Hypnosis for Insomnia in Children

Researchers from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University looked at whether hypnosis was an effective means to treat insomnia in children. The following reviews this study. The researchers set out to document any medical conditions and or psychosocial stressors that were associated with insomnia as well as to report the effectiveness of hypnosis in treatment of the condition. Insomnia being defined by an inability to fall asleep, nighttime awakenings, lack of quality and or duration of sleep (Silber, 2005). It is suggested that the condition in children is not primary but secondary to medical or psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, pain, cystic fibrosis or asthma (Stores, 1996). 

It has been found that insomnia affects a large proportion of school aged adolescents and children. In a study that was conducted in 1997, 987 students of New York elementary students were studied, of which 11% found it difficult to go to sleep, 7% woke up often for extended periods of time during the evening, more than 17% found it difficult to wake in the mornings and 17% reported being tired during the day (Blader et. al, 1997).

84% of the children and adolescents that were studied had either central or obstructive sleep apnea. All patients were given the opportunity to accept self hypnosis instruction, and did so for the treatment of their condition. After the first session of hypnosis 75 patients returned for the secondary session of hypnotherapy. The mean age of the group was 12 years with a range of 7 to 17. When it was found that the first session was not significantly effective, the second session was offered to provide more insight into the cause of their respective conditions.

The younger children of the study were more likely to report that their reported insomnia was related to fears and related fear related anxieties. For 68% of the patients, two or less hypnosis sessions were provided. More than 90% of the 70 patients, who initially reported a delay in sleep onset of more than 30 minutes, reported a reduction in sleep onset time following the hypnotherapy sessions. Furthermore of the 21 patients that initially reported nighttime awakenings, post study follow ups found that more than 52% reported resolution to the issue and 38% found improvement. The patients of the study that reported somatic complaints including chest pain, dyspnea, functional abdominal pain, headaches, habit cough and dysfunction of the vocal cord, 87% of which reported resolution or improvement. The use of hypnosis to treat the condition of insomnia in children has been shown to be effective in this study.


Anbar R & Slothower M: Hypnosis for treatment of insomnia in school-age children: a retrospective chart review BMC Pediatrics 2006, 6:23

Silber MH: Chronic insomnia. N Engl J Med 2005, 53:803-810.

Knutson K: The association between pubertal status and sleep duration and quality among a nationally representative sample of US adolescents. Am J Hum Biol 2005, 17:418-424.

Blader JC, Koplewicz HS, Abikoff H, Foley C: Sleep problems of elementary school children. A community survey. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 1997, 151:473-480.

Stores G: Practitioner review: assessment and treatment of sleep disorders in children and adolescents. J Child Psychol Psychiatry1996, 37:907-925.


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