According to researchers in Switzerland, the answer to your sleep problems might not be found in your medicine cabinet, but in your backyard.
In a study conducted at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, neuroscientists studied 12 subjects as they slept in either a stationary bed or one that rocked like a hammock, monitoring the participants’ brain activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG). The results showed that the people who napped in a gently rocking hammock fell asleep faster, and slept much more deeply, than those who napped in a conventional bed.
“We observed a faster transition to sleep in each and every subject in the swinging condition,” said neuroscientist Michel Mühlethaler. “Surprisingly, we also observed a dramatic boosting of certain types of sleep-related [brain wave] oscillations.”
Researchers found that the rocking bed increased slow oscillations and bursts of activity in the brain known as sleep spindles, which are associated with deep sleep and memory consolidation. Researchers also found the rocking motion increased the duration of a type of non-rapid eye movement deep sleep that usually takes up about half of a good night’s sleep.
“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,” said fellow researcher Sophie Schwartz. “Yet, how this works had remained a mystery.”
So next time you doze off in a hammock, don’t think of it as being lazy, think of it as improving your memory and your health.