--Original published at Grace's College Blog
Though the reasons why we sleep are unknown, we do know how to make our sleep the most beneficial to our bodies. In a study in the journal Current Biology, “Whole-Night Continuous Rocking Entrains Spontaneous Neural Oscillations with Benefits for Sleep and Memory,” they observed people sleeping in a rocking bed. All of the participants were already healthy sleepers and with the rocking bed, their sleeping actually improved! We know we are affected by external stimuli while sleeping because we wake up to our alarms, loud sounds, and people shaking us awake. So, it is possible for rocking to affect our sleep as well.
Rocking something when it is in distress is instinctive in humans. We do it for babies and sometimes even animals. Often for infants, parents will rock them to calm them and help them sleep. The goal of this study was to see if rocking would help adults as well. First, they had participants sleep in the bed without rocking to monitor their brain waves during a regular night of sleep. Then participants slept in the same bed while it was rocking continuously throughout the night. The study also contained a control group that only slept without the rocking.
One theory for why we sleep is for memory consolidation, rocking not only improved overall sleep, it also improved said memory. Participants were given a memory test every night and morning. Researchers also tested how reaction times were affected by pressing a button as soon as an image appeared on a screen. Overall, there was an improvement in all aspects of the study.
When reading research, there are five important questions to ask yourself to guarantee a true experiment:
- How did they operationalize their variables, how did they define them? In this study they measured how “well” you slept by measuring your brain waves and memory consolidation as well as reaction times with various tests.
- How did they select participants? Researchers selected participants who were in good health with no history of drug or alcohol abuse and reported no irregular sleep-wake cycles.
- How did they assign participants to groups? In order to have a true experiment (that allows for the next question) you must assign participants randomly to groups. In this study they successfully assigned participants to a group with rocking beds and to a group with identical beds, without rocking.
- Does the method used allow for causal claims, a cause and effect relationship? In order to argue a cause and effect relationship, you must have participants assigned randomly, which has been done! The researchers can argue that the rocking allowed for a better nights sleep.
- Are the conclusions generalized to the right population? In this study, they generalized the results to all adults, when they tested young adults between the ages of 2o and 27. Though this can only be applied to healthy sleepers already.
Ask yourself these questions when you see an article about any new research study you read about. It can help you to narrow down any false generalizations and incorrect claims made.
This study was done as a follow up study to a study that experimented with rocking beds and shorter naps. Participants in that study fell asleep faster and had overall better brain activity. Another follow up study was done with researching the effect of rocking stimulation on other species, specifically mice. Studies continue to be done on sleep because the reasons are still unknown and only theories.
So want to improve your sleep? Invest in a rocking bed and sleep like a baby.
After writing my own pop culture article about this sleep study, I understand how difficult it can be to transpose. The original study was often very confusing and difficult to read because of the terms I did not know. It was filled with information about the neuroscience of sleep and paraphrasing proved to be difficult. I understand issues that may arise for journalists when writing these articles for readers who may not have heard of anything in the original report. After critiquing the pop article, I learned how much simpler it was to understand the study after reading an article about it, rather than the original report. A lot of studying must be done and rereading of the report. I had to read the report many times when doing my scholarly article critique because it was filled with numbers, acronyms, and terms I had never heard of. I spent a lot of time looking up the definition of words related to neuroscience and sleep. After attempting to write my own pop culture summary of the study, I have a newfound respect for journalists making their articles as easily understandable as possible while still making the results of the study clear.
In my summary I chose to include most of the general ideas of the study and tried to stray away from using any terms that I did not know previously. After reading my pop culture article, I noticed it was very thorough in its description of the study and included connections to things that people reading the article could relate to. The article was over 1000 words so I felt it was important to include as much as I could. In the news article they do not mention anything about the legitimacy of the experiment with the five critical questions. Which the readers would have to find in the study report. Because of the length, I felt it important to answer those questions when reading research. I think that by including them in my article, readers may be more inclined to think of those questions next time they read a pop culture article. It also helps the reader to understand some of the important aspects of what goes into a research study.
In the news article, many connections were made between pop culture and the science behind the study. They mentioned the Mother Goose stories about rocking your baby. As well as a recent pop song called Rock-a-Bye Baby, that talks about motherhood. Making these connections in the article I thought added to the pop culture aspects of the article and drew more readers in. The article also mentioned other studies of the same caliber. A study was done previous to this with napping and one was done after, testing the same rocking motion on mice. I included the mention of these other studies because I felt it would gauge interest.
Original Report of the Study: Perrault et al., Whole-Night Continuous Rocking Entrains Spontaneous Neural Oscillations with Benefits for Sleep and Memory, Current Biology (2018)
News Article: “The Neuroscience of ‘Rock-a-Bye Baby’ and Rocking Adult Beds.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 26 Jan. 2019