How hypnotherapy can help with insomnia
It has been said that one of the many ramifications of lockdown has been poor sleep and bouts of insomnia as people have found their usual daily routine turned upside down. Insomnia is a condition that can strike at any time and in some unfortunate cases can last for years before people seek help.
Insomnia is often categorised as being typical of one of these symptoms:
- difficulty falling asleep
- lying awake for long periods at night
- waking up early in the morning and not falling asleep again
- feeling tired and irritable and becoming very distracted with difficulty focussing on anything
In my previous career as a nurse, one of the many things we asked patients who were admitted on assessment was: what is your sleep like? This is because sleep is so integral to your physical and mental health, and more often than not the patient would describe a poor sleep pattern and you would work with them in bringing about an improvement.
There can many different contributing factors to insomnia such as stress and anxiety, environmental factors eg the bedroom too hot or cold or too light, and often early morning wakening is symptomatic of depression. The effect on your body from long term sleep deprivation can be severe with high blood pressure, heart disease, weakened immune system and an increased chance of diabetes as just some of the potential consequences of this problem.
Hypnotherapy together with good sleep hygiene practices can alleviate most of these issues but it is probably most useful when the person is not sleeping due to stress, anxiety or worry in their life.
Chronic insomnia in a physiological sense can be linked to a heightened state of arousal and anxiety which triggers in your sympathetic nervous system an over-stimulated state.
It has been shown that hypnotherapy causes a reduction in this state and where insomnia is a result of nervousness or anxiety, hypnotherapy has been shown to be the best intervention.
In working closely showing empathy and actively working to understand the problem, often the trigger to insomnia can present itself. This is done through being supportive and listening to your needs. In dealing with the problem the therapist may seek to help you generally relax and to induce sleep more easily or they may use their skills to minimise what it is that keeps you awake.
If in the case of someone who is kept awake from ruminations and finds it hard to switch off, through the use of post-hypnotic suggestion and imagery, the therapist may guide you through your home as you lock up for the night switching off the tv and the lights and when reaching bed upon closing your eyes, you will switch off your brain.
I have found personally in my practice that people who have struggled with poor sleep for a long period of time often will dread the time to go to bed and will then ruminate on not sleeping which only perpetuates the problem and their anxiety over it.
In other examples for people who struggle to sleep through overthinking or worry, I try to get them to see themselves as an observer to their thoughts rather than a participant in them. This can help distance people from their worries and can be done by encouraging people to view their thoughts like passing clouds overhead or leaves floating down a stream, you are aware of them but not actively engaging with them.
The alternative to hypnosis and alternative therapies is often medication such as sleeping tablets, however, pharmacological interventions often have side effects. The common side effect of sleeping tablets is people feel very drowsy when they awake and in the case of certain groups such as pregnant women, children and those who do jobs that require a high level of concentration such as pilots or drivers, this may not be a favourable option. This is another way in which hypnosis can be a useful alternative.
How hypnotherapy works
I often find in clients who attend me for hypnotherapy worry about losing control and whether they will be able to go into trance, however nobody in trance is ever not in control and it has been compared to being in light sleep, aware but not aware but able to rouse yourself if you so wish whenever you need to.
In terms of the ability to go into trance, everybody can be hypnotised but it is true that some people are easier to induce than others. The determining factors can involve a client's only beliefs about the process, their ability to absorb themselves in suggestion, how easy they find it to trust other people, their relationship with the therapist and on the therapist's part, the appropriateness of the intervention that they employ for the problem.
There is increasing evidence that hypnotherapy is becoming ever more popular in addressing insomnia, due to the pleasant experience it invokes and also through the use of suggestion, the promotion of good sleep habits. This was highlighted by a study of a group of people that showed that hypnotherapy together with good sleep hygiene led to a significant improvement in sleep for 50% of those studied after just two sessions.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is basically incorporating good habits and behaviours into your nightly routine that promote sound sleep. In nursing, I would devise care plans that patients were expected to follow if there were issues with their sleep pattern. These good habits were things such as: going to bed at the same time each night, avoiding caffeine-rich tea or coffee five hours before bed as well as large meals, avoid electronic devices that over-stimulate your brain at least two hours before bed, avoiding exercise before bed and to take a warm bath or to listen to relaxing music prior to bed instead of tv.
In summary, adopting these good habits in conjunction with your hypnotherapy sessions should promote a good sleep pattern and re-establish your circadian rhythm. Hypnotherapy has also been found to be successful in dealing with other night time problems that affect sleep such as sleepwalking and bedwetting.
So if you think that the definition of the word hypnosis itself is derived from the Greek god of sleep then what better tool for tackling this annoying but very treatable problem?