How relaxing words create heart-healthy sleep environment?

PTC News Desk: Hearing relaxing words in sleep slows your heart down, suggests a recent research.
According to researchers from the GIGA – Centre of Research Cyclotron at the University of Liege discovered that the body reacts to the outside world when sleeping, which explains how sensory input might affect sleep quality.

Researchers from ULiege worked with the University of Fribourg in Switzerland to study if the body genuinely disconnects from the outside world while sleeping. They focused on how the heartbeat changes when we hear different words while sleeping.

They discovered that relaxing words reduced cardiac activity as a reflection of deeper sleep, in contrast to neutral words, which did not have the same effect. This result, reported in the Journal of Sleep Research, throws fresh light on brain-heart interactions during sleep.

Matthieu Koroma (Fund for Scientific Research – FNRS postdoctoral researcher), Christina Schmidt, and Athena Demertzi (both Fund for Scientific Research – FNRS Research Associate) from the GIGA Cyclotron Research Centre at ULiege collaborated with colleagues from the University of Fribourg to lead a previous study analysing brain data (electroencephalogram) showing that relaxing words increased deep sleep duration and sleep quality, demonstrating that we can positively influence sleep.

By that time, the authors believed that the brain might still process sensory input in a way that made our bodies feel more relaxed after hearing soothing phrases while sleeping. In this new study, the authors were able to analyse cardiac activity (electrocardiogram) to test this idea and discovered that the heart slows down only after the presentation of relaxing, not control words.

Markers of cardiac and brain activity were then compared to determine how much they contributed to auditory information-induced sleep modulation. Cardiac activity has been proposed as a direct contributor to how we perceive the world, but such evidence has so far only been obtained while awake. With these findings, the ULiege researchers demonstrated that it was also true during sleep, providing a new perspective on the critical role of bodily reactions beyond brain data in our understanding of sleep.

“Most of sleep research focuses on the brain and rarely investigates bodily activity” , says Schmidt, a sleep researcher.

“We nevertheless hypothesize that the brain and the body are connected even when we cannot fully communicate, including sleep. Both brain and body information need then to be taken into account for a full understanding of how we think and react to our environment”,  Dr. Demertzi added.

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