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Sleep Disorders




Can hypnosis help with sleep apnea or deprived sleep?


Hypnosis is not a standard treatment for sleep apnea or sleep deprivation and is not recommended.

In terms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), this common condition affects roughly 5% of middle aged adults in America. OSA is a condition where the airway partially or completely collapses during sleep. This results in fragmentation of sleep and, in some individuals, low oxygen level during sleep. The consequences of this condition can be serious and range from a poor quality of life (morning headaches, disabling sleepiness, poor concentration, irritability, etc) to increasing problems with blood pressure control, heart disease and strokes. To diagnose OSA, a sleep study is usually required.

The primary treatment for OSA is the use of continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, which is very effective at keeping the airway open during sleep. It does this by “pressurizing” the airway to prevent it from collapsing. In a large number of well-done studies, CPAP therapy has been shown to be very effective at improving a number of measures of quality of life, including daytime alertness, improved concentration and improved mood. Individuals with OSA who can successfully use CPAP generally feel better! In addition, growing data suggest that CPAP may reduce some of the medical consequences associated with sleep apnea. The main problem with CPAP is that many individuals, have trouble sleeping with this type of device and, as such, alternative therapies must be considered. These alternative therapies generally include surgery or an oral appliance. Hypnosis is not considered an alternative therapy for OSA.

In terms of sleep deprivation - the only reasonable way to treat this is by extending your sleep hours. Typically it is suggested to get 8 hours of sleep a night. You should wake up from sleep feeling fairly refreshed and not have significant fatigue or sleepiness during the day that interferes with your daily activity. Hypnosis is not a recommended treatment.

If you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night and are still tired or having symptoms of OSA, such as loud snoring or episodes of not breathing in your sleep, I would recommend consulting your physician and discuss an evaluation by a Sleep Specialist.

Of interest, hypnosis has been reported in case series to help with some sleep disorders, such as insomnia and nightmares, but the research in this area is relatively poor and hypnosis has not been subject to rigorous controlled scientific studies that other recommended sleep treatments have. Therefore, at this time, hypnosis cannot be recommended as a standard treatment for any sleep disorder.

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Response by:

Meena S Khan, MD Meena S Khan, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
Clinical Assistant Professor of Neurology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University