When my anxiety and insomnia returned, my therapist suggested a new form of treatment. The results challenged my inner skeptic. I hadn’t slept more than two hours a night. It was the summer of 2016, and I had spent all night with my face in my palms, shaking in the bathroom of my Brooklyn third-floor walk-up.
The 3 a.m. stroll in my neighborhood that my boyfriend encouraged me to go on with him had the opposite effect of a Xanax, and the speed of my anxious thoughts was physically excruciating.
I was in the midst of a new trial of antidepressants — my Lexapro stopped working after seven years — and I had been engulfed in anxiety-induced insomnia since college, the kind where sleep doesn’t exist without the use of prescription sleep aids. I was so tired, but my anxiety made me fear rest.
I made a decision: I’d check myself into a psychiatric hospital. When my boyfriend woke up, I told him my plan, while attempting not to drown in my shame. “Babe, there’s nothing wrong with going to a doctor or a hospital,” he told me. “If you broke your arm, that’s where you’d go.”
Before I left for the hospital, I decided to call my therapist for her advice. She revealed she had an alternative treatment idea for me, cautioning me to “be open.” “You need to go to Joanne. She’s a miracle worker,” she told me. “What does she do? I don’t understand,” I said.“She’s a hypnotist,” she replied.
Before that summer, I had assumed hypnosis involved mind control, a pocket watch swinging in front of my face and me unknowingly word-vomiting my secrets. But after hitting rock bottom with my depression, anxiety, insomnia and obsessive-compulsive disorder after a layoff from my media job, I was willing to try anything.
At that point, life had become an amalgamation of “Groundhog Day” and “Russian Doll.” It was an understatement to say that the cocktail of mental health issues I suffered from was suffocating me. Some days, the extra energy I had made my job as a writer easy — people called it hustle, I called it keeping myself sane.
Other days, I could barely get out of my wrinkled T-shirt and queen-size bed. I had to silence my inner skeptic. I was a high-functioning zombie who had hit rock bottom, so what did I have to lose?
If hypnosis had the power to save me, I’d be a fool not to give it a try. What was slightly comforting to me was that research proved that hypnosis wasn’t just a woo-woo concept, and that it did, in fact, have effects.
A 2016 study conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine found changes in three areas of the brain when people are hypnotized and 2013 findings from the University of Quebec in Montreal revealed that “the short-term effects of hypnosis (one-two months) and relaxation training were comparable to the effects of short-term drug therapy, and that the long-term outcomes even surpassed the drug therapy in certain instances.”
Just a few weeks later, the already overbooked Joanne made time for me in her schedule. Two trains, a cab and three hours later I sat in a dimly lit corner office of a wellness center on Long Island.
Our session began like any talk therapy appointment as she listened to me relay an abridged version of my trauma, in between my dry-heaving — how it had been seven years since I had been in the throes of anxiety-induced insomnia, how my medication stopped working, how the weight of my body was crushing me and how losing my job and going freelance had imprisoned me on a hamster wheel of worry.
Near the end of our conversation, she asked me to lie back in a red leather recliner and “relax” — a word truly no person with anxiety fully comprehends. “Do you trust me?” she asked. “Yes, but I’m worried hypnosis won’t work on me or that this is some kind of fake energy thing.” “I get it,” she said. “But in a few sessions, you’ll believe in it.”
Soon enough, musical chimes rang in my ears as my eyes fluttered shut. For 20 minutes, my mind floated in darkness as Joanne read a nonsensical script full of “suggestions” — straightforward statements that create a hypnotic state — for my overworked thoughts.
As she recited a slew of jumbled words, it felt as if a magic wand was sprinkling tranquility around me like glitter. A tingling overcame my body as the chimes circled my brain like waves.
And with that, a small part of my unease was sucked out of my body. By the end, she counted to five and my eyes struggled to open from what felt like a deep meditation. My mind didn’t feel controlled but slightly calmer.
Joanne told me I’d notice the changes in two to three days; they would be small, but the anxiety and depression would begin gradually lifting, and sleeping wouldn’t be as much of a chore. I was to visit her two to three times a week and listen to a 30-minute hypnosis recording nightly before I went to bed.
Despite having done reiki and meditation, the stigma of hypnosis stuck with me at first. But I listened to Joanne and followed the simple instructions given to me.
The first night I listened to the recording, my body tightened at the mere sound of the woman’s voice. The words filling my ear felt like a 30-minute prison sentence: I forced myself to keep my eyes shut while trying to quiet the stifling anxiety in my body.
Weeks went by, and I didn’t feel anything, but Joanne encouraged me to keep with it. After two months of doing so, I felt something shift. As if a string of yarn was slowly spinning off a spool, I became slightly more at ease.
I was militant in my regimen — a combination of my O.C.D. and a willingness to do whatever it took to get better. I became a master at self-hypnosis, all the while traveling to Long Island more than I ever had before.
It became harder to pinpoint what had changed and when it had, but it had. Just six weeks in, I began sleeping through the night and found myself wanting to escape the walls of my apartment; nearly three months later, my constantly quivering foot stopped tapping.
I gained a newfound optimism that fed me as my body coped with the trauma it had been through. I believed in hypnosis like people believed in God.
For six months I stuck to that routine until one day I was back in my body again: no longer crying, no longer wearing the same distressed tee; I was sleeping without the aid of medication again.
What I learned was that people who are struggling with phobias, trauma and other mental health problems can see results with hypnosis if they’re open to it, as I had been.
But I would be lying if I said I don’t find myself spiraling from time to time. Hypnosis isn’t necessarily a “cure”; it’s a tool. Sometimes when I find myself stuck in a “cycle,” I take a breath and remember that I know what to do.
I play my recording, shut my eyes and find comfort in the monotonous audio that has saved me so many times before. Some people might unwind with meditation apps, but I have my own personalized one that will put me and my body to sleep.
By: Ilana Kaplan
A 28yo client, Jerry, had interesting results from his hypnosis experience. His primary complaint was nail biting which had been a problem for as long as he could remember. Jerry worked in a casino and had to present himself in a professional manner and his gruesome looking fingernails definitely did not add to his appearance.
He also wanted to be less ridged with his nutritional choices. This was becoming such a problem that it caused him embarrassment in social settings. There had been recent pressure to change as he was in a new relationship and it was getting serious. He didn’t know why he was like this and hoped hypnosis might help.
Lastly, Jerry had difficulty sleeping because of his erratic work schedule and was hoping the meditative qualities of hypnosis would help him get more quality sleep.
He came for 3 office visits and on the 3rd Jerry showed up with a day planner notebook in hand. It had been 2 weeks since his second session and he carefully documented what he had accomplished.
Before opening the book he showed me his fingernails. He was unaware that fully grown nails had a white band along the top edge. He was surprised and very proud that he too had white bands on his nails.
Referring to his planner, Jerry recounted all of the new entrees he tried and how he enjoyed most of them. He especially liked sea bass. His girlfriend was taking an active role in introducing Jerry to a wide variety of cuisine which made it easier for him to experiment.
Jerry also documented his new workout schedule and how this combined with hypnosis had significantly improved his sleep quality. Even though his schedule is still crazy he maximizes his sleep time and feels much more refreshed and energized.
Jerry was thrilled with his results. Like most, he had no experience with hypnotherapy but clearly excelled with each of his goals. He planned to continue listening to the MP3 recordings of his sessions for at least 3 months ensuring lasting success.
By: Paul Gustafson RN CH
There is clinical depression which requires medical intervention and often times long-term medication management. There are many people who wrestle with symptoms of depression which unfortunately are also routinely treated with medication.
I see individuals in my hypnosis practice who have been struggling for years or even decades with difficult situations, and overtime, they often experience chronic sadness, stress, insomnia, and depression-like symptoms. Unfortunately the treatment of choice for these individuals is the same for those with clinical depression.
The wonderful benefit of hypnosis is that we have access to a profoundly deep level of thought. In deep-trance hypnosis individuals are guided to cathartically release past struggles, and to begin imagining solutions, strategies, and the success that they want to experience.
This forward thinking imagery is called future-pace technique and this is why it is so effective. The subconscious does not know the difference between what is real or imagined. So during hypnosis, the client is guided to envision how all their ultimate success will look and feel.
Clients receive a recording of the session for home reinforcement. With the repetition, listening to sessions every day, the subconscious begins to establish inner changes supporting what it perceives as a new reality.
Whenever personal struggle the individual has endured that led to the chronic sadness is re-framed in a new light. It’s amazing how quickly the one’s perspective can change as a result of such a deep mindful moment. Problems once thought to be insurmountable are quickly seen more as temporary and manageable.
Regardless of the problems a client may carry into my office on their first visit, most feel surprisingly disconnected and free of the problem at the conclusion of the session. Without repetition, that feeling of freedom is momentary. By repeating the process daily for a couple of months the space between the new you and the old you continues to grow.
By: Paul Gustafson RN CH
Every lifestyle choice has the potential to affect your cognitive abilities and health. In recent years, various researchers have found that a habit that most of us take for granted — sleep — may affect our memory in noticeable ways.
Does sleep help long term memories stick?
In a study published in the June 2011 issue of Science, University of Washington researchers studied the role of sleep in forming long-term memories by using a special breed of fruit flies that could be induced to sleep on demand. First, the male flies studied in this paper were “trained” by being exposed to other, genetically engineered males who released female pheromones.
After several courtships and rejections during this training period, some of these flies were then forced to sleep for 4 hours. These sleepers made no further attempts to court the engineered males when exposed to them again — suggesting that sleep had helped form a long-term memory of the earlier deception.
But flies who didn’t sleep were tricked once more by the same genetically engineered males. The researchers in this study concluded that training alone was not enough to trigger memory consolidation — sleep was a necessary component. While this study’s results don’t necessarily carry over to humans, they help cast the role of sleep in a new light.
How lack of sleep could hurt you
Not only may sleep help your memory, but lack of sleep may also hurt your health. A 2010 study from Biological Psychiatry found that chronic insomnia may lead to loss of brain volume. Researchers used fMRI scans to examine the brains of 37 human subjects with and without chronic insomnia. Insomniacs had a smaller volumes of gray matter in three brain areas — and the more serious the insomnia, the greater the loss of volume.
And in 2012, a preliminary study from the Washington University School of Medicine found that in mice, poor sleep may be related to brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s.
The future of sleep studies
The third of our life that we spend sleeping has always been something of a mystery. Now a new wave of studies are finding indications that while we may appear to be in a stupor, our brains are actually hard at work. It may take many more years or decades before we reach definite conclusions about all the many roles that sleep plays, but most scientists agree that getting a decent night’s rest is a good idea.
Posted on Lumonisity
Chronic lack of sleep poses a lot of known debilitating effects such as fatigue, lack of clear judgment and decision making, inability to focus, slowed response, mood changes, irritability and reduced energy levels. Little did people know that with sleep imbalance, a lot more disruptions in body processes happen inside the body.
Latest researches look into other serious effects of lack of sleep. The UCLA research team released a report which says that losing sleep even for a night may cause abnormalities in cellular pathways which induces tissue damaging inflammation reactions. On the other hand, a good sleep can decrease the risk of heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Inside our body, there is this substance which main task is to signal inflammatory processes – the nuclear factor (NF)-κB. It was observed that after subjects were deprived of sleep for just one night, the day after, activation of (NF)-κB signaling was significantly greater as compared to the baseline measurements. Interestingly, this increase was only seen among female subjects.
This finding, according to the team may strengthen the link between sleep disturbance and the wide array of medical conditions such cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, certain cancers, and obesity. Dr. John H. Krystal says, “the closer that we look at sleep, the more that we learn about the benefits of sleeping.”
Accordingly, another research by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston looked into the relationship of sleep imbalance and cardiovascular risks. Dr. Najib Ayas says, “sleep is probably one of the pillars to a healthy lifestyle. Too little sleep puts stress on the body.” This was after they found out that women who have been sleeping less and more than the usual sleeping hours had increased risk of developing heart disease.
Undeniably, the length of sleep really does matter. There is 45% risk of having heart problems among women sleeping 5 hours of less. Those who slept six hours only had 18% increased risk while those who slept for seven hours only had 9% risk.
If less is bad, then adding more to these hours might make it good. However, people should not add too much to their sleeping hours. This can be supported by the finding that women who slept nine hours have 38% increased risk for developing heart problems as compared to women who slept for 8 hours.
The possible rationale behind these data is the increase in cortisol, a hormone which is secreted during any stressful situation (physical, emotional, physiological, etc.) This has long been associated with the increase in blood pressure. On the other hand, increased risk among those with longer hours of sleep is probably associated with depression, sleep apnea and chronic pulmonary disease.
These figures have become more relevant as results of the Sleep in America poll by the National Sleep Foundation show an increasing incidence of people who have less sleep. The trend shows that fewer adults are getting 8 hours of sleep. Average sleep of women is 7 hours as compared to men with 6.7 hours per night.
Women are said to be more likely to report symptoms of insomnia (63% as compared to men with 54%.) More women also report frequent daytime sleepiness (20% vs. 13% for men.) Furthermore, more than one quarter of women even said that they need to get more sleep so that they can be totally alert the following day.
All these data then encourage patients to discuss with their doctors their sleep hygiene: quantity and quality of sleep, daytime sleepiness, snoring, pauses in breathing, leg movements or other disruptions during the night – all of which can affect their current and future overall state of health.
By: Gerrard Mackenzie