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Sleep and the mind

Busy lives lead to busy minds. We are bombarded by advertising, social media and conflicting messages, let alone relationship or work issues. These can all cause us to ruminate rather than to recover from a busy day, impairing our sleep and causing much distress for the individual. This can potentially lead to difficulty functioning in our workplace or social setting, causing a seemingly endless cycle of anxiety, rumination and poor sleep. Almost all of us will have experienced insomnia and know that it can strike at sleep onset or mid sleep. The perception that one has the more severe problem of chronic insomnia is amongst the most common of concerns in patients.

Interestingly, however, both the time of perceived sleep onset and duration of sleep is not always the same as the actual sleep, using laboratory measures such as brain waves, patterns of breathing and eye movement. This is known as ‘sleep state misperception’. A paper by Harvey and Tang (2012) discussed the potential causes of sleep misperception. This could range from anxiety, perceiving sleep as wakefulness, memory bias in relation to a person’s past symptoms and patterns of sleep, and brief awakenings during sleep which could be perceived as insomnia. Though currently still a perplexing issue, ongoing research in this field might assist us in achieving better rest, and hopefully a benefit for our society overall.

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