I Tried Curing My Insomnia With Hypnosis And This Is What Happened
You’re getting very sleepy… hopefully.
It’s stupid o’clock, I’m sure of it. And yet, I find myself once more staring up at my bedroom ceiling, my body aching with fatigue but my brain rifling through a detailed catalogue of everything I’ve ever done wrong in the past 33 years. Ahhh anxiety-induced insomnia, we meet again.
I’ve been an insomniac ever since the deep sleep only achieved by being a moody, hormonal teen wore off. That’s roughly 13 years of bad sleep and let me tell you, that much tiredness can result in some serious bitchy mood swings (sorry everyone ever in my life). And as pretty much as soon as I hit my thirties, my wakeup time has slid uncomfortably from a nice 7am to an ungodly 4am no matter what time I close my eyes.
In my time striving to journey to the land of nod quickly I’ve tried pretty much everything: warm baths, lavender body lotions, magnesium, sleepy tea, valerian, melatonin, you name it. I’ve also tried various stronger drugs that did technically work, but since it was artificial sleep left me feeling like I’d been hit by a bus the next day. Not super ideal for functioning as a human.
I’d resigned myself to a lifetime of getting tangled in the sheets while assuring myself the perfect sleeping position one mere body contortion away when my mom suggested something I’d not considered before: hypnosis. Specifically an app called Relax +.
At first I scoffed. “What, like you’re going to wave a watch in front of me and tell me I am getting veeeerrrry sleeping and it will just work?” I laughed. “I wish I’d known it was that easy years ago!”
Turns out the joke was on me because many psychologists swear buy it and there’s research to back it up. One particular study at a sleep lab at the University of Zurich studied the efficacy of hypnosis in Slow Wave Sleep (SWS), otherwise known as the type of sleep that allows us to recharge. SWS declines as we get older (gee thanks, life) and tools to actually increase our sleep quality naturally are rare.
Participants in the study listened to an audio recording of hypnotic suggestion to sleep deeper, including a relaxation phase. Results from this study showed participants’ SWS quality was increased by 81 percent after the hypnosis, with time spent awake reduced by 67 percent.
I needed to be signed up to this immediately. As it happened, the app Mom recommended had loads of hypnosis topics aside from a Deep Sleep program. Recordings such as Stop Worrying, Reduce Anxiety, Stop Overeating all made their way into my wish list (if the sleep program actually worked). The app is free to download but you pay $2.99 for each program or a one-off fee to unlock the lot.
The first night I set my iPhone to play me the dulcet tones of someone ordering me to bed I was skeptical. I mean surely if it were this easy, I’d have been able to do it before?
I began… okay, set the cycle for, what, 40 minutes? Would that be long enough? What induction did I want? Let’s try breathing, I like the sound of that more than muscle stretching in my bed. I picked the “Simple Ambience” music track. Okay hypnosis, let’s see what you’ve got.
A man with a soothing voice and a kind of sexy Irish accent begins. “Take some time to settle down…” he says. (Although with the accent it’s more like “Taek some toime to settle doon”. Hot.) He tells me I can sit or lie down, as long as I am comfortable and begins to guide me through various breathing exercises. Gentle deep breaths in, and as I breathe out, I allow my eyes to close as my guide instructs me.
Sean (that’s what I’ve decided his name is) tells me that the secret to relaxation is to not try at all. Uh yeah thanks buddy, sure it’s that easy. But then… do I feel my chest feeling the tiniest bit more relaxed just by hearing his voice tell me to “notice the flow of your breath going in and out, in and out”? I continue to be conscious of the air flowing in and down, then up and out of my lungs, feeling calmer with each breathing instruction I follow. What the hell is this sorcery?!
Sean tells me to place one hand on my chest, and one on my stomach above my belly button and asks me to breathe a little deeper now, but “just a little deeper”. “As you breathe in, expand your stomach out just a little. Just a little. And as you breathe out move your stomach back in a little, just a little.” There’s something about the repetition about “just a little” that’s kind of, I don’t know, comforting?
Slowly but surely I begin to sink down a little, just as Sean is telling me to do, noticing my muscles becoming more relaxed with every out breath. He’s asking me to be aware of the music, my breathing and the sweet, soothing sound of his voice helping me to drift off. He then tells me if it feels comfortable, press the tip of my tongue behind my top teeth and keep breathing, relaxing each muscle from feet to my head one by one and feeling them get heavier. “Don’t try,” he says. “Just allow.”
Then I open my eyes, and, goddamn, if it isn’t morning.
I ring Mom excitedly to tell her it worked and I got to sleep in less than 10 minutes, and she does whatever the verbal version of an “I told you so” eye roll is.
I immediately vow to tell everyone I have ever met about this miracle sleep cure.
The next night I set my phone up to do the same thing, close my eyes and let Sean whisper his sweet nothings into my ears.
And I do the breathing. And I touch my stomach. And I let it rise “just a little, just a little”. And juuuuust as I am supposed to be feeling my muscles getting heavier I become very conscious of the fact that I’ve not heard this part of the tape before.
“Crap,” I think. “It must be taking me longer to sleep tonight. I hope it works.” But that doubt was enough to do it. With every passing phrase and technique Sean used to try to get me to sleep, the more I kept thinking: “This is new, I didn’t hear this last night, maybe it’s not working, hold on I’ll try again.” Before I knew it the 40 minutes had passed and I was no closer to sleep. But at least I had heard the whole tape now, so I knew it was a lot of Sean telling me to sleep deeply with his sexy voice. And yet here I was wide awake.
The next morning, when I was feeling exhausted after a shitty night of zero sleep, I was baffled by the fact that it hadn’t worked a second time. It was a gift from the heavens the first night, so what gives? Then it struck me… a little something Sean had told me as I was drifting off on night one. Something I had not done on night two.
Don’t try, just allow.
I’d been trying too hard, and the sleeping anxiety had crept in to scare me awake. The more I tried, the further away sleep had become.
Despite my night two failure I was still pretty convinced that Sean and Relax + were onto something, and I vowed to keep trying… no, to keep allowing myself to relax into sleep as my new audio boyfriend calms my soul. And for the most part, it’s quite effective and I definitely feel more refreshed upon waking.
Each night when I press play, I try not to worry and just follow his lead and listen to where the recording takes me. Sometimes I drift right off, sometimes I have to play it twice. But still, if I just allow it to happen, it usually makes sure insomnia stays far at bay.
Every now and then though, when I switch it up and recognize a part of a program I’ve not heard yet just as I am falling asleep, my anxiety kicks in.
But it’s okay, because it’s only just a little.
Images via tumblr.com and pexels.com.
Comment: What’s the best sleep trick you’ve ever tried?