Sound waves can improve sleep and memory, study says

Sound wave therapy can improve sleep and memory, according to a new study from Northwestern Medicine in the US.

According to Psych Central, Neuroscience graduate student Nelly Papalambros wanted to find out if there was a non-invasive way to improve sleep quality, because of its many effects on health. Poor sleep has been linked to everything from cognitive problems (including memory issues and difficulty concentrating) to heart attack and disease, while insomnia drastically increases the risk of accident and injury.

Papalambros recruited study participants with an increased risk of heart disease, and measured their baseline stats and sleep patterns while they stayed at a sleep research centre overnight. She then tested whether playing a low-grade static noise could improve their quality of sleep. This sound was developed by Giovanni Santostasi and is personalised in order to be more effective. An algorithm detected each patient’s brain activity and then matched the sound to the moments when that person was in deep sleep, thus stimulating more of the same.

Papalambros measured participants’ delta waves, produced when people are sleeping deeply, and found that the sound did stimulate better quality sleep, especially in younger people. She also tested their memories by giving them a quiz before and after falling asleep, both on nights when they experienced sound stimulation and when they didn’t.

She reports clear improvements in subjects’ cognitive abilities after they (literally) slept soundly. But she thinks the effect will be more profound if the technique is used for several weeks or months. ‘If we can enhance sleep then hopefully we can improve metabolic function and cognition,’ she says.

She now hopes that the use of sound waves could be adapted into a treatment for people with sleep disorders that can be used in clinics or (even better) turned into a smartphone app.

Image via Pixabay.

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