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Other Physical Issues

Insomnia & Sleep Issues

A Surprising Way to Use EFT for Insomnia

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

Hi Everyone,

Long time EFT'er Patricia Carrington, PhD discovered an innovative way to use EFT for sleep issues. She then asked others to try it and, out of 33 people, 84% found it successful. Full details given in this article.

Hugs, Gary

By Dr. Patricia Carrington

The method I am going to tell you about seemed impossible when I first heard about it, because it went against everything I know to be true about positive suggestions and the use of positive language, and the demonstrated negative impact of the phrase "I can’t". 

I discovered this unexpected use of EFT when a reader of my newsletter wrote to tell me about his own experience with it.  He tried many other sleep inducing methods, including various ways of using EFT for this purpose, but none of them had worked for him with any consistency.  Then one night, exasperated, he had applied EFT in what seemed an illogical way to bring on sleep onset, and found it to be incredibly effective.

I was appalled when he told me what his simple method was.  I know that we regularly use negative phrases in EFT, often tapping for round after round on such negative phrases as Even though I have this (negative state or problem)…, but we rarely if ever use the words "I can’t” in any of the EFT phrases.  If we do so, we follow this strong negative declaration by a positive affirmation such as I deeply and completely accept myself or an EFT Choices phrase such as, I choose to be calm and confident.

However, all this man did was say to himself, while tapping mentally (it doesn't work well to tap physically for most people when they want to quietly drift off to sleep) "I can’t get to sleep” at each imagined EFT point.  He didn't repeat "Even though" before he said the "I can’t" phrase, and he didn't use any positive affirmations after it.  He just thought to himself, "I can’t get to sleep", and it worked to put him to sleep immediately.

This of course violates a law which has over and over again been confirmed - namely that people who use the phrase, "I can’t" in their self talk (the way they speak to themselves in their mind), program themselves to be unable to do whatever it is that they are suggesting to themselves that they can’t do.  They are installing a negative suggestion in their minds.

Similarly, it has been documented in countless instances that when people use the words "I can" in their self talk, they usually find a way to make what they want happen.  This has been demonstrated so many times that anyone working with the hypnotherapies or other suggestion techniques knows it well.

Being curious about this reader’s success, I decided to try this tactic on myself.  I decided that at worst it might keep me awake all night long and since I don't have any identifiable sleep problems, missing some hours of sleep did not seem like too high a price to pay for conducting an interesting experiment.

That night when I went to bed I mentally repeated the phrase, "I can’t get to sleep," to myself at each (imagined) tapping spot.  It somehow felt good to say that because it was a sort of forbidden thing to do, but I was sound asleep before I finished either the first or second round - I really don't know which because sleep onset was so rapid.

When I awakened next morning I decided that the good result might have been due to self suggestion on my part, what is known as the “placebo effect”.  Perhaps I had simply expected or wanted this new method to work and therefore it did.

However, several days later I had another occasion to try it and once again it worked to put me to sleep, this time before the end of the first round.  Since then I have been routinely using the "I can’t get to sleep” method whenever I get into bed at night, or even if I take a nap in the daytime.  I use it routinely to avoid any pre-sleep thinking because I really don't need that kind of mental activity - I think enough the rest of the time!  This plan has worked every time.

I will tell you in a moment about a subsequent experiment conducted by readers of my newsletter who tried out this technique and what we discovered, but suffice it to say now that the effects were quite remarkable.  The first question is - why should this be?

Several possible explanations come to mind.  For one thing we know that the non-conscious part of our minds (often called the subconscious) does not recognize negative words and will process a statement containing them as though those words had been omitted.  For example, if a person uses the affirmation, "I don't feel hungry" in an effort to reduce food cravings, they will be sending to their subconscious a message which automatically deletes the word "don't" from this phrase.  The message will come in as "I FEEL hungry", tending to bring exactly the opposite result from the one intended.  This phenomenon is well known to those who apply the suggestion techniques.  Is it possible that the subconscious is deleting the phrase, "I can’t" from this EFT statement, and that the statement is coming in as a strong command of "GET to sleep!"?

The famed hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson, showed that overt positive commands can meet with enormous resistance on the part of the person to whom they are directed, making suggestion therapy often difficult, but that indirect positive commands, which the person doesn't recognize as commands at all, can often slip right by conscious resistance and become immediately effective.  He discovered that whatever defenses we put up against accepting something new and positive (i.e. accepting change) are much more likely to be bypassed when we don't realize that a command is being given.  This is the principle behind subliminal exposure of course.  Apparently it takes a certain amount of conscious vigilance to counteract a command - you have to know that the enemy is there in order to fight it.  Advertising and public relations use this principle all the time, probably far more than we would like to think - to manipulate our thinking.

Another explanation that I intuitively feel may apply to this puzzling tactic is that most people have a strong resistance to being told what to do, even if it is they, themselves, who is telling them what to do!  The positive side of this is a healthy independence of thinking, but the negative side can be a deterrent to any sort of change.

Actually, I find there is something strangely satisfying about being able to state the words, "I can’t “openly and forcefully.  Part of me is thinking these words anyway and to hear them mentally repeated while I imagine doing the EFT tapping, somehow makes me feel heard, at which point any resistance to whatever the suggestion is that is being given fades.

An Intriguing Experiment

The “I can’t get to sleep” method of inducing sleep seemed to work so well for me that I suggested my newsletter readers try it for themselves and report to me their experiences.

In response, 33 people wrote to me immediately with reports, and since that time many more people have responded.  These latter results have been so close to those reported earlier that I feel confident reporting the investigation in this newsletter and consider that we have an adequate sample to be able to draw some tentative conclusions about how well this method works.  The sample was large enough for me to get some feel for the actual numbers out there and the intelligent, thoughtful comments that I did receive lead me to believe that this tactic is clearly worth exploring.  Here is what we found:

  • 60.6% of those responding reported that this unusual method was so effective for them that they characterized it as a true breakthrough in terms of being able to get to sleep initially, or to get back to sleep later, and often they were able to do both with amazing ease.
  • 24.2% of those responding reported that it worked extremely well for them at times, while at other times it did not work.  These mixed results represented a definite value for these people, however, although the method was less reliable for them than for those in the first category.
  • 15.2% of those responding reported that while they had tried repeatedly to make this new method work to put them to sleep, it would not work for them.

To summarize, 84.8% of those reporting had experienced positive results with the technique ranging from "remarkable” (the majority felt this) to “Mixed" results, while 15.2% could not make the method work at all.

One of the surprising things to me was the fact that several people reported that chronic sleep problems yielded rapidly to this technique although they had tried numerous other interventions unsuccessfully over a long period of time for these same problems but to no avail.

One woman wrote: "I have not slept through the night since I was first pregnant 27 years ago, and I still awake, usually once at least, during the night and previously I could wake with anxiety which would lead to lying awake for up to an hour before returning to sleep -- sometimes having to quit and get up and get busy for a while and then try again.  Since using this tip (“I can't get to sleep”) however, I can go back to sleep quickly, and even if I am experiencing any kind of anxiety I don't need to clear the anxiety first -- it just seems to be dealt with in the process."

One respondent commented that he was reminded of the song Julie Andrews sings to the two children in the movie "Mary Poppins" to put them to sleep.  One of the lines in the song is, "Stay awake, don't sleep and dream," when she sings it to the children they soon fall asleep.

Several respondents reported that once they started using this technique, the mere thought of using it was enough to put them to sleep.  This is what we call a "conditioned response".  In NLP terms, the thought of the technique has become an "anchor" for sleep onset.

One woman reported, "I am using your new technique for getting back to sleep after waking in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  I tried it three times in one night and went right back to sleep.  I think a couple of wake ups were due to concerns about some issue that I've now tapped away without realizing it."

Her other issues seemed to have cleared as she did this technique, although she had not focused on them.  This is an example of how the tactic can sometimes perform a dual function.  Not only does it allow the person to get back to sleep more easily in many instances, but the tapping may also address underlying causes of the wakefulness without having to identify them.

Looking at the results of our survey, I can say with confidence that when this technique does work, it seems to work faster and more effectively than any other way of using EFT (or any other non-drug method) to bring on sleep.

I highly recommend you try this unconventional technique to see how it works for you.  Here is a quick summary of the instructions:

  • When you want to go to sleep, use mental EFT only (i.e. tap in your imagination only at each spot) so that doing EFT will not awaken you as you begin to drift off to sleep.
  • Use the paradoxical (going opposite) EFT statement, “I can't get to sleep" at each tapping point, using only these words.
  • Observe what happens…

Pat Carrington


Explore our newest advancement, Optimal EFT™, by reading my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™. More efficient. More powerful.