You get it, sleep is really important, but try as you might, catching a few zzz’s is problematic.
Instead of drifting off to dreamland, you drift into panic mode when the lights go off. Each passing minute sees a few additional items being added to your to-do-list. One a-clock, two a-clock, three a-clock, toss, four a-clock, five a-clock – toss, you toss around the bed all night.
Lessons from the crib
Every mother quickly learns the secret to getting junior to fall asleep, is to keep moving. The rhythmic to and fro movement, mesmerizes tired eyes, quieting the troubled infant until a peaceful sleep descends.
Ironically as grown ups we graduate from the swaying crib, to a rigid padded board – ever wondered why as adults we ditch the moving bed ?
The only way for an adult to get back to the that kind of rocking sleep, is to forgo the bed for a rocking chair. Unfortunately, parking in a rocking chair is generally frownd upon, unless you are ninety two in the shade or a nursing mom.
Hanging around the lab
Researchers from the University of Geneva invited 12 adult volunteers to catch a few zzz’s on their custom-made bed. A hammock that could either rock gently or remain stationary. The volunteers considered themselves to be “good sleepers” and did not suffer from excessive sleepiness during the day.
Each participant came to the lab for a little afternoon siesta, lasting a total of 45 minutes. On one occasion the bed remained stationary and on the other occasion, the motor was switched on so it gently rocked.
The quality and quantity of sleep was monitored using an electroencephalogram (EEG).
Grown-up brains like to swing
The team confirmed that the gently swing bed was an express elevator to dreamland. Every participant transitioned into sleep faster, when the bed was moving.
But they didn’t just fall asleep quicker, the moving bed took the nappers deeper into the world of dreams. The brain oscillations recorded, showed rocking increased duration of stage N2 sleep, this is a form of non-rapid eye movement sleep which is associated with a good night’s sleep.
The rocking bed also increased sleep spindles – bursts of brain activity that co-incide with downloading learned materials.
Rock yourself to better sleep
I have on a previous occasion suggested an option to cure the sleep blues would be to find away to cool your brain down – the practicalities of this strategy were troubling.
Swinging beds are inherently more do able – think along the lines of an indoor hammock or giant crib.
NOTE : Curling up in a rocking chair for the night might leave you riddled with aches and pains, as you wrap your body up like a cork screw. But for an afternoon nap – jumping in this geriatric favourite, should be added to that to-do-list.Rocking synchronizes brain waves during a short nap. Current Biology (2011) 21(12): R461-R462, Laurence Bayer, Irina Constantinescu, Stephen Perrig, Julie Vienne, Pierre-Paul Vidal, Michel Mühlethaler, Sophie Schwartz
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