Many parents know that rocking babies or placing them in a swaying hammock can make them fall asleep more easily. Findings of a new study now provide evidence that rocking motion can also help adults fall asleep faster and get deeper slumber.
In a new study published in the journal Current Biology on Jan. 24, researchers found that grown-ups who were tucked into a gently swaying bed fell asleep faster and slept deeper. These adults also exhibit sharper memories the next morning.
Study researcher Laurence Bayer, from the University of Geneva in Switzerland, and colleagues asked 18 healthy young adults to be monitored during their sleep in the lab.
During these sleepovers, the participants spent one night sleeping on a rocking bed, and another night on an identical but stationary bed. While the participants were asleep, the researchers used electroencephalogram, or EEG to monitor the participants' brain activity.
Data revealed the participants fell asleep faster when they were rocked. They also spent more time in non-rapid eye movement sleep, woke up less frequently, and slept more deeply.
"Our volunteers--even if they were all good sleepers--fell asleep more rapidly when rocked and had longer periods of deeper sleep associated with fewer arousals during the night," Bayer said.
The researchers also wanted to find out how improved sleep can influence memory, so they asked the participants to learn pairs of words before sleeping. After spending a night on the rocking bed, the researchers found the participants were better at remembering words.
"Taken together, the present findings demonstrate that applying a rhythmic sensory stimulation, here, using a rocking bed during a whole night of sleep, promotes deep sleep and memory consolidation in healthy sleepers," the researchers wrote in their study.
Bayer and colleagues said the findings have implications in the development of non-pharmacological therapies that can help aging people and those suffering from insomnia and mood disorders who frequently experience decreased deep sleep and memory impairment.