Yep. We hear it all the time…
Over the years, dozens of skilled hypnotists and hypnotherapists have reported that they frequently had to awaken their subjects, but from actual sleep, not hypnosis.
In this article, we’ll discuss sleepy clients, and what hypnotists can do about it.
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First of all, we fully realize that a hypnotic subject is not asleep, in any real sense of the word. The subject is actually mentally active while in trance.
We only use the word sleep when discussing hypnosis, because that’s been the public perception for a few centuries. In fact, a subject in a deep trance will look very much like someone who’s sleeping, so it’s not surprising that the general public thinks that’s what’s happening. That's why it's essential to be prepared to handle the situation if they suddenly wake up from hypnotic trance.
But actually falling asleep?
That’s a totally different thing, and it really shouldn’t occur in a typical hypnosis session.
In Hypnotic Trance or Sleeping?
The hypnotherapists who reported that their clients fell asleep during sessions, typically said the same thing: It happened all the time. They may do stellar hypnotic work, but for some reason, some of their subjects fell asleep, and sometimes even started snoring! They’d awaken all groggy and no-doubt, wish they were home in bed.
As already stated, deep hypnosis can look like sleep. That’s why it’s important for a good hypnotist to constantly calibrate their subject’s external behaviours; watching for changes. That way, if a subject falls asleep, the hypnotist won’t assume it’s just a really powerful trance.
Two Groups of Hypnotists
Interestingly, there are only two groups of hypnotists in the world.
Those whose subjects often fall asleep ... and those whose subjects don’t.
And we’re not attempting to be humorous by saying that.
That’s because while it’s true that some hypnotists have a lot of napping clients, there are lots of others who never have it happen at all.
So let’s think this through…
If some hypnotists never have this happen ... and other hypnotists report that it happens fairly frequently, there’s clearly something at work here. Otherwise, the distribution of the phenomenon would be more random.
It’s our conjecture that the problem lies entirely with the hypnotist.
Now we’re not saying it’s the hypnotist’s fault.
What we are saying is that some hypnotists, with good intentions, create the perfect environment for the subject to fall asleep.
You’re Getting Sleepy...
Generally speaking, a hypnotist’s office should be welcoming and comfortable, and it should reflect the style of the hypnotist, whether academic, modern, or New Age. (A psychology professor in a college or university probably wouldn’t benefit from an office filled with crystals and unicorns.)
To create a pleasant atmosphere, the walls might be painted in calming tones, and soft, soothing music may be playing in the background, establishing a feeling of calmness.
The caring hypnotist often provides a comfortable reclining chair for the subject, and sometimes, even a blanket and pillow. Some hypnotist’s use couches that are very bed-like.
And when the induction commences, the soft music may continue to play as the hypnotist begins, what’s known as a PMR, or progressive muscle relaxation induction.
As the subject lies there, the soft, comforting voice of the hypnotist takes the subject through a usually long process, relaxing everything from the scalp to the soles of the subject’s feet.
As the subject relaxes more and more, the hypnotist will intersperse suggestions about breathing deeply, and feeling sleepy and tired, over and over and over...
And the hypnotist is surprised when the subject falls asleep!
I’d actually be more surprised if the subject remained awake.
Clearly, this sort of procedure lends itself to dozing off, largely because relaxation is viewed as crucial, at the expense of efficient work.
But there is a solution, and it’s actually easy to implement. In fact, students who apply this fix report that sleepy subjects have become a distant memory, rather than an ongoing concern.
First of all, get rid of the bed, and the pillows have to go too. So do the blankets, all of which send a message of sleep, not just relaxation.
We have found that contrary to common sense, a straight-backed chair works better than a bed, couch, or recliner. It should be sturdy, and have arms that the subject can rest his own arms on. Ideally, the subject will be upright, but able to slump a bit, without sliding out of the chair.
We’ve found that by using an upright, but comfortable chair we get deep and robust trances with no falling asleep.
The Hypnotic Induction
And then there’s the induction…
We’ve found it useful to create trance with no reference to sleep or even relaxation. It really is a myth that relaxation causes trance, and that deep relaxation is essential to get the subject into a deep trance.
We can create trance through all sorts of methods, and relaxation and sleep are seldom mentioned, except perhaps to deepen an existing trance.
Typically, we’ll induce trance by clearing some space with yes sets and compliance sets. Then we’ll go into our induction which may involve catalepsy or verbal patterns. Then as we deepen the trance, we’re always mindful of our subject, ensuring her position in the chair is stable and she’s safe.
Once the subject’s in a deep trance, we can always suggest relaxation, if we happen to need it for something like pain reduction.
To become more familiar with the principles we're describing, have a look at our Ultimate Guide to Hypnotic Inductions.
So by keeping your subject upright and using an induction that isn’t progressive relaxation, we think you’ll find that your subjects go into deep trances, respond well to suggestion, and don’t fall asleep on you.
But something needs to be said…
Everything we’ve just talked about is on a continuum.
It’s not a case of either this, or that.
We don’t want our clients to be in a harsh environment, sitting in a chair that's better suited to a prison. And there’s nothing wrong with using relaxation suggestions, speaking in a soothing voice, and playing New Age music.
The key is to not overdo it.
Let your subjects feel comfortable and safe, but don’t put them to sleep.
It’s all about finding balance.