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Anxiety and Stress in the Pandemic: Is Dysfunctional Sleep the Chicken or the Egg?

by Jean Eljay, PhD, MS, CMT, AdvHC, CH, NLPC

Sleep can be divided into three major parts: falling asleep; staying asleep; and waking up multiple times or prematurely. Many people do not distinguish between the number of hours that their eyes are closed, and the amount of restful sleep obtained during the night. How are you sleeping?

It is restful sleep that is required. Waking up when you feel irritable, confused, angry, unfocused, and perhaps a tad out of control, is a sign that you are acquiring a burdensome sleep debt (Pelayo, R., et al., 2016). Too much sleep, as well as too little sleep may indicate an avoidance or frustration behavior leaning into full-fledged depression. Results from a clinical trial (M Cordi, 2014) confirmed that hypnosis greatly benefits the most critical phase of sleep.

The deficiencies within the slow wave sleep (SWS) component of the sleep cycle are most often associated with progressive sleep dysfunction and mental health issues. This is true whether the sleep dysfunction is related to accidents, trauma or aging.

This excellently controlled study in 2014 (a cross over study) showed marked improvement in the SWS. After hypnosis, the resulting SWS was increased by 81% and time spent awake was reduced by 67%. This is more remarkable as the other sleep stages remained unaffected as measured by EEG. This showed that hypnosis almost doubled the amount of time in SWS and took less time to get there.

Tweaking dysfunctional sleep with hypnosis does not have side effects, severe complications, or drug-interactions. These results underscore that cognitive behavioral hypnosis has major health indications for those suffering from sleep deprivation and its unhealthy consequences including stress and anxieties.

In these challenging times, many are complaining about unrelenting anxiety and stress. With approximately 24 million COVID-19 cases and 400,000 deaths, it is not surprising that the anxiety levels are skyrocketing. These mental health effects may seem short-lived (depending on the end of the pandemic), but from prior catastrophes, we know that they are much longer in duration. This is especially true if they go on without professional help and insight. We are living in unprecedented times dealing with stressors we never imagined: health concerns, income concerns, family education and safety concerns, the list goes on and on.

In summary, anxiety and stress are tightly interwoven into dysfunctional sleep. It is increasingly hard to distinguish the cause from the result. Both need to be released to fully gain back to normalcy. The use of cognitive behavioral hypnosis remains a validated therapeutic management approach. This is true especially when dealing with the complex interaction of anxiety and stress with sleep dysfunction.

Pelayo , R., Dement W.C., & Singh, K. (2016). Dement's Sleep & Dreams, 2nd Edition. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Cordi M.J., Schlarb A.A., & Rasch B. Deepening sleep by hypnotic suggestion. Sleep. (2014); 37(6):1143-52.

Any questions or comments or to schedule a consultation, please contact Dr. Jean at 484.574.1144 or Email at Office Location: 800 West Main Street Suite #201 Freehold, NJ 07728



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