Hypnosis extends restorative slow-wave sleep

June 2, 2014
Credit: xiaphias/Wikipedia

Sleeping well is a crucial factor contributing to our physical and mental restoration. SWS in particular has a positive impact for instance on memory and the functioning of the immune system. During periods of SWS, growth hormones are secreted, cell repair is promoted and the defence system is stimulated. If you feel sick or have had a hard working day, you often simply want to get some good, deep sleep. A wish that you can't influence through your own will – so the widely held preconception.

Sleep researchers from the Universities of Zurich and Fribourg now prove the opposite. In a study that has now been published in the scientific journal Sleep, they have demonstrated that has a positive impact on the quality of , to a surprising extent. "It opens up new, promising opportunities for improving the quality of sleep without drugs", says biopsychologist Björn Rasch who heads the study at the Psychological Institute of the University of Zurich in conjunction with the "Sleep and Learning" project.

Brain waves – an indicator of sleep quality

Hypnosis is a method that can influence processes which are very difficult to control voluntarily. Patients with can indeed be successfully treated with hypnotherapy. However, up to now it hadn't been proven that this can lead to an objectively measurable change in sleep. To objectively measure sleep, is recorded using an electroencephalogram (EEG). The characteristic feature of slow-wave sleep, which is deemed to have high restorative capacity, is a very even and slow oscillation in electrical brain activity.

70 healthy young women took part in the UZH study. They came to the sleep laboratory for a 90-minute midday nap. Before falling asleep they listened to a special 13-minute slow-wave sleep hypnosis tape over loudspeakers, developed by hypnotherapist Professor Angelika Schlarb, a sleep specialist, or to a neutral spoken text. At the beginning of the experiment the subjects were divided into highly suggestible and low suggestible groups using a standard procedure (Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility). Around half of the population is moderately suggestible. With this method women achieve on average higher values for hypnotic susceptibility than men. Nevertheless, the researchers expect the same positive effects on sleep for highly suggestible men.

Slow-wave sleep increased by 80 percent

In their study, sleep researchers Maren Cordi and Björn Rasch were able to prove that highly suggestible women experienced 80 percent more slow-wave sleep after listening to the hypnosis tape compared with sleep after listening to the neutral text. In parallel, time spent awake was reduced by around one-third. In contrast to highly suggestible women, low suggestible female participants did not benefit as much from hypnosis. With additional control experiments the psychologists confirmed that the beneficial impact of hypnosis on slow-wave sleep could be attributed to the hypnotic suggestion to "sleep deeper" and could not be reduced to mere expectancy effects.

According to psychologist Maren Cordi "the results may be of major importance for patients with and for older adults. In contrast to many sleep-inducing drugs, hypnosis has no adverse side effects". Basically, everyone who responds to hypnosis could benefit from improved sleep through hypnosis.

Explore further: Memory accuracy and strength can be manipulated during sleep

More information: Maren Cordi, Angelika Schlarb, Björn Rasch. "Deepening sleep by hypnotic suggestions." Sleep. 37(6). June 1, 2014. dx.doi.org/10.5665/sleep.3778

Related Stories

Memory accuracy and strength can be manipulated during sleep

April 8, 2014
The sense of smell might seem intuitive, almost something you take for granted. But researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center have found that memory of specific odors depends on the ability of the brain to learn, process ...

Extreme sleep durations may affect brain health in later life

May 1, 2014
A new research study led by Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in May, shows an association between midlife and later life sleeping habits with memory; and links ...

New campaign seeks to help sleep-deprived Americans

May 23, 2014
(HealthDay)—Everyone knows that to be healthy you should eat right and exercise. But now a new campaign is adding one more thing to that list: get a good night's sleep every night.

New research proves color is not a black and white issue

November 30, 2011
Scientists at the University of Hull have found that some people have the ability to hallucinate colours at will – even without the help of hypnosis.

Sleep deprivation found to trigger initial seizure 

May 16, 2014
Neurologists studying WA's first-ever seizure database have established that sleep deprivation is more likely to act as a trigger for people having seizures, rather than a provoked cause of epilepsy.

Better sleep predicts longer survival time for women with advanced breast cancer

May 2, 2014
A new study reports that sleep efficiency, a ratio of time asleep to time spent in bed, is predictive of survival time for women with advanced breast cancer.

Recommended for you

Breathing dirty air may harm kidneys, study finds

September 21, 2017
Outdoor air pollution has long been linked to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A new study now adds kidney disease to the list, according to ...

Excess dietary manganese promotes staph heart infection

September 21, 2017
Too much dietary manganese—an essential trace mineral found in leafy green vegetables, fruits and nuts—promotes infection of the heart by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus ("staph").

Being active saves lives whether a gym workout, walking to work or washing the floor

September 21, 2017
Physical activity of any kind can prevent heart disease and death, says a large international study involving more than 130,000 people from 17 countries published this week in The Lancet.

Frequent blood donations safe for some, but not all

September 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—Some people may safely donate blood as often as every eight weeks—but that may not be a healthy choice for all, a new study suggests.

Higher manganese levels in children correlate with lower IQ scores, study finds

September 21, 2017
A study led by environmental health researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine finds that children in East Liverpool, Ohio with higher levels of Manganese (Mn) had lower IQ scores. The research appears ...

One e-cigarette with nicotine leads to adrenaline changes in nonsmokers' hearts

September 20, 2017
A new UCLA study found that healthy nonsmokers experienced increased adrenaline levels in their heart after one electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) with nicotine but there were no increased adrenaline levels when the study ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.