Hypnosis & Sleep

Nature’s Universal Medicine by David Alter, PhD, LP, APBH, FACHP

Here is a health riddle for you. What lowers blood pressure, improves memory, speeds muscle repair, reduces the risk of dementia, makes skin more youthful, lowers the risk of cancer, and is not for sale in any store anywhere become it is not a product. Still, even though it is freely available everywhere and to everyone, nearly 30% of Americans, 1 in every 4 people of every age, gender, race, and socio-economic status (70-million people) suffer the effects of not getting their daily dose of it every night?

The answer is sufficient sleep. Sleep disorders come in all shapes and sizes. They include fitful rest or difficulty sliding into the necessary 7-8-hours of sleep each night necessary to activate the health benefits described above. Others leave their beds, wander through their homes, prepare meals, engage in sex, punch holes in walls, or engage in other behaviors before returning to their beds, and all while asleep and fully unaware of having  so engaged in these behaviors upon awakening in the morning. Some sleep sufferers experience terrorizing dreams or awaken and unable to move because they are paralyzed below the neck for minutes at a time. Still others find drifting into sleep or remaining asleep nearly impossible due to the repeated intrusion of nightmares involving a reliving or revisiting past personal traumas. 

A Tried and True Method of Restoring Sleep

History document innumerable methods of treating sleep disorders. Many were effective. Others

weren’t. Unfortunately, the frontline approach to getting to sleep in today’s sleep-starved world, as it is

with nearly all health concerns, is to turn to the medicine cabinet. Sleep medicines are widely used,

though the evidence is clear: The quality of sleep they induce is not the same as what you would obtain if you realigned your body’s built-in natural rhythms of wakefulness and sleep. Moreover, some are clearly intended to be used only occasionally, whereas people come to rely on them or become

dependent upon them, which makes getting off them exceedingly difficult for many sleep sufferers.

There is, however, one well-established, scientifically supported, non-medicine-based approach for restoring sleep that puts the sleep sufferer in the driver’s seat for reclaiming their nights and revitalizing their days. Restoring natural sleep through focused hypnosis training is surprisingly effective, pleasant, and capable of generating long-lasting positive changes in sleep patterns. Learning to put the benefits of clinical hypnosis to work for your clients or for yourself is quite simple. All that is really needed is access to a qualified health professional trained in clinical hypnosis through a credible professional training organization, a few targeted sessions* incorporating clinical hypnosis into your work together, and the willingness on the client’s part to practice what is taught at home, and they can begin to say goodbye to the nightly wrestling match with which so many sleep sufferers suffer. 

What Makes Hypnosis Helpful in Restoring Sleep

Sleep is biologically wired into our daily physical functioning. We all come into the world “knowing” how to sleep! But sleep is also a behavior that is subject to learning and conditioning. This is both bad and good news for sleep sufferers. The bad news is that we can acquire all sorts of sleep-disturbing and rest disrupting habits in response to a variety of life experiences and other factors ranging from illness, life stressors, exposure to trauma, or medication side-effects. The good news is that, since bad sleep patterns can be learned, they can also be unlearned, and new learning can be acquired in ways that help restore the natural biological rhythms that regulate healthy nightly sleep. 

Hypnosis is a process that helps us learn to integrate our automatic, biologically wired systems of the brain and body with the self-aware, thoughtful, and intentional parts of the brain and mind. When working together in support of a common goal, hypnosis supports the ability to re-wire or re-pattern habits, thoughts, moods, and physical responses. By utilizing the mental, physical, and emotional resources you already have within you and accessing them in new ways under the careful and attentive attention of a qualified health professional, you can gain the ability to put your current sleep problems to rest. 

What is the Evidence for the Benefit of Hypnosis with Sleep Disorders

The use of hypnosis in treatment sleep disorders is well established. The association between hypnosis and sleep is an ancient one. In fact, the word hypnosis comes from the name for the ancient Greek god of sleep: Hypnos. But sleep is not the same as hypnosis. Brain imaging studies and EEG studies show marked differences between a person’s sleeping brain and that same brain when awake or in a hypnotic state we call trance. At the end of this blog is a listing of popular but well-researched books as well as a list of published peer-reviewed scientific articles to help you learn more about utilizing hypnosis to help restore sleep. In many cases, the front-line treatment for certain sleep disorders is hypnosis, such as a study of people with somnambulism (sleep walking), where more than 74% of the subjects showed marked improvement in their condition.  

Finding the Proper Help

There are lots of people and places that promise magical cures using the “power of hypnosis.” Buyer beware! If you are a health professional seeking to learn to integrate hypnosis into your clinical skill set, seek training from the best. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (, the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (, or the Milton H. Erickson Foundation ( are among the very best, with strong clinical, scientific, and ethical standards for practice. 

If you are someone interested in working with a health professional trained in the use of clinical hypnosis, please consider asking the person(s) you contact whether their background includes training through one of the organizations mentioned above. 

*Sleep disturbances range in complexity. Depending upon the factors involved that affect an individual’s sleep patterns, the treatment process may require additional time and include methods that extend beyond the use of clinical hypnosis alone. 


General Public

Griffin, J. and Tyrrell, I. (2006). Why we dream: the definitive answer. East Sussex, MN27 3TD, United Kingdom. 

Hauri, P. and Linde, S. (1990). No more sleepless nights: a proven program to conquer insomnia.  John Wiley & Sons. New York, NY 

Krakow, B. (2007). Sound sleep sound mind: 7 keys to sleeping through the night. John Wiley & Sons. New York, NY

Naiman, R. R. (2006). Healing night: the science and spirit of sleeping, dreaming, and awakening. Syren Book Co. Minneapolis, MN

Reiss, B. (2017). Wild nights: How taming sleep created our restless world. Basic Books, New York, NY

Robb, A. (2018). Why we dream: the transformative power of our nightly journey. Houghton Miflin Harcourt. New York, NY

Schenck, C. H. (2007). Sleep: the mysteries, the problems, and the solutions.  Avery, New York, NY

Walker, M. (2017). Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. Simon and Schuster. New York, NY. 

Health Professionals

Becker, P. M. (2015). Hypnosis in the management of sleep disorders. Sleep Medicine Clinic. 10: 85-92

Cartwright, R. D. (2010). The twenty-four-hour mind: the role of sleep and dreaming in our emotional lives. Oxford University Press. New York, NY

Chamine, I., Atchley, R., and Oken, B. S. (2018). Hypnosis intervention effects on sleep outcomes: a systematic review. Journal of clinical sleep medicine. 14(2): 271-283

Cheng, M., et. al., (2017). Clinical hypnosis in reducing chronic insomnia accompanied by rumination. Open Journal of Social Sciences. 5: 296-303. 

Dement, W. C. and Vaughan, C. (1999).  The promise of sleep: a pioneer in sleep medicine explores the vital connection between health, happiness, and a good night’s sleep. A Living Planet Press Book. New York, NY

Hauri, P. J., Silber, M. H., and Boeve, B. F. (2007). The treatment of parasomnia with hypnosis: a 5-year follow-up study. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 3(4) 369-373

Holdevici, I. (2014). Relaxation and hypnosis in reducing anxious-depressive symptoms and insomnia among adults. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences. 127: 586-590

Johnson, R. A. (1986). Inner work: using dreams and active imagination for personal growth. Harper Collins. New York, NY

Lam, T., et. al., (2015). Hypnotherapy for insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complementary therapies in medicine.  23: 719-732

The Chicago Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ChiSCH) has permission to print this article © 2019 David Alter, PhD, LP, ABPP, ABPH, FACHP.

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