Coping with Insomnia using Hypnosis and Self-Hypnosis

We've all "been there." Tossing and turning, getting up, maybe reading a little, or watching a little TV. Then looking at the clock and saying to ourselves, "if I fall asleep right now I will get 4 hours sleep"! Then more tossing and turning, still unable to fall asleep and, finally, out of sheer exhaustion, we do "drop off."

Or we have occasionally fallen asleep and then, only two, three, or four hours later, woken up, unable to go back to sleep. We may even ask ourselves, "What's going on here?"

These two experiences are the more common forms of insomnia:
  1. Inability to get to sleep.
  2. Inability to maintain sleep.

When either or both of these conditions become chronic, they can easily affect our ability to cope and our overall capacity to effectively function in our everyday activities. The fact is life is better when we are well rested!

How do we get to sleep?

Let's examine how a person who has no difficulty getting to sleep actually does it. Most people are unaware that someone who lies down in bed and "goes to sleep" actually moves through four different stages, the last of which is unconscious sleep.

The four stages of sleep are:

  1. Thinking
  2. Fantasy
  3. Hypnosis
  4. Unconscious Sleep
Stage 1 - Thinking

When we get into bed, we start thinking about the events of the day or, possibly, what will happen tomorrow, or any myriad of things.

Stage 2 - Fantasy

Whether the person is consciously aware of it or not, his thoughts eventually turn to thoughts ASSOCIATED with relaxation. (Perhaps thought of a future vacation or activity in a place that person already associates with feeling relaxed.)

Stage 3 - Hypnosis

As both the mind and the body relax, the muscles release tensions, and the person enters a light stage of hypnosis, known as hypnosis. When a person enters this state of mind, he is still conscious, yet he also experiences time distortion and some amnesia. We actually must enter this hypnosis stage because it is what enables us to attain the last stage. (No one, for instance, can honestly say, "Last night I fell asleep at 11:34 p.m. and 17 seconds.") It is the amnesia and time distortion aspects of the hypnosis stage that make it impossible to identify the moment of transition from hypnosis to unconscious sleep. We simply "drift" from one to the other.

Stage 4 - Unconscious Sleep

We are not consciously aware of anything going on around us.

Woman awake

The good news is, once we understand the real behavioural dynamics at work here, these conditions can be easily corrected.


Self-hypnosis (like meditation) is possible because of two Dominant Laws of Suggestibility. (These laws of suggestibility, of which there are five, are literally how we learn everything.) The Laws of Association and Repetition are what make self-hypnosis possible.

Hypnotizing Yourself

Step 1 is to make sure your body is relaxed. Relaxation occurs when there is an absence of tension in the muscles. A good technique to accomplish this is to sequentially tense and release the muscles in the different areas of your body. Starting with the area of the feet up through the knees, first tense, then release the tension.

Next, concentrate on the thighs through the hips, again, tensing and releasing the tension. Then bring your focus to your abdomen, chest, and shoulders, and do the same (tense and release), followed by the areas from your shoulders down through the arms and hands, all the way to your fingertips.

Lastly, do not tense the mouth and jaw areas, but simply release any unnecessary tension there.

The next three steps replicate the physiological (body) changes experienced by anyone entering hypnosis.

Take a really deep breath, hold it for a moment, and then slowly exhale. (The brain and body require more oxygen to enter hypnosis.)

Now create a swallow (you can do this by pretending to swallow something.)

Next, roll your eyes up (eyelids closed, looking up into the forehead). This causes the eyelids to "flutter," replicating the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) of sleep.

There are several options for this next step. You could visualize or imagine your "fantasy" stage, as mentioned above, noting that it is very important to control your thoughts and stay in the visualization. Another option is to concentrate on your breathing and, only on the exhale, repeat a series of words, such as: peaceful, restful, sleep or beautiful, deep, restful, sleep.

With either option, you have by now, indeed, hypnotized yourself, and that state of mind will draw you into unconscious sleep.

People who have difficulty maintaining sleep

Let's ask a very important question: What would cause a person who has fallen asleep to suddenly be reawakened to consciousness? The usual culprit is something that's called toxic worry. When we are worried about something that will occur the next day or about some important issue going on in our lives, it can interrupt our sleeping through the night. It is similar to children who are excited about Santa coming on Christmas Eve. They have difficulty getting to, and maintaining, sleep. It is called toxic worry because during those hours when it affects us, there is usually very little we can do, if anything, about the "issue" in question. No business is being conducted, people we may want to contact are probably sleeping and, at that time, when fatigued, we are not at our best.

Strategy for maintaining sleep

This strategy for maintaining sleep throughout the night is based on two elements of human behaviour:
  1. As we approach sleep, we become more "suggestible." Remember that to attain the unconscious sleep state, we must pass through the "hypnosis" stage (of hypnosis). As we approach this stage, our mindset is one of receptiveness, or increased suggestibility. (For this reason, it is also a good idea to avoid depressing, fear-provoking news programs prior to sleep.)

  2. There is one person in our lives to whom we are the most suggestible: ourselves. We talk ourselves into and out of things. Whatever we tell ourselves, we are more likely to follow through on. 78% of the information that we accept comes from us!

Considering that toxic worry can trigger us out of unconscious sleep, a good strategy for maintaining sleep is to give ourselves a "suggestion" when getting into bed. Say to yourself (aloud or silently), "I choose peaceful relaxing thoughts during my sleep state. I deserve my peaceful, restful, sleep." When we tell ourselves that, we are certainly more likely to follow that suggestion (or advice).

Getting back to sleep

Sometimes, we do wake up in the middle of our sleep, whether it's for a trip to the bathroom, a pet disturbing us, a change in room temperature, a loud noise, a light going on or off, or toxic worry. An excellent strategy for getting back to sleep is to concentrate on your normal breathing. (What you are really doing is controlling your thoughts.) Become aware of how your normal inhale and exhale actually feel. This takes some practice, but once you concentrate on your breathing (inhale and exhale), begin repeating a series of words only on the exhale: peaceful, restful, sleep or peaceful, deep, restful, sleep.

What this repetition of words (silently or aloud) actually does is prevents you from going back into the thinking stage. You could also think of this repetition of words as a "substitute fantasy stage." With practice, you will most likely be back asleep within five to ten repetitions of the series of words.