Hypnotherapist John McKenzie answers your questions on hypnotherapy for sleep
I find it really hard to drop off and fall asleep and it’s really affecting my mood, is this something hypnotherapy can help with?
We should be aiming for eight hours of sleep a night. Losing as little as one hour a night can affect our mood and our physical health. The effects of not getting enough sleep can creep up on us, and we can easily lose sight of how much we’ve been affected by it.
The good news is that hypnotherapy is really well placed to help with sleep issues. It can help with the anxiety that sleep problems often cause and both deepen and improve quality of sleep.
When you see a hypnotherapist they won’t wave a watch in front of your face. Instead they’ll talk to you, and lead you into a very natural state of relaxation. Some people find their minds wander, whilst others are deeply focused. Both of these responses though are great stepping stones to getting back in touch with your natural ability to sleep.
I’ve heard some friends talking about self-hypnosis for sleep, what is this and how can I get started?
Self-hypnosis is just the same state as hypnosis. The only difference is that instead of someone else helping you into that relaxed state, you lead yourself into it.
Self-hypnosis for sleep can be learned in a number of different ways. There are apps, recordings and of course going to see a hypnotherapist to learn the technique. Effectively though they’re all based on the same idea.
You’ll be taught a simple sequence – such as counting back from 10 to zero, or imagining walking down a set of steps. At the same time you’ll learn to associate going through the sequence with increasing relaxation and restfulness. After time you learn how to do this without the aid of the app or the recording. This is true self-hypnosis.
I have no trouble falling asleep, but I keep waking in the night. What can I do about this?
Our depth of sleep rises and falls throughout the night. Some people naturally wake in the night for a short period in what is called biphasic sleep. However, for other people waking in the night is a sign that something is going wrong with their sleep.
One thing that waking in the night can do is turn our bed into a place where we lie wishing that we could get back to sleep. Because we learn through experience this can quickly become an unhelpful association between the bed and wakefulness.
The rule is that you shouldn’t lie in bed awake for more than 20 minutes. After this point you should get up and go to another room and sit quietly or read until you feel like you need to sleep. Only then do you go back to bed.
The suggestions given during hypnosis, when the subconscious is more open to change, can have lasting and powerful effects
My insomnia makes me feel anxious about bedtime, could hypnotherapy help me break out of this cycle?
Hypnotherapy can be a really useful treatment for anxiety. The state of hypnosis is a welcome relaxing rest from the constant worrying associated with anxiety. On top of that the suggestions given during hypnosis, when the subconscious is more open to change, can have lasting and powerful effects.
Where this is really valuable is in helping to break the cycle of anxiety about sleep causing sleeplessness. Hypnotherapy can help to address both sides of this at the same time. It can help with the anxiety about sleep, and it can help to teach people to sleep naturally again.
This comes together in an area of hypnotherapy called future-pacing. Here you will mentally rehearse times in the future when you do slip naturally into a deep and restful sleep. Not only does this help dissolve the anxiety about sleep, it also primes you to expect that change.
I think my bedtime routine needs a refresh – what would you suggest?
The first thing to look at is your sleep hygiene. Avoid caffeine in the afternoons and evenings. Keep active during the day, but avoid exercise in the two hours before bed. Maintain the same bedtime and waking time every day, including weekends. Don’t give in to any temptation to catnap in the day or lie-in after a bad night – both of these can make it more difficult to get your sleep pattern back in good shape.
When it comes to the bedroom it should be a place for sleeping and romance. The more other activities you do there – watching TV, scrolling through your phone, even working from home – the less we associate it with sleeping.
Finally try a warm bath or shower just before bed, or a hot drink. Both of these will help raise your core temperature which when it drops will mimic your body getting ready to sleep.
Can you share your top three tips for a good night’s sleep?
1. Don’t become obsessed with your sleep, especially any data that you might have on a fitness tracker. Aim for a consistent eight hours a night, but don’t worry overly if you fall short one night. Judge your quality of sleep by how refreshed you feel rather than anything your fitness tracker says.
2. Keep a consistent bedtime routine. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, and don’t try to bank sleep with lie-ins. Not only does this not work, it disturbs your sleep pattern for the following night, making things worse.
3. Don’t use alcohol to try and send yourself off, and don’t spend time before bed on phones or devices that give out blue light. Use the night-time filters on them to avoid giving your brain the daylight signal that it’s time to be awake.
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