For those of you who honestly believe you can live and thrive on a couple hours of sleep a night (by the way, your body isn’t really thriving and is NOT happy with you), you’ll be interested to know you aren’t alone- elephants need only three to four hours of sleep per night too, in order to be their happy elephant selves during the day.
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But what gives? They are far bigger than us and expend far more energy. So, what do they have that we don’t? Apparently, our large friends get deeper, more stable sleep and new research may have found the secret to helping humans do the same thing! It’s called “pink noise.”
Most of us have heard of “white noise,” which is produced when the sounds of different frequencies are combined, but pink noise is a type of sound in which every octave carries the same power or a perfectly consistent frequency. Study author Jue Zhang, Ph.D., an associate professor at China’s Peking University, explains it like this, “Think of rain falling on pavement, or wind rustling the leaves on a tree.” They call it pink because light with a similar power spectrum would appear pink.
“To see how pink noise would affect human sleepers, Zhang and his team recruited 50 people and exposed them to either pink noise or no noise during nighttime sleep and daytime naps while monitoring their brain activity. The results: An impressive 75% of study participants reported more restful sleep when exposed to pink noise. When it came to brain activity, the amount of “stable sleep”—the most restful kind—increased 23% among the nighttime sleepers exposed to pink noise, and more than 45% among nappers, says Zhang.”
Sound plays a huge role in brain activity and brain wave synchronization- even when we are asleep. The steady drone of pink noise slows and regulates brain waves, which is a hallmark of super-restful sleep.
Want to try it out? Zhang recommends fans or noisemakers that produce steady, uninterrupted sound or sounds that imitate falling rain or the wind. You can also download an app that plays pink noise or load up a youtube video. Just remember, don’t have the screen up high or facing you because of the blue light and don’t wear headphones became they can disrupt sleep.