Rocking Encourages Deeper Sleep and Better Memory Interview with:
"Tonight, I am grateful for an old rocking chair that had the power to quell my crying baby after hours of fussing. It has rocked several generations on my dad's side and I like to think its legacy of comfort can be magical from time to time. #aboynamedfox" by mandaloo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit: Aurore Perrault, PhD Student
Department of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine
University of Geneva
Geneva, Switzerland What is the background for this study?  

Response: We naturally rock babies to sleep. Yet, we also have plenty of anecdotal reports of adults falling asleep faster when in a train or a car, as well as a feeling of relaxation in a hammock. Our companion paper on mice (Kompotis et a., 2019 – same issue in Current Biology) clearly established that the beneficial effects of rocking on sleep relied on the activation of the vestibular system and might thus suggest some shared neurophysiological mechanisms in mammals. What are the main findings?

Response: We found in humans that a whole night of rocking sleep has a beneficial impact on sleep initiation and sleep maintenance (less micro-awakenings). Moreover, subjects spent more time in deep sleep with a boost in brain oscillations observed during sleep. We observed that the ses specific sleep brain oscillations were entrained by the rhythmic motion of the bed (lateral rocking at 0.25 Hz). When tested in the morning, we found that our participants improved overnight memory performance after a night of gentle rocking sleep. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Rocking stimulation has a beneficial impact on sleep initiation and maintenance with benefits for memory. A bit like babies that fall asleep faster when we rocked them adults too respond beneficially ot the rocking motion, especially when rocked laterally at 0.25 Hz (really gentle and slow rocking). Interestingly, all our subjects reported that the rocking stimulation was pleasant and relaxing. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: These results encourage our future research on the effect of rocking on a population with sleep disorder particularly on patients with insomnia. If rocking can help this population to better sleep, it will be a nice alternative or a natural complement to hypnotic drug.

One more possible very promising area of application for rocking during sleep and which still need to be investigated is aging. Indeed, difficulties in falling asleep, reaching N3 sleep, and sleep maintenance are 3 key problems that aged people face. We found that rocking had a favourable effect across all these three dimensions of sleep. Therefore, improving sleep in these vulnerable populations may plausibly alleviate sleep problems, and potentially work against the progression of memory decline, although this is highly speculative and remains to be tested. Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: Moreover, it is interesting to note that our companion paper (Kompotis et al., in the same issue) revealed similar beneficial effect of rocking stimulation on sleep in mice. They also revealed the crucial involvement of the vestibular system in modulating the rocking effects.


Perrault et al. Whole-Night Continuous Rocking Entrains Spontaneous Neural Oscillations with Benefits for Sleep and Memory. Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.12.028

Jan 25, 2019 @ 10:52 pm

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