-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
TUESDAY, June 21 (HealthDay News) -- Babies aren't the only ones
who fall asleep faster when rocked, according to researchers who
found that, like infants, adults find it easier to nap on a slowly
Gentle rocking can also improve one's quality of sleep, Swiss
researchers reported in the June 21 issue of the journal
Current Biology. The finding may offer hope for those suffering from sleep problems, the authors suggested.
"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," study co-author Sophie Schwartz, of the University of Geneva, said in a news release from the journal's publisher. "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."
In conducting the study, the researchers asked 12 well-rested
adults with no history of sleep problems to nap on a custom-made
bed or an "experimental hammock" that could remain still or rock
gently. As their brain activity was being monitored, each
participant took two 45-minute afternoon naps -- one in a rocking
bed and one in a bed that remained still.
The investigators found that rocking worked by lengthening the
duration of stage N2 sleep, which is a form of non-rapid eye
movement sleep that accounts for about half of a good night's
"We observed a faster transition to sleep in each and every subject in the swinging condition, a result that supports the intuitive notion of facilitation of sleep associated with this procedure," study co-author Michel Muhlethaler explained in the news release.
The rocking also promoted brain activity associated with deep
sleep, by increasing the slow oscillations and bursts of activity
known as sleep spindles.
Looking ahead, the study authors noted that more research is
needed to determine whether or not rocking can improve more than
just naps. This type of motion, they pointed out, may help in the
treatment of troubling sleep disorders, including insomnia. The
researchers added that rocking may also benefit memory
consolidation and potentially help people who've suffered from
brain damage by improving brain repair mechanisms.
The American Psychological Association provides more information
the importance of sleep.
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