Dear Patti,

I’ve had trouble sleeping on and off for several years. It’s difficult to turn off my thought process and fall asleep. Once I’m asleep, though, I’m OK and usually don’t wake up until morning. When I was pregnant, I went to a hypnotherapist because of my intense fear of experiencing a painful labor and birth. It was expensive, but I saw the clinician monthly for a total of six meetings. Each time I fell asleep at the end of the session. I always wanted to go back to hypnotherapy and see if I could get help with my sleeping problem, but my husband suggested that before we spend the money, maybe I could try guided imagery at home. Do you have an exercise that I could attempt?

  — Beth 

Dear Beth 

As someone who is licensed in clinical hypnotherapy, I’ve given a wide variety of guided imageries, depending on my patients’ individual needs. This imagery is for calming the mind and to help you get a good night’s sleep. You can practice this relaxation technique nightly. The more you practice, the more skilled and effective you will become.

Go to your bedroom at bedtime and get all ready for bed. Make sure you’ll be uninterrupted for the rest of the night. Wear your favorite and most comfy sleepwear, lie down on your back and surround yourself with as many pillows and blankets that you prefer. Stretch out, turn out the light, close your eyes and get comfortable.   

Remember that the day is over. You don’t have to do anything more today. No more asserting your body. No more thinking. Let your mind slow down and become quiet. Just let yourself be.    

As your body descends into the bed — sinking deeper … and deeper — breathe in and out, slowly and deeply and let your body completely and fully relax. Breathe deeply in, slowly and then breathe out, slowly. Again … draw another breath, let it out. Each time you breathe, you become more and more relaxed.  Count backwards from 10 down to one. Ten … relax. Nine … more and more relaxed. Eight … deeper and deeper relaxed. Seven … breathe deeper and deeper, and so on. Each time you breathe, you become more and more relaxed. Count backwards again two more times. 

Allow all of your muscles to relax from your feet to your head. Allow the relaxation to occur naturally. Pay attention to where your muscles are particularly tense and relax those areas.

Now I want you to focus on the area below the soles of your feet. Imagine a beautiful, warm, shimmering silver and gold liquid. Add your favorite color to the mix. Focus on the soles of your feet and pull the healing mixture up into your feet, toes, ankles and legs. Feel your muscles becoming loose and relaxed. Let the liquid continue to flow up your lower legs, knees and upper legs. Next relax your complete torso — your hips, pelvic area, abdomen, chest and back, filling up with the magical elixir. Next, relax your neck, face, the back of your head and the top of your head. Let your shoulders, upper arms, elbows, lower arms and hands relax. Envision your glittering fluid going all the way to your fingertips, filling up with the soothing, colorful, metallic fluid. Let your complete body sink and fall deeper and deeper into the bed, totally stress-free and completely tranquil. Let all the daily tension gently leave your body. Notice that your body now feels pleasantly tired, warm and peaceful and you feel calm and relaxed. Continue to breathe smoothly and gently. As you continue to rest, know that you are safe and comfortable.

Notice how relaxed you are starting to feel … drifting … starting to feel sleepy … sleepier and sleepier.

Any remaining tension continues to leave your body as you breathe …

Feel the night lulling you off to sleep as you sink even more into your soft bed … so comfortable.

Let your body sink peacefully into relaxation and sleep.

So sleepy … feel yourself drifting peacefully off to sleep. Just let your bed hold you up and allow your entire body to rest. Enjoy your sleep. 

Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email Visit her website,