Touted by some as a cure for all kinds of medical and behavioral problems, hypnotherapy or hypnosis has the stamp of approval from both the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association as a valid medical procedure. The National Institutes of Health also approve it as a treatment for chronic pain.

Hypnosis helps train your body to relax and your thoughts to focus. In this deeply relaxed state, a person is especially receptive to new ideas and images—therefore, a learned behavior (such as remaining awake, tossing and turning) is replaced by a new, healthier behavior (such as drifting peacefully to sleep).

Subjects may either have sessions with trained hypnotherapists-who may be medical doctors, nurses, social workers, or psychologists—or learn self—hypnosis through a book or tape.

Can hypnotherapy cure insomnia? There is evidence that it can. A 2006 study at State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse examined several dozen children and adolescents who suffered from the condition and who were offered hypnosis to try to resolve it.

Of those who normally took more than half an hour to fall asleep, 90 percent reported that they fell asleep more quickly after hypnosis. Of those who awoke during the night, slightly more than half completely stopped waking up after hypnosis and 38 percent reported improvement in the problem.

Of course, hypnotherapy may not work for everyone. Different conditions can cause insomnia. While one person may lose sleep night after night due to emotional stress, another may have an underlying physical problem that needs to be treated by a medical doctor. Some people simply may be too skeptical to stick with hypnosis long enough to see results.

If you've tried hypnosis for your sleep problems and have not found relief, there are other options. You can receive psychotherapy to get at the root of emotional issues that may be keeping you awake.

You might need to pay extra attention to factors like the quality of your bedding, sources of ambient light in your bedroom that can disrupt your sleep, and your pre-bedtime routine. Think about making dietary changes such as cutting out caffeine or eating dinner earlier. Finally, if you're open to them, there are prescription and over-the-counter medications designed to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.




University of Maryland Medical Center

National Sleep Foundation

Anbar R D and Slothower M P (2006). Hypnosis for Treatment of Insomnia in School-Age Children: A Retrospective Chart Review. BMC Pediatrics, 6(23).