24 Healing Options for any Illness

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery, also known as guided visualization, is a mind-body technique that helps soothe the mind and promote sleep. Busy or anxious thoughts can be key contributors to insomnia, and the idea behind guided imagery is to counteract such worries and distractions by focusing on a single soothing scene or image. The process can be done all by oneself, but those new to the technique may find it beneficial to have someone else walk them through the visualization process.

The technique is wonderfully simple: just get into a comfortable position in bed, relax, and think of a place, memory, etc. that you find soothing. Visualize the details of the image slowly and carefully. The visual you choose may be a serene spot that you visited on vacation, or it could be something repetitive like counting imaginary sheep. What works best will vary from person to person. Try out a few different things and see what works best for you. The important thing is that you find an image that you can focus all of your attention on. If you do find your mind drifting to other thoughts, acknowledge them but then let them go and shift your attention back to the visual.

The more you practice guided imagery, the better you will get at moving attention away from anxious, distracting thoughts. For those who want someone to walk them through a visualization, there are a number of free recordings available online.

Scientific Studies:

A paper published in 2000 compared outcomes from treatments that combined the sleep medication estazolam with one of three non-pharmacological treatments: muscle relaxation, guided imagery, or sleep education. Participants were given four weeks of active treatment, after which they stopped taking the medication. The researchers found significant improvements in self-reported measures of sleep time, sleep efficiency, and wakefulness in the guided imagery and muscle relaxation groups, while the group that received sleep education only showed improvement in time spent asleep. At a six-month follow-up, all three groups showed significant improvement in all measures, as well as improvements in mood and daytime alertness.

In a 2002 study from the University of Oxford, insomnia patients were given image-related training to reduce unwanted cognitive activity and help them fall asleep faster. 41 people participated. Some were given no instructions, some were told to distract themselves with imagery, and some were told to distract themselves but not given any further details. Notable improvements were reported for those who distracted themselves with imagery. This option was thought to be the best because the specificity of the task made it easier for the patients to focus their attention.

The following year, another Oxford study investigated the number and types of images that insomniacs and good sleepers visualized before sleep. People with insomnia were found to visualize fewer images overall but to have higher numbers of unpleasant images and images relating to sleep, with the number of unpleasant images being directly correlated to the time it took them to fall asleep. These results suggest that adding additional images - especially pleasant, soothing images - could help normalize sleep patterns.

Want personalized help?

We're here for you! Give us a call at 617-395-8864 and connect with our team of expert data scientists.

Be sure to check out the many other services we offer as well, including comprehensive wellness testing, 24/7 doctor consultations, valuable discounts, and much more. Free trials are available.