Swaying makes us nod off quicker and helps memory

Mice, like people, like to be rocked to sleep

Mice, like people, like to be rocked to sleep

On one of the other nights they slept on a bed that moved gently from side to side with a pendulum-like motion, by about 10cm every four seconds.

"Compared to a night spent on a stationary bed, our subjects fell asleep faster and spent more time in deep sleep", Laurence Bayer, senior author of the study and a senior researcher and biologist at the University of Geneva, wrote in an email.

Aurore Perrault, another researcher at the faculty, said: "To see if this also affected memory, we subjected our participants to memory tests: they had to learn pairs of random words in the evening and remember them in the morning when they woke up", she said. But they did seem to have more deeper sleep, indicated by the longer amount of time they spent in the 3rd phase of non-REM sleep.

Bayer said the study showed that participants slept like babies in the rocking bed.

"We found that the continuous rocking motion helped to synchronize neural activity in the thalamo-cortical networks of the brain, which play an important role in both sleep and memory consolidation", she said.

A nice rock back and forth sure feels good - hence why kids and adults both tend to snooze in cars and other moving vehicles - but it's our brain that really enjoys it.

"Vestibular sensory stimulation during rocking therefore acts on the neural networks responsible for the specific brain oscillations during sleep", the scientists said in a statement.

Experts believe the motion of being rocked synchronises the brain waves which control sleep.

A few of the study participants admitted that the idea of hopping into what was essentially an adult-sized cradle was a bit weird. But as Ed Cara writes for Gizmodo, two related surveys of young adults and mice suggest rocking's benefits aren't limited to the young.

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The findings may contribute to the development of treatments to help troubled sleepers, in particular, older folks who complain of insomnia and poor memory, said Bayer and Perrault, who is now a post-doctoral neuroscience researcher at Montreal's Concordia University. Maybe a stock standard hammock is the way to go.

Assessment showed that participants fell asleep faster with the rocking stimulation.

Following a good night's sleep someone remembers more of what they have learned the previous day, making everything from exam revision to long-term work projects easier.

In a new study published in the journal Current Biology on January 24, researchers found that grown-ups who were tucked into a gently swaying bed fell asleep faster and slept deeper.

Participants spent a total of three nights sleeping in the laboratory, Michael Le Page notes for New Scientist. These shifts in arousal signal a change from deep to light sleep, or from sleeping to waking up. Their studies showed that mice lacking working otolithic organs experienced none of the beneficial effects of rocking during sleep.

The reinforcement of deep sleep by rocking is the direct outcome of the modulation of brain wave activity during sleep. In another study published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine found that lack of sleep increased the levels of the protein tau, a key factor in Alzheimer's disease.

"Overall, our findings strengthen the view that the vestibular system can be utilized to promote non-rapid eye movement sleep, supporting efforts toward a non-pharmacological, non-invasive approach to aid patients suffering from sleep disorders".

"Mapping the network of communication between the two systems will provide with basic understanding, as well as novel clinical targets to cope with sleep disorders, like insomnia".

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