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Researchers studied if rocking motions help individuals fall asleep and experience deeper sleep. They also tested if the rocking motion helped with improved memory.
Does rocking or swaying really help us fall asleep faster? And if so, how? In a study published by Cell Press, 18 participants helped test if a rocking motion is one of the many ways to fall asleep. For the study, they first stayed one night at the HUG Sleep Medicine Centre where their heart rates, respiratory rates, and other measurements were recorded. Each participant then spent one night on a non-moving bed and another night on a moving bed (or “rocking bed”) at the Sleep Medicine Centre.
The rocking bed was set in a continuous and slow motion. Furthermore, to test for possible improved memory, participants took a memory test. This included remembering a set of randomized words that were presented to them the night prior, before falling asleep.
Researchers found that participants slept well both nights. Nonetheless, participants fell asleep faster while on the rocking bed. They found that sleep continuity increased. Researchers also looked at sleep stages; they found that participants experienced a deep sleep for longer amounts of time. Findings also showed that while on the rocking bed, participants’ memory improved.
The authors note that this is all due to the inflection of brain wave activity that occurs with a rocking motion. Specific neural circuits in the brain – the thalamo cortico-cortical network – are linked to both sleeping and memory. It is noted that these circuits are levelled out in harmonization with rocking movements. The hippocampal activity is also affected during rocking movements, an area of the brain that is linked to memory.
Written by Laura Laroche, HBASc, Medical Writer
- Perrault, Aurore A. “Whole-Night Continuous Rocking Entrains Spontaneous Neural Oscillations with Benefits for Sleep and Memory”. Cell Press. 2019. 1-14. Online.
- To sleep well, let yourself be rocked! 2019, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-01/udg-tsw012319.php, assessed 7 Mar. 2019.