Insomnia and Hypnosis: You Are Now Feeling Very, Very Sleepy

Insomnia puts a big strain on your body. It can cause many medical and social problems if left untreated. Many people with insomnia use over-the-counter sleep aids for help. Some turn to doctors for prescription sleeping pills. However, these drugs can have side effects and be habit forming.1

Nondrug treatments are available for insomnia. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to relieve symptoms of insomnia. Hypnosis has also been used to treat insomnia. Whether hypnosis is helpful for insomnia is not clear.2

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a form of mind-body medicine. Being hypnotized means you are in a state of high concentration. This heightened state allows you to ignore distractions. It also makes you more open to suggestions, such as changing your sleeping habits. It is still not known how hypnosis works.3

To begin a session, a trained professional helps you get into a relaxed mental state. Once you are focused, the hypnotist makes gentle suggestions. This may lead to changes in behavior that can ease insomnia symptoms. Hypnosis has also been used for the following:2

  1. Stress, anxiety, and panic attacks
  2. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  3. Behavior changes such as quitting smoking, weight loss, bedwetting, sleeping problems
  4. Asthma
  5. Hot flashes
  6. Gastrointestinal (GI) issues
  7. Pain control

Hypnosis is not usually a stand-alone treatment. It is used with other treatments, such as CBT or sleep aids. Compared to CBT, hypnosis is quicker. This is why many people try it.2,3

Does hypnosis work for insomnia?

Doctors are more confident that hypnosis works for treating pain, certain GI issues, and PTSD. They are less confident it helps with insomnia.2

A 2018 review of 24 studies showed that:4

  • More than 58 percent of studies linked hypnosis to better sleep
  • 12 percent of studies had unclear results
  • About 29 percent found that hypnosis was not helpful

A 2022 review of 25 studies showed that hypnosis may help with insomnia. Two studies included in the review found that hypnosis eases insomnia symptoms better than prescription drugs. Hypnosis may also lead to more deep sleep. More deep sleep means better brain function, more energy, and less stress.2

Problems with these studies

Doctors rely on well-designed studies to decide whether a treatment works. Most studies are well designed, and doctors trust the results. Yet, some studies have flaws. This makes it hard for experts to decide if treatments work or not.

Both the 2018 and 2022 reviews stated that many of the studies were poorly designed. Some of the issues were:2

  • Studies were too small – Not enough people were included, making it hard to generalize results to a larger population
  • Important details were missing – The studies could not be reproduced
  • Different methods – The method of hypnosis was too different to compare across studies
  • The way hypnosis was measured was not correct

For these reasons, the studies' conclusions are questionable. Experts agree that more well-designed studies are needed to understand the impact of hypnosis on insomnia.2,3

Is hypnosis safe?

Hypnosis is thought to be a safe medical treatment for most. It has few side effects. But it is not recommended for people with mental illness. Talk to your doctor if you are interested in using hypnosis for your insomnia.5

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