Can Hypnosis Improve Your Sleep?

According to a Swiss study, hypnosis — at least for those who are susceptible to it — can help people sleep better.

The study involved using a sleep-promoting audiotape that relied on hypnotic suggestion. Among the female participants who were susceptible to hypnotic tactics, the result was their spending about 80 percent more time in deep sleep and two-thirds less time waking up or awake while trying to sleep.

“There have been many reports that hypnosis can be a good thing for promoting sleep,” said study co-author Bjorn Rasch, a professor with the department of psychology in the division of biopsychology and methods at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. “However, usually they’ve been based on people just subjectively indicating how well they feel they’ve slept as a result.”

His team was the first to assess the sleep results by measuring brain-wave activity. The participants were equipped with electrodes to measure brain waves. As a result of such scientific measurement, Rasch pronounced the results “real.” Since deep sleep is generally considered the most restorative of all the phases that people go through when sleeping, an increase of such sleep will lead to more energy and focus the next day.

The women in the study were played various audiotapes while lying in bed with the lights off. Some tapes provided hypnotic suggestions and others were neutral and not designed to affect sleep or be particularly suggestive. The study was conducted solely on women as men are deemed less susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. The women also were free of any sleep disorders.

“I have to emphasize that we did not focus on sleep-disorder patients,” said Rasch. “These were all healthy people. So while our findings are really promising, we do not yet have proof that hypnosis will help people who suffer from sleep disturbances. I would
say it would. But it’s not yet proven.”

Among the women deemed less susceptible to the powers of hypnosis, there was no noticeable improvement in sleep, but among those susceptible to suggestion, slow-wave activity was “significantly enhanced” following hypnosis. The team concluded from this that the hypnosis improved both the quantity and quality of deep sleep.

Rasch called the results “amazing,” but he doubted that hypnosis could ever fully replace other types of treatments for sleep issues, including medications, though the process might reduce the need for sleep aids.

“I don’t expect miracles from hypnosis,” he said. “It’s a technique to consider.”

If you experience sleep problems that last for a month or longer, you should definitely, first, examine your sleep-hygiene habits and, second, seek professional help if you suspect a sleep disorder.

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