If you are looking to get better sleep at night, your white-noise machine might be messing with your own brain’s rhythms.
A new study from the University of Tubingen in Germany suggests the brain’s electrical patterns follow a slow oscillating rhythm. Slow oscillations in the brain occur during slow-wave sleep and are associated with memory. The sound stimulation’s can also help a person sleep better.
In the study, researchers played light rhythm noise to match electrical brain readings of 11 sleepers during deep sleep. Then, out of sync with their brain’s oscillations during deep sleep.
The researchers found, that the in-sync sounds strengthened the brain rhythms, while also strengthening memories.
The participants were shown 120 pairs of words each night before going to be. First thing in the morning, they were tested to see how many of the pairs they remembered.
The night the participants listened to the in-sync sounds, were able to retain word associations they had learned the night before. Meanwhile, the out-of-sync sounds didn’t have any effect to those participates.
“The beauty lies in the simplicity to apply auditory stimulation at low intensities-an approach that is both practical and ethical, if compared for example with electrical stimulation-and therefore portrays a straightforward tool for clinical settings to enhance sleep rhythms,” said Dr. Jan Born, of the University of Tübingen, in Germany, co-author of the study.
“Importantly, the sound stimulation is effective only when the sounds occur in synchrony with the ongoing slow oscillation rhythm during deep sleep. We presented the acoustic stimuli whenever a slow oscillation “up state” was upcoming, and in this way we were able to strengthen the slow oscillation, showing higher amplitude and occurring for longer periods,” explains Dr. Born.
Researchers suspect this approach might be used more to improve sleep.
“Moreover, it might be even used to enhance other brain rhythms with obvious functional significance — like rhythms that occur during wakefulness and are involved in the regulation of attention,” says Dr. Born.