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Losing Sleep? “Pink Noise” Might Be the Answer

by Richard Bitner
Losing Sleep? “Pink Noise” Might Be the Answer

Poor sleep habits are a common problem among elderly adults. Up to 40% of older Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder, which include trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, and a range of related problems. Research has shown that sleeping quality worsens as we age, and many older adults pay the price, faced with daily fatigue and an increased risk of health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and memory problems.

Losing Sleep? “Pink Noise” Might Be the Answer
Medical professionals recommend a range of strategies to seniors who struggle with sleep disorders, including reduced caffeine intake, avoiding TV and computers before bed, and breathing exercises. But a small study published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience suggests a new way that seniors might be able to improve their quality of sleep: pink noise. Losing Sleep? “Pink Noise” Might Be the Answer

According to research performed by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, pink noise therapy may help seniors achieve the deep sleep they desperately need — and could improve memory in the process.

Researchers Induce Deep Sleep with Pink Noise

What is “pink noise”? In simple terms, pink noise can be thought of as a cousin of white noise — the sound you used to hear from your TV when it was tuned to a dead channel. Pink noise is made up of a mix of high and low frequencies, and while it sounds similar to white noise, the balance of these frequencies creates a more soothing and pleasurable sound. Losing Sleep? “Pink Noise” Might Be the Answer

During the study, researchers had 13 adults over the age of 60 wear headphones during sleep. As the study participants slept, the researchers would play short bursts of pink noise when the participants entered deep sleep. The researchers measured the participants’ brain patterns and had participants take a memory test when they woke up. The researchers also performed a baseline test without pink noise to compare their results against. Losing Sleep? “Pink Noise” Might Be the Answer

The results of the study showed that during the night when participants listened to pink noise, they experienced higher-quality deep sleep. Even more impressively, participants scored three times as well on memory tests after a night of pink noise-induced deep sleep. Losing Sleep? “Pink Noise” Might Be the Answer

Despite these encouraging results, the team behind the study cautions that more research will need to be performed before pink noise becomes a recommended treatment for sleep-deprived seniors. Because of the small sample size of the study — only 13 participants, and just a single a night of sleep — the findings will need to be replicated at a larger scale, with more participants across a longer period of time.

If these further tests prove successful, the researchers behind the pink noise study hope to develop an affordable device that seniors can use in the comfort of home. In explaining the impact of such a device, Dr. Phyllis Zee, who headed the study, explains, “This is a potential tool for enhancing memory in older populations and attenuating normal age-related memory decline.”

In the meantime, seniors suffering from sleep disorders can try using pink noise on their own, but are advised to continue using other strategies for managing elderly sleeping problems.

If you have an older loved one who is coping with a sleeping disorder and other age-related difficulties, you may wish to consider in-home care. A professional caregiver can help your loved one cope with these difficulties and make day-to-day life more manageable and comfortable. To find out more about in-home care in your area, contact your local Visiting Angels office.


Losing Sleep? “Pink Noise” Might Be the Answer

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