It’s been long known that it’s a good idea to rock a baby to sleep. According to a new study, we should all be sleeping that way.
Swiss researchers from the universities of Geneva (UNIGE), Lausanne (UNIL) and from the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG) have conducted two studies: one on young adults and the other on mice. Their results, published in Current Biology, show that slow and repeated movement throughout the night modulates brain wave activity. Consequently, not only does balancing induce deeper sleep, but it also helps to strengthen memory, which is consolidated during certain sleep phases.
UNIGE scientists had already shown in a previous study that swinging during a 45-minute nap helps people fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply. But what are the effects of this slow movement on the brain? To find out more, the researchers, in association with colleagues from UNIL, conducted two new studies – one on human beings and the other on rodents.
In the human study, eighteen healthy young adults spent one night at a sleep lab. Once familiar with this unusual environment, the young volunteers spent two nights at the Sleep Medicine Centre, one on a moving bed and the other on the same bed, but in a still position.
“A good night’s sleep means falling asleep quickly and staying asleep all night,” says Laurence Bayer. “However, we observed that our participants, although they slept well in both cases, fell asleep more quickly when they were rocked. In addition, they had longer periods of deep sleep and fewer micro-wakes, a factor frequently associated with poor sleep quality.”
The second study was carried out on mice. Like for human beings, rocking the mice’s cages reduced the time they needed to fall asleep sleep and increased sleep time. However, it did not increase sleep quality, unlike what had been shown in human beings.