Can Pink Noise Enhance Memory By Improving Sleep?

You may remember a piece we did in May about how pink noise, low gentle sounds, can help achieve a restful night’s sleep but new research has found older adults who use sound stimulation to deepen their sleep also improve their ability to recall words.

According to a study out of Northwestern University in Chicago, the ability to sleep deeply drops off significantly around middle age and researchers believe this may have a lot to do with memory loss common in older age.

In a sleep study of 13 volunteers over the age of 60, each participant received one night with pink-noise stimulation and one night of “sham” stimulation.   Participants were able to improve their memory test results by a few percentages following the sham sessions but on average, volunteers improved their scores by three times from the night before after pink-noise stimulation.

Slow wave sleep, a result of deep sleep, is believed to be important for memory consolidation in both younger and older adults.  Sounds like the rushing of water or wind rustling leaves on a tree, timed to enhance slow wave sleep, can improve stable sleep and may enhance memory and recall.

Further study is underway at Northwestern and the Feinburg School of Medicine to determine if acoustic stimulation could help improve memory in adults with mild cognitive impairment.  Northwestern also has a patent pending for the technology and hopes to develop a reasonably priced device people can use at home.   In the meantime, nature sounds and white or pink noise apps, like Soundly Sleeping available in iTunes and on Android, can help the brain and body by improving sleep.

To read the full study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience follow this link.