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Hypnotherapy is helping to beat my chronic insomnia - The #1 Luxury Dating Site

My inability to sleep was exhausting and depressing. 

It’s been a problem for years — mainly because, as a journalist for more than 40 years, I map out articles in my mind. I also worry about my family. There is always something to fret about.

But once I was in my 60s it seemed to get worse. And the more I thought about it, the more restless I became.

Most nights I would get out of bed and roam the house for a couple of hours like a dotty Lady Macbeth, calling for sleep.

Sleepless no more? Journalist Bel Mooney has suffered with debilitating insomnia for years

Then, because that became chilly in winter, it became a habit to snap on my light (and the electric blanket) and read for an hour or so — relieved to be married to a man who can sleep through anything.

I would feel my eyes close, then as soon as I lay down, they’d snap open like one of those scary dolls in a nightmare. If dropping off was hard, even worse was getting back to sleep after waking to go to the loo at 3.30am.

Oh insomnia . . . the plague of many people my age, driving you madder and madder the more tricks you try to make you doze off.

Apparently the biggest users of sleeping pills are older people, although on average we gain only an average of 11 more minutes’ sleep with pills, according to a major U.S. study in 2007.

Many years ago, at a time of bereavement, I was prescribed Mogadon tablets (a type of benzodiazepine, which reduces anxiety and helps sleep) but they turned me into a zombie. Since then, I’ve felt a deep-seated reluctance to medicalise insomnia. I like to be in charge of my body, mind and spirit — even if all three are hyperactive most of the time.

But I kept reading about the importance of deep and refreshing sleep — and the dire consequences of having too little.

Would I suffer depression or mental impairment? Even if not, I hated the bags under my eyes. And when you’re clocking up only about five hours at best you do start to feel run down.

Did you know? 79 per cent of those with insomnia reported having it for at least two years

Did you know? 79 per cent of those with insomnia reported having it for at least two years

‘What are you worrying about’ asked my husband, one day when I was moaning about being awake between 2am and 5am. ‘Everything’ I said. No wonder he looked helpless.

The trouble is, most advice I read about how to achieve better sleep is thoroughly irritating — and doesn’t apply to me.

I never nap in the daytime (unless on holiday in the sun, a rarity with us) nor do I have any sort of screen in my bedroom.

As for the advice that the bedroom is only for ‘sleep or sex’, what sort of people do these experts know? By my bedside is a pile of books, and to me (like many others) it’s impossible to think of getting into bed without reaching for the book — sometimes two — I have on the go.

I wish the experts would understand how real people live their lives because the emphasis on ‘sleep or sex’ is calculated to make you more anxious than ever — that you aren’t getting either!

And they also tell you to avoid alcohol, but a large glass of red wine can be divinely soporific.

 I popped the pills every night, liked them, and went to sleep quickly. But I still woke up in the middle of the night.

To help solve my problem, I sent out a plea for help to Facebook friends — and the suggestions poured in. Lots told me not to gaze at the TV or a computer (I don’t) and others advised taking Nytol or other over-the-counter herbal remedies.

I’ve tried those, with occasional success, and while I like chamomile tea it makes no inroads on my sleeplessness. I tried a pillow spray by the brand This Works (containing essential oils), which didn’t work but smelt delicious.

Then a friend sent me a mouth spray (six squirts under the tongue) by an U.S. company called Arbonne. She told me it contained melatonin. Meanwhile, another friend posted me some melatonin tablets she bought at a pharmacy in New York. I tried them and — bingo! — they sent me off to sleep more quickly. Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland — a pea-sized gland found just above the middle of your brain. It helps your body know when it’s time to sleep and wake up.

Normally, your body makes more melatonin at night. Levels usually start to go up in the evening once the sun sets. They drop in the morning when the sun goes up.

The amount of light you get each day — plus your own body clock — sets how much your body makes. But while you can buy synthetic melatonin pills in the U.S., you can’t get them here without a prescription.

Taking its toll: Nearly 95% of people with insomnia reported low energy levels in their daily lives, compared with over 40% of good sleepers

Taking its toll: Nearly 95% of people with insomnia reported low energy levels in their daily lives, compared with over 40% of good sleepers

Instead of bothering my GP (and costing the NHS money) I ordered some melatonin online (in delicious gummy sweet form) from an online company called Biovea, which a friend recommended.

Another chum had warned me about side-effects, such as headaches, feelings of gloom, daytime sleepiness, dizziness, stomach cramps, and irritability — but I suffered no ill-effects at all.

I popped the pills every night, liked them, and went to sleep quickly. But I still woke up in the middle of the night.

Then came a piece of advice that intrigued me. I was at our local history group when a neighbour happened to mention that she had seen a hypnotherapist for sleeplessness.

This lady is absolutely no-nonsense, a retired teacher who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She told me that a couple of sessions with Andrew Vincent (who works in Bath and Bristol) had been very helpful. ‘Why not try because it worked for me?’ she said.

It’s important to understand that hypnotherapy has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘hypnotism’ stage shows, which seems aimed at making people look stupid.

Therapeutic hypnosis aims to induce a trance-like state in which you are conscious but very relaxed, and can hear (even if you drift away) the voice of the therapist taking you on an imaginary, meditative journey that will, in time, allay your worries and deal with phobias or panic attacks, for instance. It is not available on the NHS for insomnia.

I decided to try this simply because I’m a journalist. And if it turned out that hypnotherapy relaxed me — even without curing the insomnia, that would be a result. Gentle and reassuring, Andrew Vincent has the kind of sympathetic presence that invites confidence.

Having told him all my troubles (private worries about my family poured out, along with, much to my surprise, some painful stuff from my childhood) during that first session, I confess I was dubious he would be able to quieten my worried mind.

Pillow talk: Over 75% of people with insomnia experienced poor concentration

Pillow talk: Over 75% of people with insomnia experienced poor concentration

But at the second session, as I lay on the couch and listened to his low voice I found myself relaxing. First he told me to focus on one point, then breathe deeply, then imagine my limbs relaxing one by one . . . Then he read from a ‘script’ he had prepared. I tried to ‘see’ the garden and ‘hear’ the music of the water he described and allow myself to drift into a feeling of well-being. At the end, he did a count-down to wake me up. But I was never asleep — just quiet, peaceful, contented. And yes, I slept well that night.

We had two more sessions (each one with a slightly different ‘story’). What worked best for me were two suggestions he dropped into my subconscious mind once I’d reached a relaxed state. The first was that I had to give up feeling that I had to control things. I had to let things go.

You might think that is a pretty obvious piece of advice — but believe me, this lady (the Mail’s advice columnist, after all) needed to be told.

The second was that it didn’t matter too much if I didn’t sleep. He’d advised me to try to recall his voice and to follow the visualisation whenever I found myself tossing and turning — but if they didn’t send me off to sleep at least they would relax me. And that is the key.

Since our last session a few weeks ago my sleep patterns have improved, although not that much. Last night was bad. The night before fine.

The important point is, I’ve stopped worrying about it. If my imaginary exercises from Andrew don’t work I just think: ‘Hey ho’ — and reach for a book.

It mustn’t be anything too exciting — non-fiction is better than a novel, I’ve found.

Some nights I sleep soundly. Others I take a melatonin ‘gummy’ — and that works. Some nights I recite the Lord’s Prayer in my head and then a couple of poems I know by heart.

Other nights I find Andrew’s garden imagery delivered in that quiet voice sends me back into a trance. And you know, I’m not tired and it’s all just fine.

My three sessions with Andrew Vincent cost £150, the first session being free. If you think hypnotherapy might work for you, and understand that you will have to pay, then seek more information at, for therapists in your area.



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