Effects of passive body heating on the sleep of older female insomniacs

J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 1996 Apr;9(2):83-90. doi: 10.1177/089198879600900203.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate passive body heating (PBH) as a treatment for insomnia in older adults. Polysomnographic recordings of older adults routinely show an increase in sleep fragmentation and a substantial decrease in slow-wave sleep (SWS) consistent with complaints of "lighter" more disturbed sleep. An increase in body temperature in young adults early in the evening by way of PBH has been shown to produce an increase in SWS in the early part of the sleep period. In a crossover design, nine female insomniacs (aged 60-72 yr) participated in two consecutive nights of PBH, involving hot (40-40.5 degrees C) and luke-warm (37.5-38.5 degrees C) baths 1.5 hours before bedtime. Significant improvement in sleep continuity and a trend toward an increase in SWS occurred after hot baths. Results of subjective measures showed that subjects experienced significantly "deeper" and more restful sleep after hot baths. In addition, hot baths resulted in a significant delay of temperature nadir in comparison to baseline nights.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Baths
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / etiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / physiopathology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Treatment Outcome