Sound asleep

Jun, 24, 2019

Can certain sounds help us sleep?

A good night’s sleep is incredibly important – it helps your body recover and is critical for mental wellbeing and memory consolidation. Unfortunately, the older we get, the more difficult it can be to sleep deeply, which may also contribute to age-related memory loss. Thankfully, there may be a simple way to help us sleep a little deeper.

Pink noise synced to brain waves

A study by Northwestern Medicine found that while we sleep, gentle sounds synchronised to our brainwaves may enhance deep sleep and improve memory. In the study, 13 participants aged 60 and older were given one night of acoustic stimulation and one night of sham stimulation. 

The individuals took a memory test at night and again the next morning. The research found that “recall ability after the sham stimulation generally improved on the morning test by a few percent. However, the average improvement was three times larger after pink-noise stimulation.”

The average improvement was three times larger after pink-noise stimulation

A Northwestern Medicine Study

The sound of progress

The study used an innovative piece of technology (that they plan on commercialising for wider use) that was able to monitor brainwaves in real time. The technology would adjust the sounds the sleepers were hearing to then maximise the results. Although the researchers acknowledge that larger studies are needed, the plan is to make the technology accessible in the home. As a result, it will help to develop an effective, non-medication approach to improving deep sleep and memory in older adults.

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National Hearing Care blog is our place to explore ideas and themes of interest. For professional audiology advice, please contact your local clinic for a consultation.

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