Looking To Improve Your Deep Sleep? Here’s How You Can
Gentle sound stimulation — such as the rush of a waterfall — synchronized to the rhythm of brain waves significantly enhanced deep sleep in older adults and improved their ability to recall words, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.
Deep sleep is critical for memory consolidation. But beginning in middle age, deep sleep decreases substantially, which scientists believe contributes to memory loss in aging.
The sound stimulation significantly enhanced deep sleep in participants and their scores on a memory test.
“This is an innovative, simple and safe non-medication approach that may help improve brain health,” said senior author Dr. Phyllis Zee, professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine sleep specialist. “This is a potential tool for enhancing memory in older populations and attenuating normal age-related memory decline.”
The study was published March 8 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
In the study, 13 participants 60 and older received one night of acoustic stimulation and one night of sham stimulation. The sham stimulation procedure was identical to the acoustic one, but participants did not hear any noise during sleep. For both the sham and acoustic stimulation sessions, the individuals took a memory test at night and again the next morning. Recall ability after the sham stimulation generally improved on the morning test by a few percent. However, the average improvement was three times larger after pink-noise stimulation.
The older adults were recruited from the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern.
The degree of slow wave sleep enhancement was related to the degree of memory improvement, suggesting slow wave sleep remains important for memory, even in old age.
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