Insomnia - How hypnotherapy can help

All mammals sleep. Sleeping seems to play an essential role in brain maintenance and bodily health. Lack of adequate sleep predictably - after a relatively short period of time - causes profound impairment of thinking, concentration and judgement. Perception of pain becomes exaggerated. Sleep matters!

Sadly, we have inadvertently sabotaged our ability to sleep with our own wretched ingenuity. The electric light bulb, telephones, social media and traffic noise – all have conspired to blur the distinction between sleeping and waking time. Add in the replacement of physical labour with intelligence based work tasks, the proliferation of powered gadgetry and caffeine - and you have a recipe for sleep deprivation on a massive scale in western developed societies.

As we reach middle age, two more factors emerge. One of the brain’s sleep regulators – the hormone melatonin - diminishes whilst simultaneously life’s trials and responsibilities build up.

The pharmaceutical industry invites us to consume tablets, which can sometimes help. These usually act on the brain’s so-called GABA mechanism. The tablets work – but there is a price. Tolerance, addiction potential and withdrawal symptoms are real possibilities. Perhaps there is a better way.

Fortunately, the brain manufactures its own “drugs”. The endorphins have been known about for many decades. These pain-relieving chemicals help us to regulate our levels of comfort. Calming, soothing suggestions feel good because they promote an increase in endorphin levels. In nineteenth century East - Anglia, “poppy tea” was a hugely popular tonic. The active ingredient - opium - just happened to share a molecular similarity with the endorphins. 

More recently, another important chemical has emerged. In 1998, Benedetti described CCK receptor sites in the brain. CCK is like endorphin in reverse. It is secreted in response to anxiety and fear – and it kills sleep.

So, perhaps we are at last beginning to understand how to use our own resources to aid sleep. Just as lullabies and bed-time stories worked in our childhood, so hypnotherapy – in conjunction with sleep hygiene – works in adulthood. Moreover, skilled hypnotherapy can disempower the fears surrounding insomnia – fears, which can otherwise become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Audio recordings are really helpful in this context. I recommend listening with comfortable, “over-ear headphones” as they can be helpful in masking ambient sounds, disturbances and snoring. Effective recordings quickly become a valued part of your sleep ritual. Knowing that you can get back to sleep, without disturbing your partner, really can enhance domestic harmony.

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