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Section 11
Mental Imagery Techniques

Question 11 | Test | Table of Contents | Sleep Disorders CEU Courses
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Using the ‘Drifting Downward’ Technique to help Induce Sleep
In the last section, swe discussed treating narcolepsy.  We discussed methods for decreasing narcoleptic occurrences, tips for those who live with a narcoleptic, and sleep inertia.  

In this section, we will discuss four mental imagery techniques.  Four mental imagery techniques that we will discuss are the ‘Float Along,’ ‘Drifting Downward.’ ‘Count Down to Relaxation,’ and the ‘On Vacation’ techniques.  As you listen to this track, consider your sleep disorder client.  Whether he or she is suffering from insomnia, hyper-somnia, another primary sleep disorder, or even a secondary sleep disorder, how could your client benefit from one of these techniques?  Would playing part or all of this track in your next session be helpful?

Mental Imagery
First, let’s discuss mental imagery.  Several mental imagery techniques can be used to help induce sleep.  Do you currently have a mental imagery technique that you have found to be effective?   Ben, who suffered from hyper-somnia benefited from mental imagery.  As Ben and I discussed his sleep problems it became apparent that his feelings of sleepiness throughout the day were a result of his lack of sleep at night. 

Ben didn’t have insomnia, but rather prevented himself from going to sleep because he said, "Sleep is boring and I want to do other stuff."  I found that Ben disliked lying in bed with nothing to do and therefore waited until late at night or early in the morning to go to bed.  Because Ben was so preoccupied, I used several mental imagery techniques with him. 

4 Mental Imagery Techniques

Technique #1: The ‘Float Along’ Technique
First, Ben tried the ‘Float Along’ technique.  Ben would lie in bed and imagine a scene in which he was floating, surrounded and supported by a soft surface.  Ben visualized feeling himself lying on a billowy cloud with warm breezes all around.  Your client may prefer to imagine drifting in a gentle sea.  However, Ben later stated, "This is hard.  I keep imagining myself floating along, but then I think of something that distracts me."  Would you agree that Ben required more work regarding relaxation, perhaps through breathing exercises? 

Technique #2: The ‘Drifting Downward’ Technique
Next, Ben tried the ‘Drifting Downward’ technique.  In the ‘Drifting Downward’ technique, Ben again used deep breathing to relax.  Next Ben imagined himself walking slowly down a staircase.  Ben stated, "I like to imagine the stairs covered with real soft, plush carpet.  That way it’s more relaxing.  When I reach the bottom, I imagine a dark room with lots of soft couches and pillows.  I lie down and start slowly sinking into the couch."  Your client may prefer the image of an escalator or an elevator.  Perhaps your sleep disorder client may want to add a second downward conveyance. 

Technique #3: The ‘Count Down to Relaxation’ Technique
Mariah, age 46, was another sleep disorder client of mine.  Mariah used the ‘Count Down to Relaxation’ technique.  First Mariah began to count down slowly from one hundred.  Mariah stated, "I try to picture each number as I count down.  Each time I count down I imagine the preceding number slowly floating away."  How might your sleep disorder benefit from changing the ‘Count Down to Relaxation’ technique?

Technique #4:  The ‘On Vacation’ Technique
At a later session, Mariah stated, "At first counting down was helping me get to sleep.  But now, it doesn’t seem to be working for me."  Have you treated a sleep disorder client who has gotten so used to a mental imagery technique that he or she no longer benefits from it?  I suggested Mariah try the ‘On Vacation’ technique. 

For this technique Mariah imagined her ideal vacation She visualized packing, boarding a plane, take-off and each subsequent detail of the vacation.  Mariah stated, "I’m usually asleep before I get to the really good stuff!"  What other mental imagery techniques do you use with your sleep disorder clients?  Would it be helpful to play this track in one of your sessions?

In this section, we discussed four mental imagery techniques.  Four mental imagery techniques that we will discuss are the ‘Float Along,’ ‘Drifting Downward.’ ‘Count Down to Relaxation,’ and the ‘On Vacation’ techniques. 

In the next section, we will discuss behavioral interventions for breathing related sleep disorders.  There are several types of breathing related sleep disorders for which exist a limited number of treatment options.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Blackwell, S. E. (2019). Mental imagery: From basic research to clinical practice. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 29(3), 235–247.

Herndon, P., Myers, B., Mitchell, K., Kehn, A., & Henry, S. (2014). False memories for highly aversive early childhood events: Effects of guided imagery and group influence. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 1(1), 20–31.

Keesman, Mike, Aarts, Henk, Häfner, Michael, & Papies, Esther K. Motivation Science, Vol 6(1), Mar 2020, 34-42.

Sell, C., Möller, H., & Taubner, S. (2018). Effectiveness of integrative imagery- and trance-based psychodynamic therapies: Guided imagery psychotherapy and hypnopsychotherapy. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 28(1), 90–113.

What are four mental imagery techniques for sleep disorders? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

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