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Can sleep heal trauma?

Rapid eye movement (REM) Sleep is the stage of sleep where most dreams happen, its name comes from how our eyes move behind the eyelids while we are dreaming.

During REM sleep, our brain activity looks very similar to brain activity when we are awake.

Many believe that in this stage of sleep we are actually processing and integrating our experiences, even helping our brains to rewrite or deescalate the events that have taken place in our daily lives.

REM in my opinion is the brains way of healing itself from difficult or traumatising experiences.

The fluttering of the eyelids is used in a type of Trauma Treatment called eye movement de sensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) EMDR mimics the REM stage of sleep from the outside.

While the client talks through their traumatic experience, the therapist moves their finger or a light, across the clients visual field, replacing the REM process.

REM sleep is the last of 4 stages of sleep and we typically go through 6 sleep cycles per night. When I work with clients especially young adults sleep often comes up as a concern, lack of sleep, broken sleep or not being able to switch off and fall asleep.

My curiosity is often then drawn to the how this lack of good sleep hygiene impacts both the physical and mental health of my clients.

If we are potentially not going through the 4 stages of sleep the benefit of REM is lost, the integration and processing of our experience doesn’t happen.

We are missing out on valuable and almost life changing sleep.

REM sleep is essential to cognitive functions like memory, learning and creativity.

There is no better reason to increase the amount of good quality sleep that we get, than to think of the 4 sleep cycles and a renewing, and integrating process that has the ability to heal and rejuvenate our minds and bodies.

We have the innate ability to heal from our own distress built into our very core.

Prioritise sleep for better physical and mental health.

What you don't heal you pass on.

Be well,



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