Can Hypnosis Help With Sleep Disorders?

Woman being hypnotized.
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Hypnosis (also known as "hypnotherapy") is often touted as a natural treatment for chronic sleep disorders, a problem estimated to affect millions of Americans each year. Although hypnosis has yet to be extensively studied in the treatment of insomnia and other sleep-related conditions, the existing research hints that hypnosis may be of some use in achieving sounder sleep.

The Effects of Hypnosis on Sleep

Hypnosis is a trance-like state of mind during which the hypnotized individual experiences deep relaxation, focused attention, and greater openness to suggestion. It is believed that hypnosis is a way to gain greater access to the individual's unconscious mind, while at the same time lessening the likelihood that the subject will inject conscious worries, anxiety, or redirection into the process of treatment.

Because of its ability to increase responsiveness, hypnosis is frequently used to alter behaviors and reactions that could be contributing to chronic health problems (such as insomnia and other sleep disorders).

How Hypnosis Is Induced

Although hypnosis is often induced by a hypnotherapist, self-hypnosis techniques are commonly used in the treatment of insomnia. Some research suggests that self-hypnosis may improve sleep by redirecting patients' attention away from anxiety, producing thoughts that promote relaxation.

Hypnosis is, in many ways, similar to the experience of losing track of time while watching a movie or while daydreaming. While we are not hallucinating, we have stopped actively attending to our physical surroundings — and we are focused on an internal reality. Self-hypnosis, therefore, isn't as tricky as it may sound. Guided imagery is a tried-and-true method of self-hypnosis; many are available online or as tapes, or you can create your own guided imagery. Simple imagery includes imagining each body part becoming heavier, descending into sleep on an elevator, or relaxing in the warm sun.


When paired with sleep hygiene instructions, hypnosis may help ease insomnia, according to a research review published in 2007. The review also found that hypnosis may be useful in the treatment of nightmares, sleep terrors, bedwetting, and sleepwalking. However, the review's authors caution that most of the existing evidence is limited to findings from very small studies.

In another report published the same year, scientists noted that hypnosis shows promise in the treatment of sleep disorders, stating that there is "an immediate need for research evaluating the efficacy of hypnotherapy in the management of sleep disturbance."

Using Hypnosis for Sleep

If you're experiencing chronic sleep problems, it's important to consult your physician to make sure that your sleep troubles aren't a symptom of an underlying medical condition (such as sleep apnea). Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

Your doctor may also be able to refer you to a hypnotherapist or recommend resources (such as books or audio materials) through which you can learn self-hypnosis for better sleep.

In addition to hypnosis, you may want to consider mind-body therapies and other natural approaches to healthy sleep.

If, after using a variety of natural sleep-inducing methods, you are unable to get a good night's rest, you should consult a doctor. While sleep issues can result from mild anxiety or other related issues, it can also be related to more serious medical or psychological problems.

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