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Rocking synchronizes brain waves during a short nap

Summary

  • Why do we cradle babies or irresistibly fall asleep in a hammock? Although such simple behaviors are common across cultures and generations, the nature of the link between rocking and sleep is poorly understood [1,2]. Here we aimed to demonstrate that swinging can modulate physiological parameters of human sleep. To this end, we chose to study sleep during an afternoon nap using polysomnography and EEG spectral analyses. We show that lying on a slowly rocking bed (0.25 Hz) facilitates the transition from waking to sleep, and increases the duration of stage N2 sleep. Rocking also induces a sustained boosting of slow oscillations and spindle activity. It is proposed that sensory stimulation associated with a swinging motion exerts a synchronizing action in the brain that reinforces endogenous sleep rhythms. These results thus provide scientific support to the traditional belief that rocking can soothe our sleep. 
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