According to a study conducted by researchers in Switzerland who believed have discovered the science behind belief that rocking induces sleep, the swinging action of rocking hammock induces brain’s natural sleep rhythms which is not possible in stationary beds. According to an article published in Current Biology, if brain’s spindle activity is increased, rocking would be greatly beneficial for memory and can potentially help in repair of brain after damage.
There are many ancient facts followed in different cultures and generations which support that swaying hammock reinforces sleep. The babies are made of sleep in swinging cradle exemplifies that rocking gives a sound sleep. However the relation between rocking and sleep is still not understood to many minds. Sophie Schwartz of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Geneva writes “nature of the link between rocking sleep is poorly understood” which is though sad yet quiet true. Sophie also took measures to explain that swinging greatly affects the physiological factors of human sleep.
In a press conference Schwartz said that the study that they are conducted is based on two facts: firstly to test if rocking actually soothes sleep and secondly to understand how would this entire thing work at brain level. For this, they took twelve adult volunteers and studied their brain waves while they were taking afternoon naps. The experimental hammock consisted of custom-made bed that was made to rock slightly. It was found that sleeping on such experimental hammock helped volunteers to sleep faster but to utter amazement; change in nature of sleep was also seen which was also responsible for deeper sleep. All the participants were not good sleepers who took neither excessive sleep nor did they usually take nap in daytime. Each of them were made to sleep for 45 hours each on custom made bed with bed rocking gently and other time with bed stationary.
The brain activity was recorded by the researchers using polysmonography and electroencephalogram (EEG) spectral analysis. Another co author from the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Geneva, Michel Muhlethaler said that each of the participants slept faster in bed at hammock position (swinging with a frequency of 0.25 Hz) which again supports that rocking facilitates sleep and also duration of N2 sleep was increased. N2 sleep is a non-rapid eye movement sleep which comes nearly half of the night’s sleep. It was also observed drastic increase in certain sleep related brain wave oscillations.
It was found that sleeping on rocking bed, the brain activity of volunteers showed a tremendous increase in slow oscillations and increased bursts of an activity referred to as sleep spindles. This is a clear indication of well synchronized brain activity of a refreshing and a sound sleep. Researchers finally arrived at the conclusion that their studies strongly favour the old age belief that rocking soothe sleep. Now efforts are being made to study in what way rocking affects longer sleep durations and if rocking can help treat sleep disorders like that of insomnia etc.