 3 January 2018
It’s time to celebrate – in the Land of Sleep
To Sleep, William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
A Flock of sheep that leisurely pass by
One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,
Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky:-
I’ve thought of all by turns, and still I lie
Sleepless; and soon the small birds’ melodies
Must hear, first utter’d from my orchard trees,
And the first cuckoo’s melancholy cry.
Even thus last night, and two nights more I lay,
And could not win thee, Sleep! By any stealth:
So do not let me wear to-night away:
Without thee what is all the morning’s wealth?
Come, blessed barrier between day and day,
Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!
Why do we sleep, that’s the purpose of spending several hours in an inert state and what happens within us during that time? We are still learning about the workings of our bodies and especially about what happens in the brain. With advances in technology, neuroscientists are becoming better able to ‘see’ into the inner workings of the brain.
We do know that sleep is an activity that crosses almost every species from the highest forms (like mammals) to the simplest (like nematodes). Some do it standing up, some create mucus cocoons to hide themselves away from predators, some sleep during the day, and some at night, but however they get sleep, we can deduce that it has the same benefit across all participants and is clearly important with deep evolutionary origins.
It is widely accepted that sleep allows activities like waste clearing, cell renewal and repair which is essential for a healthy life, and we are learning more about what happens in the brain during this rest period.
In the state of sleep it is known that we go through several cycles of light sleep, deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement). Each cycle lasts roughly 90-120 minutes long and they reduce as we near the end of sleep. REM is our dreaming phase and it is when our brains re-run events from the previous day/week/month/years ago, processing them and deciding if we need to keep them ‘live’ or whether we can move them back into our memory banks – it doesn’t mean we forget the event ever happened, but we no longer think about it or ‘feel’ it with the same emotional intensity.
During sleep our motor systems are turned off to prevent us from injuring ourselves – if we started acting out some of our dreams whilst in an unconscious state we might get into serious trouble, sleepwalking our way onto a busy road or out the window perhaps! A small number of people wake up with their motor neurons still switched off, giving them a frightening sense of being paralysed although this state doesn’t typically last long.
Whatever the reason for sleep, we know that sleep is essential for normal brain function. Without enough sleep we suffer from impaired cognitive ability, our immune system is compromised and being sleep-deprived can lead to issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, low sex drive, risk of heart disease. Sustained lack of sleep (over several years) has even been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease.
So why not use the Festival of Sleep Day on 3 January as an excuse for an early night and enjoy sinking into your bed for a well-deserved 8 hours of sleep, you’ll be doing yourself a world of good!
If you suffer from poor sleep, either in quality or quantity, hypnotherapy can help you get back on track. Call us on 01798 344879 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chat