Many years ago, I innocently asked a long-term insomniac how she had slept? She replied sourly “I haven’t slept for 30 years”. At the time I thought what a mad reply but the reality is that many people have not had good quality sleep for decades. It’s a very debilitating experience to undergo. Apart from the physical repercussions of sleep deprivation there is the added anxiety of dreading the evening, trying to do all the “right” things to ensure sleep and then the frustration of tossing and turning and feeling another sleepless night upon one. It’s a pretty rotten experience.

What is insomnia and how does it manifest itself? There are three main categories of insomnia, based on the amount of time the person has been suffering. There is transient insomnia, that is less than a month duration. Then there is short term insomnia which is considered to be between one and six months duration. Then there is chronic insomnia which is more than six months duration. Most people who see therapists are chronic insomniacs and the impact on their life is extreme.

Many chronic insomniacs report not being able to perform normal functions, they are so sleep deprived that their cortisol levels are elevated and they feel constantly stressed and irritable and fatigued. Sometimes they need to leave enjoyable employment, they may find themselves monitoring everything they do in order to achieve this longed for decent nights sleep. Many end up dependent on medication that over time loses efficacy and needs higher doses.

How can hypnosis help?

The first thing I do with a person struggling with sleep is ask them to fill in my anxiety questionnaire. This is mainly focussed on eating patterns and blood sugar. It’s more important to insomniacs that they realise. Many have depleted blood sugar levels and they need to understand how their blood sugar works in order to get control of sleep. Put simply, if your blood sugar is too low you will not sleep, if it is too high, you will also not sleep. Managing blood sugar is a key component of insomnia and this can be easily managed with some online guidance or a visit to your GP.

Another great resource for insomniacs is a homeopath, naturopath or dietician. There are some excellent infusions and herbs that are non invasive and work well. These professionals can also give advice on the best food to eat in the evening and replacements for stimulants like coffee, tea or alcohol.

Once we exclude blood sugar and food I like to use some very simple techniques initially in hypnosis. Hypnosis works so well with insomnia because we can give the client direct suggestions to control unwanted thoughts that may be keeping them away as well as relax them so the fear of going to bed and not sleeping is lessened. This increases their chances of drifting off.

We also use hypnosis to understand where the insomnia started. Many cases of long term insomnia start in the teen years and there is often emotional reasons for this which we can uncover using regression techniques. Another aspect of insomnia which hypnosis can help with is trauma. If we have an insomniac client we can use various techniques to destress them and to relieve intrusive thoughts about past traumatic experiences.

Hypnosis can also be used to visualise the sleep we want – many people will talk about this but don’t really know what that means for them. This is a powerful technique that brings relief in most cases.

Sleep is a crucial component of our health and our happiness. Are you getting a good nights sleep?