Hypnotherapy for Insomnia
Insomnia is a common problem. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 58 percent of people experience it a few nights a week, or more. Insomnia can involve being unable to get to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night, or waking too early in the morning. Left untreated, it can lead to other problems, including daytime fatigue, depression, irritability, impaired work performance, and accidents and injuries. Sometimes it is caused by other medical conditions, but in many cases it's a result of stress: People lie awake at night thinking of everything they should be doing during the day.
Hypnosis, which allows people to tap into their own inner potential for healing and change, is a serious and effective therapy, but it's also a very relaxing and enjoyable experience and a useful tool for treating many ailments, including insomnia that is caused by stress. It's noninvasive, does not involve drugs or their associated side effects, and it is relatively inexpensive, since most people only need one or two sessions of treatment in order to achieve results. People can also be taught to hypnotize themselves, so they can continue treatment at home, as needed, whenever they have difficulty sleeping.
What Is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a relaxed state of focused concentration. Most people have experienced it many times without realizing it. Being so absorbed in a movie or book that the action seems real and truly emotionally involving is a hypnotic state. So is driving somewhere while thinking about something else and then, upon arrival, not remembering the drive. These states are a common form of hypnotic trance.
In clinical hypnosis, a person achieves this state of relaxed, focused concentration with the guidance and help of a trained health professional, and then uses it to achieve specific goals, like a good night's sleep. Just as the person in the movie theater loses awareness of the other people in the audience and experiences only the events in the movie, a person suffering from insomnia can shift attention away from the stressful thoughts and feelings that are preventing him or her from sleeping, and achieve restful sleep.
What Happens During Hypnosis for Insomnia?
In hypnosis, a person is very open to suggestions. During a hypnotherapy session, a hypnotherapist suggests positive changes in a person's physical state or perceptions. These are called hypnotic suggestions. For insomnia, the practitioner might suggest, "You will feel yourself easily drifting off to sleep; you will sleep all night. If you need to wake up, you will, but then you will go right back to sleep again. You will wake from a good night's sleep feeling energetic and refreshed." In other cases, the suggestion might take the form of images, such as "Visualize yourself rocking in a hammock, gently, securely, drifting off to sleep."
How Is a Person Hypnotized to Help Insomnia?
In order to help a person achieve hypnosis, a health practitioner will give suggestions for relaxing, usually in a slow, calm voice. The practitioner may describe tranquil situations, such as walking in a favorite place. Sometimes it helps if the patient focuses on a particular spot on the wall, or concentrates on how heavy his or her hands and feet feel as they relax. When the person is very relaxed and in the hypnotic state, the practitioner makes suggestions for improved sleep and general health, including suggestions that the person will wake up refreshed, energetic, and happy. After this, the practitioner asks the person to return to an ordinary state of mind.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
Medical science still does not fully understand how and why hypnosis works. However, it's known that the state of deep concentration that a person achieves during hypnosis can allow him or her to control things that are usually assumed not to be under a person's control: things like blood flow, blood pressure, heart rate, and the experience of pain. In addition, a person can direct their thoughts and block out unpleasant feelings. This ability to block out stressful thoughts and slow the body down to achieve deep relaxation is particularly useful in the treatment of insomnia.
Myths About Hypnosis
Movies, stage acts, and popular culture have spread several myths about hypnosis. People often wonder if they will be under the hypnotist's total control, if they will get stuck in the hypnotic state, or if they will have amnesia later and not be able to remember the session. In fact, all hypnosis is essentially self-hypnosis; no one can be hypnotized against his or her will, and people will eventually wake up on their own even if the hypnotist leaves the room or fails to ask them to return to an ordinary state of mind. Also, people generally remember everything that happened during their hypnotic session.
However, because hypnosis is a state of heightened suggestibility, it's important for people to find a hypnotist they trust, who is correctly trained, and who is a skilled health practitioner.
Who Practices Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is used by many health professionals, including doctors, dentists, social workers, nurses, psychologists, therapists, and others. However, most states have no laws regulating who can practice hypnosis. Professional organizations that certify hypnosis practitioners, such as the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists, work to ensure a level of quality and professionalism in the practice of hypnotherapy. Practitioners of hypnotherapy commonly practice privately, at local hospitals, or in sleep clinics to aid individuals in overcoming insomnia.