Although the study is small, even for brain-monitoring research, and the results will need to be confirmed in future experiments, the researchers say their findings could lead to novel treatments for insomnia and other sleep disorders.
“This [research] could be helpful in terms of patients who typically suffer from sleep-onset difficulty and sleep-maintenance difficulty,” says Sophie Schwartz, PhD, one of the study’s authors and a professor of neuroscience at the University of Geneva.
Schwartz and her colleagues aren’t certain why hammocks help put us to sleep. One explanation may be simply that people associate the gentle to-and-fro of a hammock with relaxation, leading them to drift off more easily.
But other brain processes may also be at work. Directly or indirectly, the rocking motion may activate regions of the brain that are involved in sleep, such as the amygdala. In fact, the authors say, rocking back and forth may actually “synchronize” brain waves in a way that promotes deeper sleep.
The researchers measured brain activity with electroencephalography (EEG), which uses electrodes placed on the scalp to gauge brain activity. When the men were rocking, the researchers found a higher concentration of “spindles” on their EEG readouts—the defining characteristic of N2 sleep—and evidence of more slow-wave brain activity, an indicator of deep sleep.
The effect of rocking on the brain may even play a role in brain functions besides sleep, such as memory and healing after brain damage, according to the researchers. “Rocking during a nap or night of sleep might be good for other cognitive functions,” Schwartz says.
Lifestyle Upgrade #1: Hammock
When it comes to hammocks, I think everybody knows they are relaxing and healthy for us. Now we have science to back this up, showing that our intuition has been right all along. We now know that the gentle rocking that a hammock provides, can do everything from help us sleep to improve our memory and brainpower.
In 2012 I visited the Finca Bellavista in La Florida, in the jungles of Costa Rica and enjoyed many hours lying in hammocks while birds, bugs, reptiles, waterfalls and rain collectively orchestrated their symphony of life. My uncle told me stories of how in the 1970′s he used to travel to Costa Rica and back then the only thing there were hammock hostels. He would enjoy the beaches and surfing all day and then hang his hammock at a hostel where he would sleep for the night.
What fascinated me was he said that at that time there were no roads in Costa Rica, and that the roads that exist now were built by Coca Cola in order to get the Coke trucks through to distribute their product. Interesting how corporations make their way into countries and completely change things around, isn’t it!? But I digress.
I will never forget my time spent in Costa Rica and am thankful for the opportunity. (Big hugs for Mateo and Erica! And Rob too!) I am now back in Canada and still enjoy laying in a hammock on summer nights to watch the sunset. I highly recommend you Upgrade Your Life and get yourself an organic hammock today!