As a sleep provider, I am interested in any new information that can help my patients with their insomnia. I am particularly interested in modalities that do not require the use of sleep aids, as more patients are requesting natural forms of treatment. With that in mind, I was happy to see a German study published in Sleep that demonstrated the benefits of hypnosis in treating insomnia.
Hypnosis has been shown to be beneficial in several other studies. This study was the first that collected objective data by using a high-density electroencephalograph and used polysomnography to record the increases in slow-wave sleep and slow-wave activity.
Prior to the experiment, female participants aged 18 to 35 years were asked to complete the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility to verify their level of hypnotic suggestibility.
Before going to sleep, study subjects listened to audio that was either a control tape or a hypnotic suggestion. Slow-wave sleep in suggestible females almost doubled after hearing a hypnotic suggestion. What impressive results!
The hypnotic suggestion was to “sleep deeper” using an example of fish swimming deeper in the sea. The control group heard a discussion about natural mineral deposits. In both examples, the duration of the recording was 13 minutes. Five separate experiments were conducted. Control experiments showed that the same effect did not occur among the low suggestible participants.
Slow-wave sleep is especially important because many essential functions occur during this stage of sleep. The immune system repairs, memories consolidate, and metabolism regulates. Diseases associated with poor sleep include depression, anxiety, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Patients who have insomnia issues often have difficulty turning off their thoughts as they try to fall asleep. Often they try so hard to fall asleep that a paradoxical effect occurs. Hypnosis may benefit these patients by focusing their attention on a suggestion that will help diminish their ruminating thoughts.
Another important finding in this study is that participants with low hypnotic suggestibility did not have the same results compared with patients with higher suggestibility. This implies, for now, hypnotherapy seems to only benefit those who can take hypnotic suggestion. However, the relaxing tone of a hypnotist may help any patient with insomnia feel more relaxed and ready for sleep.
Sharon M. O’Brien, MPAS, PA-C, works with Presbyterian Sleep Health in Charlotte, N.C.
- Cordi M, Schlarb A, Rasch B. 2014. “Deepening Sleep by Hypnotic Suggestion.” Sleep. (Vol. 37, No. 6.)
This article originally appeared on Clinical Advisor