As we get older, our quality of sleep declines, becoming lighter and more fragmentary than when we were young. Unfortunately, recent research links a decrease in deep sleep quality to memory loss later in life. The good news is that there is a possible solution that may reverse this problematic trend: pink noise.
What exactly is pink noise? Pink noise is a gentle, relaxing sound where each octave possesses equal energy; in other words, it contains a balanced mix of high and low sounds.
Pink noise is similar to the background noise that we are exposed to every day. Think of gentle sounds like the wind blowing through leaves on a tree or the rushing of water. These sounds fall into the pink noise category. Sounds like these are noticeable to our brains but not enough to disturb sleep.
How can pink noise help older people sleep better and improve their memory functions? Here are three ways it can happen.
Pink noise encourages deep sleep in older adults.
After age 60, adults have reduced deep sleep, also called slow wave sleep. During slow wave sleep, brain waves slow to one oscillation per second; waves are around ten oscillations per second during wakefulness.
Researchers discovered an increase in the slow waves of adults falling asleep to pink noise which suggests that they were experiencing deep sleep for longer periods of time.
Exposure to pink noise improves memory.
Deep sleep is critical to maintaining a healthy, active memory. Many scientific studies have emphasized the importance of sleep for memory consolidation. The brain’s ability to turn short-term memories into long-term memories is dependent upon deep sleep.
Because pink noise has been shown to improve the quality and amount of deep sleep in older adults, it therefore improves memory. Studies have shown that older adults who listened to pink noise as they fell asleep had better memory recall when tested the next morning.
Timing is everything.
Pink noise can increase memory capability and quality of deep sleep, but how much depends upon your individual slow wave sleep level. To be most effective, pink noise should be administered at times that reflect a person’s slow wave sleep pattern.
Pink noise is a safe, simple, non-medicated approach to improving your quality of sleep, and in the process, improving your brain health.