Using hypnotherapy to help with sleep and insomnia

I find it so frustrating when I can’t sleep, even more so because I know the tricks to help me sleep. I also know the things that stop me from sleeping – I curse my late-night phone usage or the worry about something that really doesn’t require worry. I’m not sure what feels worse. Not falling asleep when I get into bed and so desperately need a full night's sleep or waking up in the middle of the night and feeling the minutes tick by so quickly, racing towards my early morning alarm call. Of course, the frustration puts my brain in an even higher state of alert so, quite simply, there is no hope!

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Except there is! Hypnosis and hypnotherapy will help you sleep so you can wake each morning bright-eyed and full of energy.


What is hypnosis?

When you think about using hypnotherapy for sleep, you might want to know what hypnosis is. Modern brain imaging techniques are so advanced that we can learn a lot more about hypnosis and other states of consciousness than ever before.

Hypnosis means something different to each big name in the field, with experts arguing over what it is, what it isn’t and what it can or can’t do. Now scientists can scan brains and tell us exactly what happens when someone is in the state of consciousness we call hypnosis. It turns out there isn’t the mystic we hoped there was, but there is a clear change in brain state.

Brain waves are rhythmic patterns of neural activity in your central nervous system. As you go through your day and night, the speed of the wave changes. The measurement of brain waves is hertz (Hz).

  • Between 0.5-4 Hz, you are in the delta range, this is deep sleep. It is dreamless and you have no conscious activity.
  • Between 4-7.5 Hz, you are in a light state of sleep, the REM state in which you dream, again without conscious awareness. This is the theta range.
  • Between 7.5-14 Hz, you enter the alpha state. You’re possibly daydreaming, in light meditation or simply relaxing.
  • In a normal awake conscious state of mind, your brain waves move at a speed of 14-30 Hz. This is the beta state of mind. You might be highly alert or feel stress and anxiety.
  • Beyond 30 Hz, you enter the gamma range. This fast state of mind is the most recently discovered and research is ongoing.

Gamma waves correlate with higher brain functions and are present during sleep and awake states of mind. In addition to wakefulness, gamma waves appear during slow wave sleep and even more so during the REM stage of sleep, alongside the theta and delta waves. Gamma waves appear to have a connection to memory.

Current research tells us that during the hypnotic state of mind, there is an increase in theta waves and a change in gamma waves.


Your circadian rhythm

As a society, we are more separate from the natural world than ever before. You are as natural as the tree in your garden, yet this is so often forgotten. As the flowers need the sun to grow, these forces of nature affect your body, too. Your body uses the sun to know when to wake and sleep.

In a natural environment, the strong blue light emitted by the sun during the sunrise tells your body to produce cortisol and stimulate the waking state. When the blue light disappears as the sun sets, your body knows it’s time for sleep and produces melatonin to send you into a slumber.

The hormone levels change throughout the day and affect your body in different ways. But the basics are enough to help you understand how easy it is to disrupt this rhythm, with bright lighting and out-of-sync sleeping hours.


Sleep hypnotherapy

When you use hypnosis for insomnia, your hypnotherapist will first help you see if there are any aspects of your lifestyle that impede your sleep. Hypnosis is a tool that helps sleep but it’s not enough when you manipulate your natural body rhythm with modern technology.

I advise you to speak to your hypnotherapist before your therapy because a hypnosis session alone will not improve your sleep. When you work as a team with your therapist to dissect your lifestyle, you may find some simple changes will help you in leaps and bounds.

Once you have established a sleep-healthy lifestyle, you can begin using hypnosis to help further. Your therapist can help you learn how to use self-hypnosis. When you use self-hypnosis, you stimulate the theta brain waves – like the REM state of sleep. You can use self-hypnosis daily to refamiliarise your brain with this state of mind during the day, or when you get into bed at night to slow your brain and encourage sleep.

When you feel anxious, your brain will prevent you from sleeping. Anxiety is the fear state, designed to make you act quickly to save your life in the face of a threat. Cortisol (the waking hormone) is present in your body during the anxious state. If your mind wanders off with anxious thoughts every time you hit the pillow, sleep is unlikely to occur.

Your hypnotherapist will give you other tools, often used in mindfulness practices or cognitive behavioural therapy, to help you stop the anxious thinking so your mind is not on high alert keeping you awake.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Farnham, Surrey, GU9
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Written by Juliet Hollingsworth, MSc
Farnham, Surrey, GU9

Juliet is a trauma-informed therapist. Her passion is helping people reach their potential through a combination of hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and transpersonal psychology. Juliet works online and face to face with clients across the world. (DHP Clinical Hypnotherapy & Psychotherapy. MSc Consciousness, Spirituality & Transpersonal psychology.)

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