Scientists discovered that using “pink noise” to stimulate the brain during deep sleep improved cardiovascular function.
After reviewing volumes of research on the links between healthy sleep and heart health, the American Heart Association added sleep to its cardiovascular health checklist in 2022. For maximum cardiovascular benefits, the updated Life’s Essential 8 recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per day.
Researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich wanted to see if specific brain waves associated with deep sleep had an impact on cardiovascular function.
The study, which was published on October 5 in the European Heart Journal, enrolled 18 male participants aged 30 to 57 who were nonsmokers and did not have any cardiovascular disease, sleep disorders, or other conditions that could interfere with sleep.
The team chose men because female participants may have sleep problems due to menopause or the menstrual cycle, which could skew the results.
The participants slept while wearing a deep sleep stimulation system for three nights during the experiment. After they fell asleep, the researchers stimulated the participants with “pink noise” for two of the three nights.
Pink noise consists of auditory tones at specific frequencies that sound similar to static. During sleep, the participants heard ten seconds of these tones, followed by ten seconds of silence. This cycle repeated depending on brain wave patterns.
The researchers were able to determine whether the sound simulation improved deep sleep and whether it affected the participants’ blood pressure and heart rate.
Following their awakening, the participants underwent echocardiography to determine the cardiovascular effects of the auditory stimulation.
The researchers discovered that stimulating the heart with brief auditory tones during deep sleep causes the heart, particularly the left ventricle, to function more effectively.As a result, blood flow to the brain, organs, and extremities increases.
“We clearly saw that both the heart’s pumping force and its relaxation were greater after nights with stimulation compared to nights without stimulation,” said Christian Schmied, senior consultant in cardiology at the University Hospital Zurich, in a news release.
According to the authors of the study, this is the first time a research team has discovered that increased slow brain waves during deep sleep improve heart function.
Furthermore, the team was able to replicate the results on two different nights, which is statistically significant.
According to the authors, because sleep quality can affect athletic performance, these findings may be of interest to athletes.
“In the future, this type of deep sleep stimulation system could enable improved cardiac function – and possibly faster and better recovery after intense workouts,” says Stephanie Huwiler of ETH Zurich’s Department of Health Sciences and Technology.
Despite the fact that the study had a small number of participants, the authors say that small group sizes are common in laboratory sleep studies because they require significant resources. Furthermore, because the study only included male participants, the researchers believe that future studies should include females to see if these deep sleep heart benefits occur in women as well.
How do you get deep sleep?
Here are some of the healthiest ways to get deep sleep:
Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. This will help to regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
Create a relaxing bedtime routine. This could include taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to calming music. Avoid watching TV or using electronic devices in the hour before bed, as the blue light emitted from these devices can interfere with sleep.
Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Darkness helps to promote the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Noise and light can disrupt sleep, so try to create a bedroom environment that is as dark and quiet as possible. A cool temperature is also ideal for sleep.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. Caffeine and alcohol can interfere with sleep, so it is best to avoid them in the hours leading up to bedtime.
Get regular exercise, but avoid exercising too close to bedtime. Exercise can help to improve sleep quality, but it is important to avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as this can make it harder to fall asleep.
See a doctor if you have trouble sleeping. If you have chronic insomnia, talk to your doctor. There may be an underlying medical condition that is interfering with your sleep.
Here are some additional tips that may help you to get more deep sleep:
Expose yourself to bright light during the day. This will help to regulate your circadian rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep at night.
Eat a healthy diet. Eating a balanced diet can help to improve your overall health and well-being, including your sleep quality.
Manage stress. Stress can interfere with sleep, so it is important to find healthy ways to manage it. This could include exercise, yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature.
Get enough sunlight. Sunlight exposure helps to regulate your circadian rhythm and promote good sleep. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of sunlight exposure each day.
Take a nap if needed. A short nap during the day can help to improve alertness and cognitive function. However, avoid napping for more than 30 minutes, as this can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
If you follow these tips, you should be able to improve your sleep quality and get more deep sleep.
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