The depth of hypnosis you achieve—or even the ease with which you enter self-hypnosis—may vary from session to session without any apparent reason. One day it is easy to go into self-hypnosis, another day it is not. The next time you go deep. Another time you feel like you barely skimmed the surface. You may even find that there are certain times of day which are more favorable toward self-hypnosis than others, again without reason or cause. Part of the answer to why that is happening may be related to your natural daytime ultradian rhythm—your active imagination cycle—and how well attuned you are to it.
Nathaniel Kleitman, the father of American sleep research and the first to discover the phenomena of rapid eye movement (REM) during sleep, proposed that this approximately 90 minute long cycle of dream activity also occurs similarly during wakefulness. Researchers Kripke and Sonnenschein showed that the activity of the imagination during wakefulness follows a 70-120 minute cycle. Hypnotherapists Erikson and Rossi observed that their patients displayed a natural tendency toward going into a hypnotic state every 90 minutes, or so.
There is evidence to suggest that we can use these natural periods of heightened imagination in our own self-hypnosis sessions. Research points to the hours from noon to 1pm and from 5pm to 6pm as favorable times for active imagination in the average person. Likewise, early birds and night owls have preferred periods of active imagination. If you are an early bird, then you may find that your best times occur in the late afternoon, say, around 4pm to 6pm. That’s because you are most alert in the morning hours of the day and wind down in the late afternoon. On the other hand, if you are a night owl, you may find that your best times are from 8am to 10am while you are still a bit subdued, way before you start getting revved up for the evening ahead.
During the 90 minute sleep REM cycle there is approximately a 20 minute sweet spot of active dreaming—a period of maximum vividness and imagery. The active imagination cycle has an analogous 20 minute period when the mind is inclined to take a break and engage in imaginative daydreaming.
Imagination is a central part of self-hypnotic techniques and methods. Being able to predict when you are at your most imaginative and most receptive to self-hypnosis could be of significant benefit to your self-hypnosis endeavors.
Tune in to your daily active imagination cycle
To develop a better sense of your active imagination cycle you may find it helpful to keep a self-hypnosis diary to track your activity over two weeks. Become attentive to times when you are at the peak of your active imagination cycle and the feelings associated with your cycle.
Record the following information: 1) the time of day when you did self-hypnosis, 2) the length of time you were actually in self-hypnosis, 3) your assessment of how easily you went into self-hypnosis on a scale from 1 to 5 , and 4) make a note of anything special that you noticed. Some things worth noting might be: distracted, focused, lost in the weeds, hard day at work, tired, productive/unproductive, relaxed, keyed up, fell asleep, too much caffeine, back hurts, etc.
After two weeks time review your diary. Look for patterns or times of day when self-hypnosis was easiest to achieve and your session was focused and productive. Get a general sense for those times without over analyzing your results.
Self-hypnosis is an art, not a science, and your results may yield a fuzzy rather than concrete result. But nevertheless use your findings to bracket a time window when you are likely to be most receptive to self-hypnosis. Then do your sessions within those times and evaluate the results. Also notice the average length of time you were in self-hypnosis. Could it be about 20 minutes, the length of time for daydreaming in the ultradian cycle?
You can download and the print out an Active Imagination Cycle log sheet by clicking here.