• Lisa S. Larsen, PsyD

How Sleep Hypnosis Can Help With Weight Loss

Updated: Jan 10


Overweight white man on bicycle
Sleep hypnosis is part of an overall wellness strategy to losing weight

Even if you do not identify as obese, you may struggle with extra weight. According to the Dr. Kathryn Kolasa, people are considered overweight if they have a body mass index, or BMI of 25 to 29.9. This puts them at increased risk for illness. If their waist measurement is above normal, there is a high risk for diseases. As the BMI increases, so does risk for diseases and the need for more severe methods of weight loss.


Unfortunately, there are also a lot of medications that promote weight gain. Lithium, antipsychotics, tricyclic antidepressants, antidiabetic medications, corticosteroids, and some antihypertensive medications like beta blockers and calcium channel blockers all can lead to weight gain. This can be frustrating for people on those medications. Unfortunately, the weight gain can lead to noncompliance with those medication regimens.


Lifestyle Changes for Weight Loss

Luckily, there are things that you can do to address your excess weight. Physicians often recommend a team approach that includes medical treatment, dietitians, exercise coaches, and counseling. The counseling that is most often recommended is behavioral therapy, and hypnosis can be a useful adjunct to help you lose weight.


Let me be clear. Hypnosis on its own, without efforts to change your eating and movement, is not likely to be as effective as you might hope. You still need to do the basic things like exercise regularly, modify your food choices, and track what you eat in a food diary. However, hypnosis can help you with compliance with these important steps, as well as increasing your motivation and improving your overall self-care.


Getting too much or too little sleep is correlated with a 3-to-5-pound weight gain, compared to those who regularly get eight hours of sleep. This might be because of the disruption of hormones that affect appetite with the irregular sleep.


For adolescents with diabetes, poor sleep can worsen their health condition as well. Hypnotic relaxation, in addition to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for weight loss, can help improve treatment outcomes for teens with diabetes mellitis. Hypnosis can help facilitate sleep and compliance with weight loss strategies in adolescents as well as with adults.


In addition, hypnosis can help people learn to fall asleep and stay asleep for longer periods of time.


Direct and Indirect Suggestions

Man on couch receiving analysis
We are used to direct suggestions from a therapist, but indirect suggestion can be just as powerful

In one case study, a man in his 50s presented snoring without having sleep apnea. His excess weight contributed to his problem. It caused marital strife and he had to sleep in a separate room from his wife.


He went to a hypnotherapist who may direct suggestions, such as turning on his side when he slept, as well as helping him to sleep better by picturing a calm, safe place. Over the course of about six sessions, he noticed that the sleep hypnosis was improving his snoring considerably.


After about eight sessions, he also started losing weight and was able to sleep with his wife again. They were both very happy that his weight loss and participation in hypnosis for sleep led to other desired effects as well.


A combination of direct and indirect suggestions seemed to help this man reach his goal, and it also helped him recognize the need for other changes that would contribute to his success. While he did not specifically ask for weight loss hypnosis, it became a main part of his snoring cessation.


Co-creating the Hypnotic Treatment for Sleep

Throughout their work together, the hypnotist and the client collaborated to make the sleep hypnosis sessions increasingly effective by adjusting it according to the client's current needs. Using a light touch, the hypnotherapist did not have to mention weight loss numerous times. He trusted that the man would find ways in his subconscious mind to achieve that goal. He used the motivation of wanting to rejoin his wife in the marital bed to help him solidify his resolve to lose weight.


Boosting the Effectiveness of Weight Loss Therapy

Another study by Bollcofsky, Spinler and Coulthard-Morris (1985) found that hypnosis led to significant weight loss during the treatment and prolonged maintenance of the weight loss over the course of two years. Combining losses with behavioral changes resulted in significant weight loss, and suggested that hypnosis should be part of a total treatment regimen.


Why is this the case? These authors suggest that hypnosis facilitates more adaptive behaviors. Additionally, hypnosis helped people find continued motivation and commitment to weight loss and maintenance of their goal weight.


Woman drinking alcohol who needs sleep hypnosis, by Zachary Kandolph
Sometimes people use alcohol when they're upset or cannot sleep.

“But I need to drink alcohol to sleep….”

Of course, it helps if the person is willing to give up drinking alcohol while they’re trying to lose weight. After all, alcohol interferes with both sleep and weight loss. People often think that they need alcohol to go this, but paradoxically it is harder to stay asleep if a person drinks alcohol close to bedtime.


What I have observed is that people have all kinds of conscious objections to losing weight, even though they claim to want to lose the weight. They may also have repeated relapses in their attempts to keep weight off, and so they tell themselves stories of failure. Hypnosis can bypass these blockages to success. It can also address anxiety and depression, which often go hand-in-hand with compulsive overeating.


While sleep hypnosis may not be the most effective standalone treatment for weight loss, it can certainly boost the effectiveness of people’s attempts to lose weight. By increasing motivation, improving sleep, and providing a tailored approach to speaking to the unconscious mind, there are many ways that hypnosis can help you lose weight


If you are interested in participating in sleep hypnosis for your overall wellness, and want to increase your motivation for a healthy, fit body, call me today at 661-233-6771.



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