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Peaceful Slumbers - On Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
A couple of weeks ago I came across a new book on sleep and its importance to both short and long-term health.
I was telling my friend Sally (name changed to protect privacy) about it. Now she is someone who has spent much of her life getting by on about 6 hours a night, believing that sleep is a bit of a waste of time, but by the time I’d finished she was looking really worried.
Next time I spoke to her she said that she had now started a proper routine and was going to bed between 10 and half past, and that while she couldn’t quite bring herself to abandon her phone by the bed she had at least found an app that cut down the blue light and was more restful on the eyes.
But when I bumped into her a couple of weeks later she didn’t look that great. She seemed so weary and there were dark circles around her eyes. I asked how she was and she told me that ever since she had tried to sleep more she had in fact been getting worse and worse sleep and now was desperately tired.
I asked her what she had been thinking about at bedtime and she said that her only thought was that she must improve her sleep or else her health would be at risk. Her biggest fear was what sleep deprivation might be doing to her brain and her long term mental health.
Over a cup of tea she asked me what she should do (I always try to avoid giving advice unless it is specifically requested). I thought for a moment then said-
“Sally, you’re trying to improve your sleep aren’t you?”
“Ye-es,” she said.
“But you’re doing it from a place of worry and fear, so instead of relaxing more deeply and for longer, you’re raising your stress levels, making it more difficult to achieve the level of sleep you were getting before, let alone what you want now.
“So Sally, what do you associate with a really good night’s sleep?”
“Erm, warm and cosy, deeply relaxed, a satisfying…well almost luxurious feeling.”
“When you think of that description, can you get any of the feeling that goes with the words?”
“Yes…right in the pit of my stomach.”
“Well that’s what you should focus on when you turn out the light. Only the positive, and especially that good feeling. Let all the negative stuff go – it won’t help.”
A couple of days later Sally rang me.
“It worked!” she said, “I’ve had the best night’s sleep for ages.”
Moral of the story – if you want to change something don’t focus on what will happen if you don’t get it but how good it will be when you do.