Chicago researchers: Hearing noise could enhance your sleep, improve memory

FOX 32 NEWS - When’s the last time you got a good night's sleep? Researchers at Northwestern Medicine have found adding a little noise to your bedtime could enhance your sleep and even improve your memory.

There’s something about watching a baby sleep that makes you feel peaceful and maybe even a little jealous. As adults, those sleepless nights leave us feeling fatigued and not as sharp.

Northwestern Medicine researchers have found that a gentle sound stimulation called ‘Pink Noise’ synched to the rhythm of brain waves may not only help your memory, but could also improve your sleep to a more youthful level.

Previous research has shown that Pink Noise, when delivered in a stage of sleep called "deep sleep,” can enhance memory in younger people. So, Northwestern sleep specialists decided to see if it had the same effect on older adults. The result was a 33 percent increase in memory.

The key is timing. The researchers came up with a special patented technology that measures a person's brain waves, and just when the waves show someone is in "deep sleep,” they hear a noise.

"It's kept at a very minimal volume so the brain is picking it up that information, but it's not actually causing them to wake up."

Deep sleep is critical for memory. But beginning in middle age, it decreases substantially. Scientists say it’s part of aging.

Dr. Zee is excited at the potential of using pink noise as a safe drug-free approach to improving memory and brain health, no matter your age and even when it may already be on the decline.

"The brain, even at an older age, has plasticity can be altered and made better."

More larger, long term studies are needed to confirm these results but the hope is one day you will be able to have a device like this to use at home.

The Pink Noise has only been tested on one night of sleep. The hope is using it on multiple nights could have a cumulative effect that would be even more beneficial.

Dr. Zee says don't confuse this with the sound machines you can buy at stores for sleep. This works differently. But if those sound machines help you sleep better, she says go for it.

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