Hypnotherapy can be used to help you sleep better.

As I drive to my appointment with hypnotherapist Dave Gilbert, I pass a huge billboard announcing a hypnotist show: "Comedy at its best!", it shouts at me.

I ask Dave about the distinction between what he does and this type of hypnosis when I arrive at his tastefully appointed Mt Eden bungalow for a 50-minute session.

"There have actually been some stage-show hypnotists who have gone on to be very influential and well-regarded hypnotherapists," he explains. "Hypnotism as entertainment shows just how powerful hypnosis is, but hypnotherapy uses this power for therapeutic purposes."

Today, there is no pocket watch and I'm pretty sure I didn't walk around pretending to be a chicken while I was under his power. I am, though, put into a deep meditative state in an effort to bring about changes in my subconscious mind - which works at a deeper level than the conscious mind, so is more effective in therapy.

Advertisement

I'm here because, like many other parents looking after young children during the day and working late nights, I find it hard to switch off and go to sleep. Although exhausted, my mind is still running through the day's events or what I need to remember to pack in my son's school bag in the morning.

"It's a common problem," reassures Dave, who has treated many people with sleep issues like mine; people who don't have time to wind down before bed, but who need some help with the transition.

Dave started practising part-time in 1988 while he was a consultant on environmental law and policy, moving to fulltime in 1996. He has seen people from all walks of life with any number of problems, even one who was suffering from anxiety caused by living through the Christchurch earthquake.

"People are beginning to realise how powerful the mind is and there are more and more referrals from mainstream doctors," says Dave, who is eloquent, thoughtful and wise: everything you would hope for in a therapist.

Before the hypnosis, I'm taken through a number of sleep solutions, with the suggestion I pick the ones I like and keep trying different options until one has the desired effect. It's all so annoyingly common sense really, as most good remedies are, and there are obvious ones, such as: writing your To Do list for the next day no later than 6pm, and building up a selection of nice daydreams ("natural hypnosis") to think about in bed - things like being beside a fireplace in a bach by the beach, running through a forest, or anything that provides you with some inner peace, essential for a good night's rest.

My favourite is going outside and looking at the stars for a few minutes after my work is finished and before heading to bed - it seems an inspiring way to end the day and sure to put any worries into perspective until the morning.

After our discussion, Dave moves into the hypnosis part of the session easily: one minute you're doing a relaxation exercise; the next minute you have the sensation of being alert, but unwilling to move, and your eyelids go very dark.

He takes me through a self-hypnosis session, recording it for me to play back whenever I want to relax into a sleep-state, ie, "not while driving" as the CD states on its cover.

Advertisement

This is where more than one problem can be addressed, as he's talking directly to the subconscious mind. If you can't sleep, and would also like more resolve on other issues in your life, it's here that positive messages can be planted.

"Some people live in the past and in the future, and visit the now.

"But to be in a relaxed state it's essential to live in the now, and just visit the past and future from time to time, that's something many of us struggle with," says Dave, sagely, and he can help remind you of this on the recording.

As he brings me out of the hypnosis, it feels similar to the end of meditation in a yoga session and never feels forced.

Throughout, there's never a feeling of vulnerability, as Dave says, "anyone can come out of hypnosis whenever they choose".

I'm given a CD of the hypnosis part of the session and listen to it before bed. For the first few days, I feel a bit agitated, but that's normal when your subconscious is coming to terms with changes. After that, I experience a deeper level of sleep and more energy during the day.

Do I go to sleep quicker? I've noticed a definite improvement and most nights I'm now asleep before the end of the 15-minute CD and, according to my husband, there's not so much "wriggling".

Insomnia remedies
* Deep breathing and relaxation techniques

* Do a few yoga positions or stretches before bed

* Don't drink tea after 4pm

* Regular exercise during the day

* Don't eat and drink too late

* Be comfortable with fresh air in the room

* Listen to relaxing music.

* Dave Gilbert practices out of the Bellevue Health Centre, 48 Bellevue Rd, Mt Eden. He offers a free initial 20-minute consultation and charges $170 per 50-minute session thereafter. More information on hypnotherapy can be found here or phone (09) 360 1111.