Science suggests that every individual needs a minimum of 6-8 hours of sleep at night to recover from the day’s events. During sleep, the body gets the time to rest and rejuvenate to take on the events of the next day.
However, keeping sleeping disorders aside, nightmares are hands down another one of the common factors that plague an individual's sleep quality. Nightmares are generally dreams with negative tales and elements in them. They can either stem from stress and anxiety or repressed trauma in a person.
Although nightmares are quite common and frequent in children, reports suggest that around 50% of adults experience nightmares due to unprocessed trauma, stress, or general anxiety in life. Infrequent nightmares are not that bad every once in a while, but recurrent nightmares are disruptive in a person’s life.
But does hypnotherapy really help to stop these nightmares?
Nightmares and Sleep Paralysis
Nightmares often introduce a barrage of negative thoughts and emotions in a person’s mind during their state of sleep. Most people who often experience nightmares showcase emotions of fear and horror in their unconscious minds.
Besides the emotional turmoil during a nightmare, several individuals also experience physical feelings of drowning and falling during that time.
Some people, when they wake up during their nightmare, experience a phenomenon known as sleep paralysis. It is an extremely serious condition that leaves the person feeling paralyzed at the moment, making them feel like they cannot move.
However, contrary to popular belief, sleep paralysis has a scientific explanation to it. When you are witnessing a nightmare during your sleep, especially during the deepest sleep at night (the REM cycle), waking up leaves the person disoriented, in shock, and temporarily immobile, leading to signs of sleep paralysis.
How does Hypnotherapy Help Overcome Nightmares?
Let us lead this with scientific research conducted by Mayo Clinic with 36 participants. Out of the 36 patients, around 22% could not be hypnotized, so they were taken out of the study.
Keeping these participants aside, over half of the hypnotized people throughout the study reported feeling a lot better and could overcome their nightmares quite effectively. The follow-up was taken five years after the initial completion of the study.
The majority of the participants reported the end of nightmares and said that they were able to overcome their sleep disturbances actively.
But the question is, “What did the researchers do to help the hypnotized participants?”
For the research participants at Mayo Clinic, the individuals got an easy script to follow. It was the recording of their hypnosis session with their therapist that they were advised to listen to every night before bed.
Generally, hypnotherapy involves SUGGESTION as a tool to help the patients/clients overcome the constant and recurring nightmares. However, using suggestion as a hypnotic tool is only effective when done by a certified and experienced hypnotherapist.
During the hypnotherapy session, the hypnotherapist uses suggestions to empower the patient to help them change the outcome of their nightmares. These suggestions generally involve advising the patient/client to be able to dream through the night without unnecessary nightmares.
The hypnotherapy script with the suggestions is then recorded into a tape by the professional, and the patient/client is advised to listen to it every night before bed. Listening to the suggestions on repeat enables the individual to attain a state of peace and relaxation that either changes the outcomes of the dream or prevents any nightmares from happening in the future.
Depending on the effectiveness of the hypnotic suggestion scripts and the recurrence of the nightmares, an individual might find help from the first session or might have to undergo several additional follow-ups to successfully overcome the complications.
Does Hypnotherapy Help with Trauma-induced Nightmares?
Trauma is defined as the “emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, death of a loved one, natural disaster, etc.”
But, what is the degree of effectiveness of hypnotherapy in healing trauma-induced nightmares?
Given that the research behind hypnosis for nightmares is quite less, it isn’t surprising that there aren’t any conclusive studies that correlate the effectiveness of hypnosis on nightmares that are caused by trauma.
A person who is dealing with a lot of repressed emotions or unresolved issues from trauma will need additional therapy before they can consider using hypnosis to deal with the nightmares.
Most patients/clients dealing with trauma are often diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, trauma-induced depression, etc. Such instances demand different types of assistive therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), etc. to be able to process the trauma first.
Once they deal with the trauma better, it becomes much more effective to use additional tools like a hypnotic script for nightmares to help them overcome the frequent nightmares that are plaguing their minds.
Hypnosis as a tool for eliminating nightmares is primarily effective in people who don’t struggle with the direct aftermaths of trauma.
How Hypnotherapy Helps Overcome Nightmares?
Nightmares often involve behaviour patterns that bring on a sequence of negative emotions and feelings. Without any interventions, these patterns turn into an automatic and unconscious pattern of behaviour.
Hypnotherapy, in collaboration with NLP techniques, identifies these patterns and breaks them. Once the pattern is broken or altered with hypnotherapy suggestions on repeat, it helps in eradicating the emotions and feelings that generally invoke a nightmare.
Hypnotherapy reconditions the mind and helps in overcoming the persistent onslaught of nightmares that affect the quality of sleep. Switching the nightmare with pleasant memories helps an individual wake up refreshed and without anxiety the next morning.
Hypnotherapy, in collaboration with NLP techniques, also helps a person make conscious changes to their nightmare pattern by reconditioning the pattern at an unconscious level.
As effective as hypnotherapy is in helping overcome nightmares, the procedure should only be done under the guidance and support of a professional hypnotherapist. Only a professional can identify the complications and offer a correct suggestion script that enables the patient/client to overcome their repressed emotions and work through their nightmares.
Dr. Paras is a professional and highly experienced hypnotherapist and ICF-certified life-leadership coach. His expertise has helped hundreds and thousands of clients retrace their life paths and find their true calling.