Sleep problems

Written by Bonnie Gifford
Bonnie Gifford
Hypnotherapy Directory Content Team

Reviewed by Neil Brown
Last updated 2nd July 2024 | Next update due 2nd July 2027

Helping us process the day and heal, sleep has a huge impact on our overall health and well-being. When we become sleep-deprived, we can start feeling exhausted, lacking in motivation and can be more easily overwhelmed by stress.

Here we’ll be looking at sleep in more depth, including common sleep problems and how hypnotherapy can help overcome them.

Why is sleep so important?

While sleep may feel like one long stretch of time where we’re unconscious, it’s actually made up of different stages which form a cycle. Within this cycle, there are two types of sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (non-REM).

The first type we experience is non-REM sleep. This is when we first fall asleep and gradually fall into deeper stages of sleep. During non-REM phases, our bodies have the chance to repair any wear and tear from the day, build muscle and bone strength, and strengthen our immune system. The REM phase makes up about 25% of the sleep cycle and this is where we process the day. It’s vital for our memory, learning and replenishing hormones such as serotonin (the feel-good hormone). 

Together, these sleep phases help both body and mind calibrate, heal and re-energise, ready for the day ahead. Having the odd restless night is common and tends to rectify itself quickly the following night. After a prolonged period of poor sleep, however, both mental health and physical health can be affected. This can lead to conditions such as depression, heart disease, and diabetes. It can even shorten your life expectancy. 

In this podcast episode, clinical hypnotherapist Fiona Lamb BA (hons) Dip.PHH, GHC, CNHC talks about how hypnotherapy can help ease sleep-related anxiety.


What are sleep disorders?

Sleep disorders are ongoing conditions that have lasting effects. They can affect the quality of your sleep, what time you feel sleepy and how much sleep you're able to get.

If you’re worried about your sleeping habits, visiting your GP is always recommended. They will be able to carry out tests to ensure there is no underlying physical condition. They can also help to diagnose if you have a sleep disorder and recommend different treatment options that might best suit your specific condition.


Common sleep problems

There are many different types of sleeping problems which have different sets of symptoms. Below we’ve outlined some of the more common sleep issues and how they can affect you.

Insomnia

Perhaps the most well-known sleep disorder, insomnia is when we have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning. Often, insomnia can lead sufferers to feel extreme anxiety about getting enough sleep which then makes it even harder for them to sleep.

Nightmare disorder

Nightmare disorder is diagnosed when someone consistently wakes in their sleep because of nightmares. They tend to wake feeling very alert and may struggle to get back to sleep because of the stress caused. 

Night terrors

Not to be confused with nightmares, night terrors will cause an individual to wake suddenly from sleep in a panic-stricken state. You are likely to feel disoriented and unable to communicate. If you experience night terrors, it can be common to feel like you are in danger, which may lead to you trying to ‘escape’ from the perceived threat or situation. In many cases, people who experience night terrors will have no recollection of the event the next morning. 

Restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a neurological condition that causes unpleasant sensations in the legs which can only be relieved with movement. Restless leg syndrome tends to happen when a person is more relaxed, usually when they’re trying to get to sleep. This can understandably affect sleep, making sufferers feel exhausted and anxious about getting enough sleep.

Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking is when someone performs a series of actions, including walking and roaming about, while they’re asleep. The person will likely have their eyes open at the time and may appear clumsy and confused. More common in children and teenagers, sleepwalking can occur in adults too. Certain conditions, such as panic attacks, can increase the risk of sleepwalking.

Teeth grinding

Also known as bruxism, involuntary teeth grinding or jaw clenching can lead to dental damage and headaches. For some, this happens as a result of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Recreational drugs and prescription medication can also lead to teeth grinding.

Sleep paralysis

Experiencing sleep paralysis can be frightening. Those who experience it may wake up and find themselves unable to move. Others have also reported feeling like there is someone else in their room, overwhelming feelings of fear, or a sensation like someone is pushing down on them. Sleep experts say this often occurs during the REM phase of sleep when sleep is disrupted during a dream.


Hypnotherapy for sleep problems 

If your sleep disorder has links to anxiety, stress and/or unhelpful habits, hypnotherapy may be able to help. Hypnotherapy for sleep disorders aims to help you uncover what is causing them and give you the tools to change any related habits or negative thought patterns.

Sleep problems can often lead to anxiety, as those affected may fear going to bed and not getting enough sleep. Hypnotherapy looks to reduce this anxiety by suggesting different responses to your subconscious.

Hypnotherapists who can help with sleep problems

What to expect from a sleep hypnotherapy session

When you first reach out to a hypnotherapist, they will likely arrange an initial consultation to learn more about you and what you hope to achieve with hypnotherapy. They will then explain how hypnotherapy can help and what to expect.

In your sessions, your hypnotherapist will help you enter a state of hypnosis, or deep relaxation, where your subconscious is more open to suggestion. Using different techniques, your hypnotherapist will then be able to ‘plant’ more positive suggestions to help your mind react differently around sleep.

Often, hypnotherapists will also teach clients self-hypnosis techniques. This means you’ll be able to continue reinforcing positive changes that are started during your sessions in the comfort of your own home. Some may also recommend relaxation techniques or even give you audio downloads to listen to.

One of the first benefits clients often experience through hypnotherapy is that their quality and length of sleep tends to improve remarkably within the first few weeks.

- Hypnotherapist, Chris O'Connor, MNCH (Reg) HPD,DSFH MAfSFH NCH (Reg)

How effective is hypnotherapy for sleep problems?

Hypnotherapy in itself is a relaxing process. It makes sense then that there is promising research into the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, studies have shown that hypnotherapy can prompt increased slow-wave sleep, helping us to sleep more deeply. They also note that analysis of existing research has shown that the majority of people who receive hypnotherapy reported better sleep.

While more clinical studies are needed before it is considered a 'standard' treatment for sleep-related issues, it is an approach well worth exploring.


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