Any new parent who has tried to get an infant to sleep knows about the secret spell of a swing. There’s something magical about the rocking motion that a swing or even human arms can provide to put a baby to sleep. It also explains why a ride in the car or a train can be equally as tranquilizing.
So why couldn’t the same or a similar technique help an adult insomniac?
A new technology that has been developed may do just that.
The device is designed to simulate the gentle, soporific swaying sensation that seems to be the key factor in lulling babies (and adults) to sleep. And this can be achieved without the need for an actual bedroom swing to accommodate an adult. (Or asking your partner to do something impossible!)
It’s about the size of a MP3 player and is connected to the mastoid bone behind the ear using a sensor cable, which sends electric pulses into the vestibular system. This stimulates the balance centers in our middle ear to create a gentle swaying or rocking sensation. If it sounds too good to be true, or if you’re already feeling seasick at the thought of being artificially rocked to sleep as if lying on a sailboat, listen up.
The device was researched and developed in Australia by Philips Respironics, and according to tests performed in sleep labs in Sydney and Melbourne, it was found to decrease 67 percent of severe to moderate insomniacs down to a level of no clinical significance.
Though I’m not quite sure there’s any substitute for a piece of technology that, at the touch of a button, can make you feel like you’re being rocked to sleep like a baby, there are other low-tech ways to “rock” yourself to sleep. Try these three techniques instead:
- A warm bath before bedtime.
- Listening to relaxing music with a good pair of headphones on after getting into bed.
- Keeping your bedroom cool, quiet and low-lit.
These strategies won’t necessarily make you feel like you’re swaying, but you can add some visualization to conjure that rocking, swaying sensation. With your music playing, close your eyes and just imagine safely floating on a raft or inner tube while drifting in the ocean. It’s actually not too difficult to visualize. And it might just take the “difficulty” out of falling asleep.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™
How do you cope with restless nights? Does visualization help you fall asleep? Share your tips with the Sleep Disorders Community.