You: Better Sleep!
By James Malone, Doctor of Clinical Hypnotherapy

“If only I could get to sleep…,” is a phrase all too familiar to anyone who has ever struggled with poor sleep quality. While tossing and turning, quite often we discover that the harder we try to get to sleep, the farther we seem to push it away. Sleep and the lack thereof has been getting more media attention lately since as Americans we are getting much less of it than previous generations did. Prior to the invention of the electric light bulb, the average person slept close to ten hours a night. The norm for most adults is now less than seven. Even teens are getting less sleep now.

This sleep deprivation is implicated in a wide range of physical and emotional disturbances. Most recently the link between a lack of sleep and problems with overweight/obesity has been noted, and this is thought to be due to a fatigue-induced disruption of the biochemistry that governs appetite, metabolism and fat storage. Deep sleep is also when the body’s healing response is most active. Going without sleep leaves us more vulnerable to both outside pathogens and autoimmune problems. In addition, there is some research indicating that sleep quality has a direct bearing on memory. If we are fatigued when we learn something, retention and subsequent recall diminishes.

Part of the blame for the rise of sleep problems can be attributed to a cultural shift where doing more and more is valued above all else, usually at the expense of rest, sleep and meaningful recreation. Consider the idea that in the Judeo-Christian tradition it was an actual commandment to take one day off in seven, not just a recommendation, (maybe they were onto something?) Advances in communication technology further add to our frenetic pace where we are never disconnected for very long, blurring the boundaries between work and personal time. Also, many of us spend the majority of our waking hours indoors, which pulls us away from the natural rhythms of the sun. All in all, modern life can easily push us out of balance if we do not remain mindful.

In some instances poor sleep quality can be traced back to an underlying physical complaint, which is why it is important to consult with your physician if sleep problems are ongoing. There are a number of pharmaceutical agents offered that promise to alleviate sleep disruption related to stress and tension, the most common source of insomnia, however most cannot be used for extended periods due to the potential for physical and/or emotional addiction. They also do not address the root cause of most sleep problems, namely STRESS, which creates the habit of sleeplessness.

There are some common sense recommendations everyone should observe in order to maintain good sleep quality. First, alcohol and caffeine should be avoided later in the day as they can disrupt nocturnal rhythms. Exercise enhances the ability to sleep but it too can have a stimulating effect if performed too close to bedtime. Second, the sleeping area should be quiet and well-ventilated. Third, the bed should only be used for sleep and sexual activity. There is a psychological principle called “anchoring” where the brain makes associations between behaviors that are performed together often enough, and you want to be careful not to make bad connections that could impair sleep, like doing work or paying bills in bed. Fourth, while keeping the last suggestion in mind, get up and engage in a non-stimulating activity if sleep does not come within 20 minutes of lying down. You do not want to create a subconscious association between your bed and being wide awake. Lastly, be careful what you watch or read prior to bedtime. An old saying goes “last at night, lasts all night,” and the practice of watching disturbing programming like the evening news can definitely have an adverse effect on your ability to sleep.

Clinical hypnosis can also be of great help to the individual with sleep problems. Like smoking or overeating, sleeplessness can become habitual and hypnosis addresses subconscious behavior patterns at their source. Those skilled in the use of clinical hypnosis understand that belief and expectation play a powerful role in all aspects of our lives, including sleep. Long ago the founder of autosuggestion, Emile Coue, described a principle of mind known as the Rule of Reversed Effort, which refers to when the harder we try to do something, especially when there is an expectation of failure, the less likely it is that we will be successful. The person with ongoing sleep problems eventually begins to expect sleeplessness, while struggling harder to get to sleep and in the process becomes more awake.

The good news is that the ability to sleep soundly is something that we were all born with, as babies we slept when we were tired and that was pretty much it, it was one of those things that we did not have to be taught. In most cases sleep problems are learned behaviors, albeit unconsciously, which means they can unlearned and reshaped to a healthier pattern. With hypnosis, the idea is presented to the subconscious mind that normal sleep patterns are being rediscovered, creating a positive sense of expectation and a more relaxed attitude towards the sleep experience which in turn leads to healthier habits. Quite often a person comes to actually believe that they have lost the ability to relax and let go and the use of a mind/body technique like hypnotism can help restore that ability.

The use of sleep-related suggestion and imagery is usually coupled with a recommended period of relaxation-skills training, further enhancing its benefit. There may also be work addressed to the person’s sources of ongoing stress and worry as it is important to recognize that sleep patterns interact with the whole of that individual’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual being.

Author's Bio: 

James Malone is a Doctor of Clinical Hypnotherapy with a practice based in Point Pleasant, NJ. He can be contacted by calling (732) 714-7040 or visiting