Babies Aren’t The Only Ones Who Sleep Better with a Gentle Rocking

It seems like every year we hear more about the importance of sleep. Sometimes the new data shifts what we think the optimal number of hours should be; sometimes the data adds insights into napping or shift sleeping or the best strategies for getting to keep quickly and staying asleep.

This week health experts suggest that the one of the best things a busy adult can do to get a good night’s sleep is the same thing you do with a crying infant. That’s right, a new study says that not only could rocking yourself to sleep actually help you sleep, but the benefits include deeper sleep, waking up less often throughout the night, and maybe even improved memory. 

Of course, it is easy to rock a baby.  They fit so easily and comfortably in our arms so we can rock them with just a swaying body.  We can sit in a rocking chair or even place them in a swaying crib, and it seems to help them sleep.  For adults, of course, this is a little more complicated. Obviously, crib manufacturers don’t make apparatuses for human beings that large, but if you’ve even been in a hammock, you might understand that principle.  

That said, researchers from the University of Geneva actually constructed a bed that will slowly rock a fully-grown adult. The team then recruited 18 adults to spend three nights in this apparatus.  Each participant was equipped with electrodes set to monitor their brain activity.  The researchers chose three nights for the study because the first night is to help the participants get acquainted with their environment, the second was the testing stage (with rocking) and the third night was a control (no rocking movement). 

Sure enough, the research team found that gentle rocking—just enough to sense the movement and not incite motion sickness—resulted in the deepest sleep.  More importantly, they found the slight rocking promoted positive brain function and better overall sleep quality. 

According to University of Geneva Sleep Medicine Centre biologist Laurence Bayer, “Having a good night’s sleep means falling asleep rapidly and then staying asleep during the whole night.”  Definitively, he concludes that this experiment proved quite beneficial, saying, “Our volunteers—even if they were all good sleepers—fell asleep more rapidly when rocked and had longer periods of deeper sleep associated with fewer arousals during the night.”