I once read a great story about clinical Hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson who had a patient visit him because he was not sleeping well. The advice he gave his patient was to get himself back out of bed if he had been laying there trying to get to sleep for more than half an hour. Then the patient had to spend the whole night polishing his kitchen floor, and then go to work as normal the following day. I think this only happened once or twice before the patient was sufficiently re-programmed to get into bed and go straight off to sleep in order to avoid having no sleep at all and cleaning the floor all night.

For those who suffer from insomnia, the symptoms can vary. For some, there are problems getting to sleep in the first place, or they go off to sleep but wake too early and are unable to get back to sleep again. Others sleep a lot, but continue to feel tired, even though they may have had an adequate number of hours in the land of nod.

There are some practical points to consider when working with someone who has problems with sleeping.

Firstly, is the patient exercising their body enough? If the body is too energised or full of adrenaline then regular exercise is a healthy way of using up any excess.

Adrenaline can also be created from stress, so what is stressing the patient, something at work or perhaps a problem relationship? They could be worrying about money or their health. If they are worried about not sleeping, then that worry is also going to cause further problems with their sleep pattern.

Is there a routine at bedtime? I know that idea might seem better suited to children, but your body likes to have the repetition of going to bed and getting up at similar times each day. If you’ve ever had jet lag, you’ll know how much your body and sleep routine suffer as a result of the change in time zones.

Are there any chemical factors- for example, is there any medication being taken, or is the patient drinking alcohol or any stimulant products such as coffee?

To overcome insomnia, there are many subtle and self-explanatory changes that can address the problematic examples above. In addition, relaxation can be a useful skill to learn (many people have no idea about how to do it!) because it encourages both the mind and body to release tension. Quite often when a person is stressed, their mind will be racing with thoughts, and the muscles in the body will be very tense. When this is the case, sleep is unlikely to happen, or be very broken. Learning hypnosis or a meditation technique is a quick and simple way to get both the mind and body into a deeply relaxed state. It is also possible to give suggestions for relaxing deeply, easily and quickly when a person is in a hypnotised state and these suggestions will be more readily accepted by the subconscious mind than they would be when in a normal awakened state.

By Gemma Bailey