Sleep Study Part 6: Synchronized Sounds Boost Sleep

sound waves

You’ve heard about synchronized swimming, but have you heard about synchronized sounds? Well, a new sleep study reveals that simply listening to your own natural brain rhythms in a synchronized fashion can help sharpen sleep.

Headed by Jan Born out of the University of Tubingen in Germany, sleep researchers found that during our deepest sleep, our brain’s electrical patterns present a slow oscillating-type rhythm.

Synchronized Sounds Sleep Study Details

In order to come to this auditory-sleep conclusion, the sleep researchers studied 11 sleeping participants by playing rhythmic sounds reproduced to match their own electrical brain readings. They monitored the results by attaching leads from an electroencephalogram (EEG) machine, a device used to measure electrical brain activity, to the subjects’ scalps.

But what the researchers did was play the light rhythmic sounds to sleep to in both an out-of-sync and in-sync manner with their oscillating brain rhythms.

The researchers noted that the in-sync sounds seemed to cause the brain rhythms to strengthen. Not only that, but the in-sync sounds also appeared to improve the memories of the volunteers. The researchers were able to determine the latter through the participants’ ability to retain and recall word associations they were given to study the night before.

On the other hand, they found that the out-of-sync sounds didn’t produce the same effect; they actually produced no effect.

“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,” says coauthor Dr. Jan Born, of the University of Tübingen, in Germany.

Playing the sounds to the sleeping volunteer posed no risk, according to the study report.

“The method cannot be applied by everyday people, at the moment, because the essential point is the ‘closed-loop’ fashion of our simulation, using the brain’s own rhythm as a pacemaker,” Born says.

sounds for sleep

The Future of the Synchronized Sounds Sleep Study

While further testing is needed, it demonstrates that there may be a simple and noninvasive way to impact brain activity in order to enhance sleep and improve memory. It’s interesting to note that people have been using binaural beats for sleep for years.

“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.

The researchers study is published in the journal Neuron.

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