Hypnotherapy Is the One Thing That Has Cured My Insomnia
After trying every form of sleep aid on the market, I finally got my vitamin Z with the help of a hypnotherapist.
When talking about wellness and the fundamentals of good health, there’s one thing that keeps coming up over and over again: Sleep. Stressed? You need more sleep. Have brain fog? You need more sleep. Breaking out? Yup, more sleep. But, as any insomniac will tell you, knowing how important sleep is can make it even more impossible to do. We’ll call it a Catch ZZ.
That’s where I found myself last summer, during my longest bout of insomnia yet. It was day 30 of not being able to fall asleep naturally, day 30 of taking prescription medications to help and feeling disoriented, disengaged and distressed the next day. By then, I was well-versed in every sleep aid (and “sleep aid”) on the market (melatonin, magnesium, CBD, THC, lavender pillow spray, all the teas), strategies for good sleep hygiene (no blue light, no caffeine, no sugar, no reading in bed) and other tips that apply to everything in life (exercise, meditate, drink lots of water, eat well). The last thing on my list to try was hypnotherapy.
(Related: What Your Sleep Problems May Be Telling You)
It may sound a bit woo-woo, but the premise is actually quite simple. “Hypnotherapy is like being half awake and half asleep,” said Andrew Gentile, a certified hypnotherapist at Toronto Hypnotherapy, where I completed my sessions. “It opens a portal so new instruction can be used to target the part of the mind that controls not only the thoughts but also the body.” Think of it as a guided meditation that gets you to a deeper level of relaxation.
How does it work, exactly? The hypnotherapist guides the client to imagine their heart rate slowing down and their thoughts getting quiet. By doing so, their body gets the message to do the same. “Often that’s all someone needs—simple hand-holding—to get them to a more relaxed state and remind their body how to shift gears so it can fall asleep,” said Gentile.
This last part resonated with me. I felt like my body had forgotten how to switch states. Perhaps this is because now I’m working from home so there’s no longer a shift from work to home. “Stress keeps us from falling asleep. Often when we lie down at night [worries] come out because we haven’t had time to process them during the day,” said Gentile.
During my session, Gentile guided me to remember times when my mind and body would transition from stress to rest. He told me to recall the feeling of relief—coming home from work after a long day, putting down the pen after an exam, walking out of a job interview. “These are moments of transition,” said Gentile. “So we are reminding the mind and the body that it has the capacity to transition out of stress and into a state of calm, relaxation, and peace.” He encouraged me to let out a sigh, which is what we naturally do in such moments of relief. “It’s what our physiology does to create the drop in cortisol and stress hormones,” he said.
Lying down with my eyes closed during the session, I admit I had a hard time focusing on his words. And although I felt relaxed, I worried hypnotherapy wouldn’t work for me. He told me that’s common, but doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective. Time will tell, he said, and it’s normal to need more than one session. My major problem was having one bad night’s sleep that triggered a slew of others—which Gentile said is also all too common.
“You start thinking sleep is fragile, it’s difficult to achieve, and so before bed, instead of getting sleepy, your adrenaline and cortisol get elevated,” he said. “But a little intentional steering back into relaxation mode can remind you that you can drop off to sleep.”
(Related: 10 Science-Backed Ways to Get More Shut-Eye)
That night, I was able to fall asleep naturally, without any aids. It was as if the hypnotherapy session had subconsciously taken away my stress. The following night, I had trouble, so I went through Gentile’s guides and eventually fell asleep. Since then, I’ve had no bouts of insomnia (*touches wood*), the longest I’ve gone in about four years.
Gentile works with clients, mostly women ages 26 to 45, with various sleep problems (not to mention addictions, phobias, and more), including those who have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up early. Since every client is unique, every session is customized, and he helps the client explore all issues that could be contributing to their insomnia, from something they’re consuming during the day to hormone changes due to menopause. Through that conversation, it could be determined that the client should visit a doctor or explore cognitive behavioural therapy.
In the end I’d say hypnotherapy is worth trying. At the least, it’ll re-teach your body how to relax—and maybe even help with brain fog and those breakouts, too.