Hypnosis is a technique most-often used in psychotherapy with the intention of treating various disorders and habits. Smokers, for example, may turn to hypnosis to help themselves break the habit of smoking.
Hypnosis for sleep is sometimes thought to describe self-hypnosis, where you learn to hypnotize yourself to sleep. In fact, sleep hypnosis involves being led by a hypnotist into a state of relaxation by way of so-called ‘hypnotic induction’. In such a state people are said to be susceptible to the hypnotist’s suggestions – in this case regarding behavior and thoughts around sleep.
Much of the discussion around any supposed merits of sleep hypnosis focuses on whether it is truly able to address the psychological (influencing thoughts) and behavioral (changing habits) factors involved in the maintenance of sleep problems.
Hypnosis, sleep and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Despite the widespread use of hypnosis-based techniques for a variety of problems, researchers have theorized that hypnosis for sleep may only be effective when integrated within a broader cognitive-behavioral approach (Morin et al., 2006).
There is, however, no clinical evidence which would confirm that hypnosis can improve sleep, whether on its own or in combination with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The latter would be particularly difficult to determine as CBT employs a wide range of techniques, meaning that it would be difficult to attribute any improvements to hypnosis exclusively.
The Sleepio course, which is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), incorporates the most effective of these, evidence-based techniques, including imagery and autogenic training which share some of the characteristics of hypnosis.
Self hypnosis for sleep
As with many face-to-face therapies, most people would struggle to access hypnosis, particularly when they are struggling to get back to sleep in the middle of the night! The benefit of cognitive-behavioral techniques however is that, once learnt, individuals can put them into practice anywhere and at any time.
People may also find the relaxation audio tracks included within many cognitive-behavioral approaches a good alternative to sleep hypnosis MP3 downloads. These relaxation tracks can be particularly useful when learning new techniques.
Morin, C.M., Bootzin, R.R., Buysse, D.J., Edinger, J.D., Espie, C.A., Lichstein, K.L. (2006). Psychological and behavioural treatment of insomnia: update of the recent evidence (1998-2004). Sleep, 29(11), 1398-1414.