Improving sleep and cognition by hypnotic suggestion in the elderly

Neuropsychologia. 2015 Mar;69:176-82. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.02.001. Epub 2015 Feb 4.


Sleep quality markedly declines across the human lifespan. Particularly the amount of slow-wave sleep (SWS) decreases with age and this decrease is paralleled by a loss of cognitive functioning in the elderly. Here we show in healthy elderly females that the amount of SWS can be extended by a hypnotic suggestion "to sleep deeper" before sleep. In a placebo-controlled cross-over design, participants listened to hypnotic suggestions or a control tape before a midday nap while high density electroencephalography was recorded. After the hypnotic suggestion, we observed a 57% increase in SWS in females suggestible to hypnosis as compared to the control condition. Furthermore, left frontal slow-wave activity (SWA), characteristic for SWS, was significantly increased, followed by a significant improvement in prefrontal cognitive functioning after sleep. Our results suggest that hypnotic suggestions might be a successful alternative for widely-used sleep-enhancing medication to extend SWS and improve cognition in the elderly.

Keywords: Aging; Cognitive function; High density EEG; Hypnosis; Slow-wave Sleep.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Polysomnography
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Suggestion*