According to a new study published in Current Biology, if you're looking for an easier way to drift off to sleep, you may want to find a swinging bed.
In a study of 12 adult volunteers, researchers monitored brain activity during a 45-minute nap. The nap was conducted in both a stationary bed and swinging bed. The nap was the same length for each bed. Researchers found that by sleeping in a rocking bed, study participants were able to drift off to sleep faster than if they had been sleeping in a different kind of bed.
"It is a common belief that rocking induces sleep: we irresistibly fall asleep in a rocking chair and, since immemorial times, we cradle our babies to sleep," said Sophie Schwartz, a neuroscientist at the Sleep and Cognition Neuroimaging Lab at the University of Geneva in a statement. "Yet, how this works had remained a mystery. The goal of our study was twofold: to test whether rocking does indeed soothe sleep, and to understand how this might work at the brain level."
Schwartz also explained:
"We observed a faster transition to sleep in each and every subject in the swinging condition, a result which supports the intuitive notion of facilitation of sleep associated with this procedure. Surprisingly, we also observed a dramatic boosting of certain types of sleep-related oscillations. Importantly, some of these EEG changes lasted throughout the entire duration of the swinging condition. We believe that these changes consolidate sleep, and thus contribute to the overall beneficial aspect of swinging on sleep."
According to a statement, Schwartz said:
Rocking increased the duration of stage N2 sleep, a form of non-rapid eye movement sleep that normally occupies about half of a good night's sleep.
In an interview with SmartPlanet, researcher Michel Muhlethaler said that the study showed that rocking can make a person fall asleep faster, in addition to a deeper sleep. "It would be of interest to see if the results can be confirmed for a whole night of sleep, and if it's the case, if certain sleep disorders could benefit from this approach."
A statement by both researchers said that the next step for researchers would be to test whether rocking could be useful for insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Image: Michael Nutt via Flickr