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Hypnosis is a complementary or alternative therapy involving deep relaxation and focused attention. During hypnosis, people are awake, but they are less aware of their surroundings and may be less responsive to stimuli, including sensations of pain. Some studies show that hypnosis can effectively manage chronic pain, reduce anxiety, and decrease worry, particularly when combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness. Some research suggests that hypnotherapy can help treat parasomnias, or unwanted actions during sleep, such as sleepwalking. It’s reasonable to assume, then, that hypnosis might offer relief to patients suffering from chronic insomnia.
The medical efficacy of mind-body therapies is an emerging area of science, so information on the medical benefits of hypnosis is limited. Studies on the effectiveness of hypnosis for insomnia show mixed results; one overview of published research on the topic showed a benefit to sleep in 58 percent of studies. Many studies on the topic have small sample sizes or inconclusive results, so experts recommend more research to determine whether hypnosis can be as effective or more effective than medication or CBT for treating sleep disorders.
Despite limited clinical evidence, many people report that hypnosis promotes a sense of calm, helps ease anxiety and worry, and aids sleep. Unlike sleep medications, hypnosis has no side effects, so it holds promise as an insomnia treatment for people who can’t or don’t want to take sleeping pills.
Currently, no sleeping pills are FDA approved for children. That means children with insomnia must use other methods for treatment. While CBT and sleep hygiene changes can help children with sleep problems, hypnosis may be an effective treatment tool to combine with other therapies. In fact, some believe that children enter hypnosis more readily than those past adolescence, making hypnosis more effective in children than adults. One recent study found that hypnosis effectively treated a wide variety of physical complaints in adolescents, from headaches to sleep disorders.
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