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How can I Use Hypnosis to Stop Nightmares?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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If you search for hypnosis and nightmares on the Internet, you’re likely to come up with literally hundreds of advertisements claiming that listening to certain tapes that help you learn to hypnotize yourself will end nightmares. These claims have not been proven, though there are studies suggesting that using hypnosis to stop nightmares may be effective, especially when the person can be hypnotized, which is not always the case, and initial hypnotherapy sessions begin with a licensed hypnotherapist or therapist skilled in hypnotherapy.

There is some evidence that using hypnosis to stop nightmares is probably ineffective when a person is dealing with unresolved issues surrounding a traumatic event. For example, a rape victim may not be able to use hypnosis to stop nightmares if he or she is suffering from post-traumatic stress. Other therapies, including EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and cognitive behavioral therapy may help a person better deal with the trauma ending nightmares.

Yet sometimes people who have not directly or indirectly experienced a trauma, including kids, suffer from nightmares that plague their nightly sleep. In these cases, using hypnosis to stop nightmares can be applicable. Again, this should probably begin with a good therapist skilled in this method rather than by ordering a tape or script.

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What occurs when one is using hypnosis to stop nightmares is that a person is hypnotized and given suggestions first on being able to empower themselves during nightmares to change their outcomes, and also hypnotic suggestions regarding being able to dream without nightmares. Patients then usually use a script at home, which they listen to at night prior to sleeping. These help the person get into a relaxed state and repeat suggestions regarding avoiding nightmares and changing outcomes of dreams.

Depending upon the severity of nightmares and their continuation, patients may have several additional sessions with a hypnotherapist, or they may merely have follow-ups. According to one of the definitive studies on using hypnosis to stop nightmares done by the Mayo Clinic, a group of 36 patients were studied. About 22% could not be hypnotized, but when these people were not included in results studies, over half the people hypnotized reported an end of nightmares and other sleep disturbances five years after the initial hypnosis session.

Specifically, those patients suffering from nightmares, (10 in the group of 36), stated improvement. At the five-year rate, 67% had significant improvement. 33% stated little to no improvement. Patients had an easy script to follow. They recorded their hypnosis session with the therapist and then listened to it again prior to going to bed each night. The Mayo Clinic study did not list how often patients actually listened to the recording or for how long. It’s hard to say whether the patients who reported little satisfaction complied at home with listening to the script.

Essentially, there was improvement for a number of patients, making the idea of using hypnosis to stop nightmares a viable one. Most therapists who perform this service for clients use an approach similar to the Mayo clinic, and recordings purported to end nightmares change this approach by eliminating an initial visit to a therapist. It might make good sense to see a therapist first, since one will be able to perform a few tests to see the degree to which you are willing or able to be hypnotized. Since this can differ from person to person, buying a tape without therapy support may not be the best first choice.

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