Hypnosis for Sleep

Insomnia can be a serious issue. While it is not usually a sign of illness, lack of sleep has been linked to chronic issues, including anxiety, depression, heart disease, and obesity. Sleeplessness can also contribute to accidents and injuries.[1] For the person with insomnia, the pressing concern is just feeling tired and impaired throughout the day.

Insomnia takes different forms. The most common pattern is difficulty falling asleep. In more serious cases, the person awakens throughout the night. With these forms of insomnia, the person is often worrying about an ongoing problem or situation (ex: upset over a relationship, distressed about the workplace, or concerned for a loved one). People with depression, or who are anxious, worried, or excited about a particular situation (like a job interview, an upcoming performance, or a trip) often find themselves awakening in the morning earlier than they need to, and unable to go back to sleep.[2]

Insomnia can be caused by anything that increases physical or mental arousal. Physical arousal can come from things like noise, light (including the light from electronic devices), hunger, an uncomfortable bed, temperature, and pain. Mental arousal comes in the form of worry and distress. For children, a frequent worry behind insomnia is fear of injury or death to themselves or their parents.[3] For adults, the most common worries seem to be finances, relationships, and health.

Drugs for insomnia can cause addiction, and can become ineffective over time. Drugs can also cause serious side effects, and interfere with REM sleep and dreaming, which are important for mental health. Fortunately, when illness, substance abuse, or the side effects of medications have been ruled out causes of insomnia, hypnosis can help you sleep. Often a single session is effective in restoring the sleep cycle.[4]

In general, hypnotherapy treatments emphasize relaxation, calmness, and tranquility, but merely giving verbal suggestions to a person that they will be calm and fall asleep is not usually enough. Effective hypnotherapy for insomnia addresses the causes – excess physical or mental arousal – by relaxing the physical body and calming the mind.

To relax the body, a hypnotherapist often helps the patient to experience trance, and trains the patient to reenter that state using self-hypnosis. Techniques that combine physical relaxation with concentration, such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Autogenic Training, are known to bring excellent results.[5]

Calming the mind is a different matter. You can sometimes reduce mental arousal by using imagery. The most well known example of using mental imagery to sleep is counting sheep. Many methods of visualizing a number (for example, written on a chalkboard or in the beach sand) and counting downward can help. The focus required to do the task interrupts the problematic thought pattern, and the repetitive nature of the task stimulates a new mental state.[6] In simple terms, doing something boring makes you sleepy.

Hypnotherapy may also be used to dissociate mental activity from physical relaxation and sleep, enabling the patient to sleep without the need for clearing the mind.[7] I have also found success using hypnosis to help patients recognize the signals that sleep is beginning, and to use them to sleep more easily.

In some cases hypnotherapy treats insomnia by helping the patient discover an underlying, unconscious reason they have been keeping themselves awake. For example, one patient in hypnosis remembered being awakened by a house fire.[8] Another remembered students in his dormitory pranking him while he was asleep. Some people using hypnosis remember insomnia beginning after a troubling telephone call in the evening or in the middle of the night. It can help the person with insomnia to think about major life events at the time when sleep became disrupted. When there is a hidden, unconscious cause of insomnia, bringing it to the surface can resolve the issue, sometimes immediately.

Guilt about sleeping can also be an unconscious motive to remain awake. Even though sleep is a natural function and requirement, some people feel guilty for sleeping because they have work to do, or someone needs their care, or they were made to feel guilty for sleeping in at some time in their life. When this is the case, hypnosis can help a person give themselves permission to sleep.

In my experience, most people don’t have an unconscious motive causing insomnia. They just have anxiety or a habit pattern that has disrupted the normal sleep cycle, which needs to be reestablished. It can help to follow these Tips For Better Sleep:

Take care of your body
This may seem obvious, but people who have trouble sleeping sometimes keep their muscles tense, holding the body uncomfortably in a certain position, without realizing it. Pay attention to each muscle group, and consciously let go of any tension you feel, especially in your jaw and facial muscles. It’s amazing how much a little tension in the jaw and facial muscles can transmit tension to the rest of the body and the mind.

Heavy or even moderate exercise can help you sleep. You should avoid heavy exercise a few hours before bedtime.

Watch what you put in your body.
Stop drinking caffeine in the early afternoon. Stop smoking. Like coffee, nicotine is a stimulant and disrupts sleep. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep, but it can cause you to awaken frequently throughout the night. Avoid large meals and foods that cause indigestion for a few hours before going to bed.

Take a hot bath.
An increase and subsequent decrease in body temperature is one way your body prepares you to sleep naturally. When your body temperature increases then decreases after a hot bath it creates the same condition.

Pay attention to the environment:
Comfort is key
It seems obvious that your bed should be comfortable, but many people don’t sleep well because they have the wrong mattress or pillow.

Block out light
Light stimulates wakefulness. Stop looking at electronic devices one hour before bedtime, or dim their lights. Make your bedroom as dark as you can using blackout curtains. Use an eye mask if you can stand having something on your face.

Silence is golden
Not everyone needs complete silence to sleep, but it helps to eliminate annoying sounds. When you can’t get the ticking clock out of the room, fix that dripping faucet, or silence the neighbor’s dog, white noise from an air conditioner or humidifier might help.

Don’t use your laptop or smartphone, or watch television, in bed. You shouldn’t associate your bed with work and mental activity. Whirring sounds, notification alerts, and blinking lights from electronics can also be issues.

Things you can do for your sleep cycle:
Stick to a schedule
If you have trouble sleeping, set an alarm to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. You might find that this resets your sleep cycle.

Wind down
Create a relaxing environment an hour before bedtime. Dim the lights. Put away electronic devices. Move more slowly. Do something that calms you down, like some light reading, meditation, prayer, or yoga. Have a quiet conversation.

Don’t hit the snooze button
The sleep you get after you hit the snooze button is usually poor anyway, and waiting for the imminent ringing of the alarm while you are half asleep may train you to sleep lightly. You are better off getting out of bed when your alarm rings the first time.

Get some sun
Getting some natural sunlight, especially in the early part of your day, can help you reset your sleep cycle.

How to clear your mind:
Make a list
People with insomnia often have racing thoughts about upcoming tasks. Make a to-do list instead of trying to keep it all in your mind. It’s hard to sleep when you feel like you are trying to remember a list of things to do the next day.

Relaxation, self-hypnosis, and meditation
Breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga can help slow down your heart and brain before bedtime. Self-hypnosis, progressive muscle relaxation, and autogenic training can be especially helpful.

Try not to worry
The more you worry about how the lack of sleep will affect you, the less likely you are to fall asleep. If you cant sleep, and you can’t do anything other than lie in bed worrying about it, get out of bed and do something relaxing to break that thought pattern until you feel tired again.

[1] Insufficient Sleep Among New York Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2015, from Click Here
[2] Spiegel, H., & Spiegel, D. (1978). Trance and treatment: Clinical uses of hypnosis (p. 233). New York: Basic Books.

[3] Watkins, J. (1987). Hypnotherapeutic techniques (p. 292). New York: Irvington.

[4] Kroger, W. (1977). Clinical and experimental hypnosis in medicine, dentistry, and psychology (2d ed., p. 276). Philadelphia: Lippincott.

[5] Spiegel, H., & Spiegel, D. (1978). Trance and treatment: Clinical uses of hypnosis (p. 234). New York: Basic Books.

[6] Watkins, J. (1987). Hypnotherapeutic techniques (p. 291). New York: Irvington.

[7] Spiegel, H., & Spiegel, D. (1978). Trance and treatment: Clinical uses of hypnosis (p. 234). New York: Basic Books.

[8] Watkins, J. (1987). Hypnotherapeutic techniques (p. 292). New York: Irvington.


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