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Imagine that I offered you a single pill which could control the balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut; lower your blood pressure; improve the way your heart functions; help avoid strokes; manage your weight; improve fertility and improve your mood. This pill has no side effects. Are you hooked yet? Are you ready to buy?

Now imagine that this pill is not a pill but something you already have in your possession.

In his excellent new book, Why We Sleep, professor Matthew Walker reminds us that we can go quite a long time without food or exercise but a few days without sleep has serious repercussions throughout every function of the body and mind.

Without adequate sleep we over produce stress hormones and our daily lives are controlled by the fight or flight response. An excess of the stress hormone cortisol also encourages the overproduction of bad bacteria in our gut. This then disrupts the absorption of vital nutrients further imbalancing our bodies.

Sleep deprivation can also create damage to our blood vessels and make us more vulnerable to heart attack and stroke.

All of the positive side effects, mentioned in the first paragraph, of “the pill” known as sleep are suppressed if we don’t have adequate good quality sleep. In fact these are not side effects but some of the many reasons that we need sleep. Sleep is not a passive state but a restoring and healing function for the body and mind.

We treat sleep as if were an option we could take or leave. It’s not even a question of the effect of losing a whole night’s sleep. Most people think nothing of losing one hour’s sleep a night but research has shown that when we all lose an hour’s sleep in March – due to daylight saving – a spike in heart attacks is seen the following day. Higher rates of car accidents, due to microsleeps and lapses in attention, have also been seen at this time.

No matter what issue my clients come to see me for, I always assess their sleep patterns and quality. Sometimes improving a client’s sleep has an influence on the issue they came to see me for as well as other reported benefits that occur simultaneously.

So, ditch the idea of a pill that will heal every part of your mind and body. Focus on your need for good quality sleep and make it a priority as much as you prioritise good quality nutrition and exercise. You already have the best remedy for stressors of the mind and body waiting for you tonight.

Daniel Kronenberg is a clinical hypnotherapist based in Bath and Salisbury in the UK. He also gives talks and workshops about sleep. Contact him through his website if you would like him to give a talk or workshop to your organisation, business or school.

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