Can Hypnosis Help You Sleep Better
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There are numerous hypnosis-assisted 'deep sleep' apps that are increasingly finding their way to people's smartphones and iPads. This is hardly surprising considering how sleep deprived most people are in today's fast-paced lifestyle that makes a good sleep seem like a luxury. But the question is can hypnosis actually help us get a better sleep? Research suggests it can. So let us explore and understand what's and how's of this.

Deep sleep or the slow wave sleep
When we talk of improving sleep quality, we actually refer to increasing the duration of what is called the deep sleep or the slow wave sleep. Slow-wave sleep is considered important to consolidate new memories, and this is also referred to as sleep-dependent memory processing . Impaired memory consolidation has been observed in individuals suffering from primary insomnia. Such people are known to struggle to perform memory tasks following a short period of sleep as compared to those who are able to get proper sleep. Furthermore, slow-wave sleep is also associated with better declarative memory, which is the fact-based or episodic memory.

Deep sleep is what makes for the most restorative sleep. In this state, the brain processes information and also recuperates from the fatigue of the entire day. Sleep deprivation studies conducted with human beings seem to indicate that the main function of slow-wave sleep is to allow the brain to recover from the stress of daily activities. Glucose metabolism in the brain increases as a result of mental activity demanded by our day-to-day tasks. Another reason why slow-wave sleep is deemed important is that during this state, the secretion of growth hormone is at its maximum.

As people age, the amount of deep sleep they get tends to decline. This drop is especially sharp in the advanced years. In fact, by the time a person is 50 or 60 years of age, they may be practically getting no deep sleep at all.

Study on the impact of hypnosis on deep sleep
A recent study conducted by a Swiss research team gives an objective demonstration of the positive effects of hypnosis on sleep. The aim of the study was to explore how hypnotic suggestion could help improve deep sleep. The entire study was conducted in a series of five in-laboratory experiments that were successively staged, once a week for five weeks at a stretch.

The research team enrolled 70 healthy women aged between 18 and 35 years. None of the participants had any history of sleep disorders. In a pre-study testing, the participants were categorized into two groups - 'highly suggestible to hypnosis' and 'low suggestible to hypnosis'. The participants were fitted with electrodes to monitor brainwave activity and sleep patterns. They were made to lie on the beds with lights turned off, and were exposed to different audio tapes of about 13 minutes' duration each. While some tapes played pre-recorded hypnotic suggestions to a deeper sleep, others provided content that was more neutral in nature. The women were then allowed to fall asleep during or just after the audio feeds and were woken up after a 90 minute nap.

The findings were noteworthy. Hypnosis had no impact on women who were categorized as low suggestible. However, women who had been deemed as highly suggestible showed an increase in deep sleep by an astounding 80% on the average. Not only that, the time spent awake was also reduced 67%.

The study also showed that exposure of the highly suggestible group to the other tapes - prepared in the same hypnotic cadence but without any deep sleep suggestions - seemed to have no positive effect on either the duration or the depth of sleep experienced by the participants.

Gaps in the study
The study primarily focused on establishing the connection between hypnosis and deep sleep. Other phases of sleep were not found to be affected by hypnotic suggestion. However, the fact that the study does establish a direct correlation between hypnosis and deep sleep is a strong indicator of an improved overall sleep quality.

Another gap in the research is the absence of sleep-disorder patients in the sample group. So while the findings are quite promising, it will be premature to say that hypnosis will help people who suffer from sleep disturbances.

Implications for the future
Even with some of the loose ends mentioned above, the results of this first scientific study on hypnosis and sleep have far-reaching implications. Given that approximately half of the world population is believed to be somewhat suggestible to hypnosis, the research team has concluded that hypnosis could prove to be a useful tool to help improve sleep quality in people - and without the bane of any side effects. This could be a path-breaking find for hypnosis-related app developers all over the world.