Recent research shows that being rocked to sleep can help babies as well as adults get a good night’s rest and also boost their memory.
Many parents are accustomed to rocking their babies to lull them to sleep. This study suggests that the rocking motion could help adults too-- those who were rocked to sleep not only experienced better sleep quality, but Swiss scientists found it also boosts memory consolidation during sleep.
The studies were published in the journal Current Biology. Volunteer participants were gently rocked from side-to-side by a specially-designed bed until they fell asleep. Not only did the rocking help them to fall asleep faster, but once asleep, they also spent more time in non-rapid eye movement sleep, slept more deeply, and woke up less. They also had better recall memory the next morning. These findings could mean new treatments that don’t rely on sleeping tablets.
“Having a good night’s sleep means falling asleep rapidly and then staying asleep during the whole night,” said biologist Laurence Bayer from the Sleep Medicine Centre of the University of Geneva.
In the another study, 18 healthy young adults were brought into the lab for three nights of sleep. The first night was intended to get them used to sleeping there. The second night, they slept on a gently rocking bed. On the third night, they slept on an identical bed that wasn’t moving. After analyzing the participants’ sleep patterns, the researchers subjected them to memory tests and according to postdoctoral fellow Dr. Aurore Perraul, rocking proved beneficial as the test results were much better after a night in motion than after a still night.
Further studies showed that rocking affects brain oscillations during sleep.
“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,” said Bayer.
Another study that was conducted on mice by researchers from the University of Lausanne was the first to explore whether rocking promotes sleep in other species. It used commercial reciprocating shakers to rock the cages of mice as they slept. Results showed rocking reduced the time it took to fall asleep and increased sleep time in mice as it does in humans.
According to Bayer, “These results may be relevant for the development of non-pharmacological therapies for patients with insomnia or mood disorders, or even for aging populations who frequently suffer from decreased deep sleep and/or from memory impairments.”