‘Pink Noise’ A Deep Sleep and Memory Solution

‘Pink Noise’ A Deep Sleep and Memory Solution

It’s no surprise that as we age and get older our quality of sleep declines. As researchers look into the decline, they believe that lack of sleep can contribute to later-life memory loss. As new research emerges, a simple solution could be the answer to more restful sleep. The answer: “pink noise.”

Pink noise is defined as gentle, soothing sound whereby each octave possesses equal energy. A better explanation, pink noise is the background noise we hear in everyday life.

Researchers from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, found that while older adults slept, if they synced up pink noise to their brain waves, the sound enhanced their quality of deep sleep and improve their memory. The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, by senior author Dr. Phyllis Zee, a professor of neurology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern.

In previous studies, throughout the years, the core of numerous studies highlighted the importance of sleep for memory consolidation. Which is, the brain’s ability to convert short-term memories into long-term memories. As we age, the quality of slow-wave sleep (SWS) decreases. Slow-wave sleep is commonly known as deep sleep which is part of the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep cycle that is important for memory consolidation. Studies have shown that disruption of the NREM cycle can cause negative consequences for our memory.  

Previous research from Dr. Zee and team uncovered a link, in young adults, between acoustic stimulation of slow-wave brain activity during sleep and improved memory. For now, it’s noted that studies are lacking when it comes to using acoustic stimulation in older adults.

Acoustic simulations boost SWS, memory in later life

“To address this gap in research, Dr. Zee and colleagues enrolled 13 older adults, aged between 60 and 84 years, to their study.

All adults were subject to one night of sham stimulation and one night of acoustic stimulation, which were around 1 week apart. The acoustic stimulation incorporated pink noise that was synced to their brain waves as they slept.

For each session, the adults completed two memory recall tests – one before they went to sleep at night, and one after they woke up the following morning.

While memory recall improved under both conditions, the researchers found that the average improvement following acoustic stimulation was three times greater than with the sham stimulation.

The greater improvement in memory as a result of acoustic stimulation correlated with a greater increase in the quality of SWS, which the team says emphasizes how important deep sleep is for memory consolidation, even in later life.

Overall, the researchers believe that their findings indicate that acoustic stimulation may be an effective way to boost sleep quality and memory in older age.” – Medical News Today

“This is an innovative, simple, and safe non-medication approach that may help improve brain health. This is a potential tool for enhancing memory in older populations and attenuating normal age-related memory decline.”

Dr. Phyllis Zee

Further studies of involving a larger number of participants is needed before acoustic stimulation can be recommended.

by Kristina Mancino