We Should All Be Sleeping in Adult‑Sized Cradles
Sometimes the answer to a problem is so obvious, it takes a team of scientist from multiple universities to find it: A new study that has my full and undying support suggests we should all be rocked to bed in order to get better sleep at night.
The study, conducted by scientists at the University of Geneva,
University of Lausanne, and from the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG), examined brain activity in adults humans while they were rocked to sleep. The team’s previous research had already established that swinging (as in a hammock) during a 45-minute nap helps people fall asleep faster and slumber more deeply. That finding was supported in this newer study, which compared the sleep of a young adult over two nights — one spent in a rocking bed (presumably not the kind found in the honeymoon suite of 80s romcoms), and one spent in a still bed.
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In rocking beds, participants “had longer periods of deep sleep and fewer micro-wakes, a factor frequently associated with poor sleep quality,” says Laurence Bayer, a study author and neuroscience researcher at the University of Geneva and the HUG Sleep Medicine Centre.
(Interestingly, this lends neuroscientific credence to an old wives’ remedy from the early 20th century, when vibrating beds — originally shaken manually by staff — were a medical prescription for a variety of ailments.)
Steady rocking allows the brain to synchronize activity in the thalamocortico-cortical networks, the team found, networks that not only support the consolidation of sleep, but also of memory. Each morning, the researchers tested participants’ memory of word pairs learned the night, finding “here too, rocking proved beneficial: the test results were much better after a night in motion than after a still night,” says another study author, Aurore Perrault, a medical researcher with the University of Geneva.
The scientists replicated the studies on mice, but found rocking only helped the mice fall asleep more quickly, and did not improve sleep quality. Stupid mice.