We live in the exciting time of revolutionary revisions of the old concepts in almost all fields of science, especially in medicine and especially in the areas of immunology / oncology. All fields of science and medicine unite in the search for the treatment of cancer and related disorders. The process of accumulating new facts goes along with the process of rethinking and searching for new approaches, is known as a “change of paradigm”. These new paradigms in the understanding of sleep, hypnosis and cancer and their interrelationships open new hopes and exciting possibilities. The following is a brief description of these new paradigms.
The old thinking(old paradigm):. Sleep is a time for mental and body rest. During sleep all body activities are ceased. Disorders (cancer) have nothing to do with sleep. Hypnosis is a form of a partial sleep.
The new thinking: Sleep is a very active and complex process with many cycles and paradoxical physiology. Some forms of activity are even more intensive in sleep than in awake state. Many hormones are produced in sleep. Sleep is our biological “body shop” where our brain is literally washed itself from bad memory and chemical waste. Sleep is a time to be healed or to be killed. About 80 major disorders including diabetes, heart attacks and stroke and even cancer are started or healed in sleep. Some sleep disorders started (set) initially as adaptive, compensatory phenomena, and only later on inverted into pathology and malignancy (friends became enemies). According to the recent data hypnosis is not a sleep.
The old thinking: Cancer cells are invaders. They are foreigners for the body and need to be killed anyway possible. Cancer processes by definition are out of central nervous system (CNS) control and related to molecular, sub –molecular and genetic anomalies. The Central Nervous System (CNS) and environment has little to do with the cancer process. Hypnosis, psychotherapy and sleep have peripheral positive effects and just make the cancer patients “feel good”.
The new thinking: Cancer cells are not invaders and are not foreigners to our body. They are our own young cells growing under the tight control by the central neurochemical regulations (a sort of a “software program”. Some cells that got out of central control changing their own genetic structure to SET the evolutionary old physiology of communication systems with other cancer cells into the parasitic organism using the host for self- growth. Like many other parasites cancer first “helps” the host – allergy and other disorders subside. CNS is very liberal to the new parasite; the host’s immune system is falling “asleep’. In the first (latent) stage cancer and the host organism have symbiotic relationships until cancer is “strong” enough to confront the central regulations and it takes over the body.
The cancer process is intimately connected to sleep and improving the metabolic qualities of sleep is important for “extinguish” the cancer’s fire.
The bottom line is that by killing cancer cells we could win a few battles for a few years but we lose the war. When the cancer process is in a full speed we can’t “cure” it by killing peripheral cells. We should not fight but NEGOTIATE with the cancer. This approach means that if we could restore the normal CENTRAL neurochemical regulations, than it is possible (at least, theoretically) that some cancer cells could get back under control, thus the cancer process could slow down and even stop. Using a far fetch analogy of the organism with cancer and a factory we well know that if on a factory is a growing disorganization, the solution is not to kill all workers but to remove a few troublemakers and change the style of management.
The old thinking: Hypnosis is a partial sleep or a sleep- like condition. There is no objective difference between hypnotic and awake states. Hypnosis is just an agreement between hypnotist and a subject to cooperate. Hypnosis is helpful psychologically by making the patient to feel good, decreasing psychological aspects of chemotherapy and pain but could not affect the ‘hardware” process of cancer itself.
The new thinking: Hypnosis is not sleep but a form of an altered state of consciousness with objective physiological changes that are different from wakefulness, slow or paradoxical (REM) sleep. There are new data about the so called ‘default system” – neuro- circuits in the right prefrontal, subcortical and vestibular parts of the brain responsible for meditative, trance and hypnotic states. There are multiple EEG and somatic correlates of the hypnotic states.
Hypnosis is the unique state in which physiological parameters could be deeply changed so even otherwise “incurable” conditions such as genetic skin disorder ichtiosis or neurological diseases like parkinson’s tremor could be helped. There are numerous reports about cases in which beginning cancer processes were reversed under extreme stresses, deep trance or high levels of motivations. There are also preliminary reports that prolong hypnosis/sleep therapy might be very promising in this directions in conjunction with other traditional and alternative therapies. The American Cancer Society recognized hypnotherapy as helpful alternative therapy and issued guidelines of its use (the latest version of Guidelines was in 11/1/2008). The American Academy of Medical Hypnosis is encouraging physicians to use hypnotherapy in their respectful disciplines including autoimmune disorders and cancer.
What about Hypnosis for Cancer and Immune disorders?
According to the American Cancer Society hypnosis is helpful to relieve side effects of chemotherapy and pain caused by cancer. Research has also shown that hypnosis can help reduce anticipatory nausea and vomiting. (Anticipatory or conditioned nausea or vomiting occurs when, after a few doses of chemotherapy have caused nausea or vomiting, some people have nausea or vomiting just before the next dose is to be given). According to a report from the NIH, there is evidence that hypnosis can help reduce some kinds of cancer pain. Studies of children with cancer found that hypnosis appeared to help reduce pain and distress from medical procedures. In one study published in 2008, giving breast cancer patients a brief hypnosis session before surgery reduced the pain, nausea, fatigue, discomfort, emotional upset, and cost of the procedure. According to another NIH report, hypnosis may also enhance the immune system. One study found that hypnosis raised the levels of immunoglobulin (an important part of the immune system) in healthy children. A control study found that hypnosis and self-hypnosis led to an increase in white blood cell activity.
Physicians who are professional in the use of hypnotherapy do not claim that hypnosis can completely cure cancer or any immunological disease, however, it can be a useful addition to conventional therapy for some oncological and immune conditions and helps to improve quality of life for patients with cancer. Hypnosis and a new technique of prolong hypnosis/sleep could be a helpful tool in the “negotiation” with the cancer process.