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By Susanna Sweeney, MSC, MBACP, CHT
You are probably interested to see if insomnia hypnotherapy could be for you. You have come to the right place. I have compiled a series of articles on this topic. This article is devoted to giving you the scientific background of hypnosis for insomnia. You can find links to the other articles further down the page.
First things first- you should always consult your doctor first and rule out any possible medical causes. If you have an over functioning thyroid, for example- that would disturb your sleep.
Making a treatment plan together with your doctor, you may well include complementary medicine and hypnotherapy.
There aren't many studies on the efficacy of insomnia hypnotherapy. This mirrors the general lack of research on clinical hypnosis. I have noted the same in my articles "Stop Smoking Hypnosis- What Science Says" and "Weight Loss Through Hypnosis- What Science Says".
All in all it has to be said- there is little interest in research on the clinical applications of hypnosis- which is a pity, to say the least because hypnotherapy holds many promising possibilities. In many areas, hypnosis could contribute to reducing the use of prescription drugs, for example.
In the few studies that I managed to find, however, there is little disagreement about hypnosis for insomnia having beneficial effects for insomnia sufferers. This makes sense because naturally, relaxation- which is required for going to sleep- is at the very heart of hypnosis.
Abramowitz, Barak, Ben-Avi & Knobler, 2008 (1)
This study reports on the use of insomnia hypnotherapy with 32 combat veterans who also suffered from PTSD.
Results: "There was a significant main effect of the hypnotherapy treatment with PTSD symptoms as measured by the Posttraumatic Disorder Scale. This effect was preserved at follow-up 1 month later. Additional benefits for the hypnotherapy group were decreases in intrusion and avoidance reactions and improvement in all sleep variables."
This study reports on the use of insomnia hypnotherapy with schoolchildren. The study reports a high degree of resolution of the insomnia issue in the different client groups.
Results: "Use of hypnosis appears to facilitate efficient therapy for insomnia in school-age children."
Becker, 1993. (3)
This study reports on six case studies where insomnia hypnotherapy led to improvements in subjects' sleep patterns "lasting for over 16 months after a simple 2-session treatment course."
Borkovec & Fowles 1973. (4)
In a study of 37 female college students the researchers found progressive relaxation and hypnotic relaxation to show significant improvement in sleep patterns, while the no-treatment group showed no improvement.
Farrell-Carnahan, Ritterband, Bailey et. al., 2010. (5)
Self hypnosis showed small treatment effects for sleep, fatigue, mood and quality of life and most participants perceived it as "at least somewhat helpful".
Hauri, Silver, Boeve et. al.2007. (6)
In a 5 year follow up study the researchers concluded that "1-2 sessions are an efficient first line therapy for insomnia".
Lichstein & Johnson, 1993. (7)
57 older women, some on medication for hypertension and some not, received a course of three relaxation therapy. Of those on medication, 47% were able to reduce medication after treatment while those not on medication experienced significant sleep improvement.
Ng & Lee, 2008. (8)
in this review of studies on hypnosis for insomnia, the authors conclude that: "Acute and chronic insomnia often respond to relaxation and hypnotherapy approaches, along with sleep hygiene instructions. Hypnotherapy has also helped with nightmares and sleep terrors."
Serban, Padurariu, Ciobica et. al., 2013. (9)
Authors conclude that: "Since the current means of pharmacologic treatment for insomnia present significant limitations, especially when treating chronic insomnia, a more suitable alternative could be attained by non-pharmacological approaches such as hypnosis. "
Stanton, 1989. (10)
45 subjects were randomly assigned to hypnotic relaxation, stimulus control, or placebo groups. Results: " The hypnotic relaxation treatment was effective in helping subjects go to sleep more quickly. The stimulus control and placebo groups did not record similar improvement."
Woolfolk & McNulty, 1983. (11)
Studied relaxation treatments in 44 insomniacs and found that image based relaxation treatments (hypnosis) were slightly superior while all forms of relaxation treatment were superior to no treatment.
Some recommendation emerge from the research I cited above on how to best use insomnia hypnotherapy. These are useful to consider so that you can get the very best from your treatment.
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I hope you have found this article on insomnia hypnotherapy educational and useful. in the comments underneath, let our community know if you have learned something new, or simply how you are getting on.
Here is to your restfulness and well being.
1. Abramowitz, Barak, Ben-Avi & Knobler, 2008. Hypnotherapy in the Treatment of Chronic Combat-Related PTSD Patients Suffering From Insomnia: A Randomized, Zolpidem-Controlled Clinical Trial, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 56:3.
2. Anbar & Slothower, 2006. Hypnosis for treatment of insomnia in school age. BMC Pediatrics 6, 23.
3. Becker, 1993. chronic Insomnia: outcome of hypnotherapeutic intervention in six cases. American Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy, 36, 98-105
4. Borkovec & Fowles 1973. Controlled investigation of the effects of progressive and hypnotic relaxation on insomnia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 82(1), 153-158.
5. Farrell-Carnahan, Ritterband, Bailey et. al., 2010. Feasibility and preliminary efficacy of a self-hypnosis intervention available on the web for cancer survivors with insomnia. Electronic Journal of Applied Psychology. 6(2): 10-23
6. Hauri, Silver, Boeve et. al.2007. The Treatment of Parasomniacs with hypnosis- a 5 year follow up study. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
7. Lichstein & Johnson, 1993. Relaxation for insomnia and hypnotic medication use in older women. Psychology and Aging, 8(1), 103-111.
8. Ng and Lee, 2008. Hypnotherapy for sleep disorders Ann Acad Med singapore 37, 683-8.
9. Serban, Padurariu, Ciobica Et. Al., 2013. The Role of Hypnosis and Related Techniques in Insomnia, Arch. Biol. Sci., Belgrade, 65 (2), 507-510.
10. Stanton, 1989. Hypnotic relaxation and the reduction of sleep onset insomnia. International Journal of Psychosomatics, 36(1-4), 64-68.
11. Woolfolk & McNulty, 1983. Relaxation treatment for insomnia: A component analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51(4), 495–503. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.51.4.495.
12. Lam, Chung, Yeung et al., 2015. Hypnotherapy for Insomnia: A systematic Review and Meta Analysis of randomized Controlled Trials, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Vol. 23, Issue 5
13. Kirsch, 1996. Hypnotic enhancement of cognitive-behavioral weight loss treatments—Another meta-reanalysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64(3), 517-519.
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