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Sleep well: listening to soothing words in your sleep can help

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Sleep well: listening to soothing words in your sleep can help

Silence? It is not necessarily the best viaticum for good sleep: according to a study conducted in Belgium, “pillow talk” could have a positive effect on heart health and the quality of sleep itself. Basically, listening to relaxing words during sleep helps reduce your heart rate. A discovery of no small importance: scientists from the GIGA – Cyclotron Research Center of the University of Liège (Belgium) say they are sure that their discovery could help explain how certain information coming from the environment around us can influence the quality of rest and shed light on brain-heart interactions during sleep in general.

The ULiège team collaborated with scientists from the University of Friborg in Switzerland to investigate whether the human body really “disconnects” from the outside world during sleep. To find out, researchers focused on how our heartbeat changes when we listen to someone talk while we sleep. This allowed them to ascertain that listening to relaxing words seems to slow down cardiac activity. And this could be evidence that the body is in a deeper state of sleep. But be careful: not all words have this effect; neutral words do not produce the same slowdown. Therefore, talking to someone while they sleep may not be appreciated by the person concerned.

In reality, a previous study (by the same researchers) had already shown that relaxing words increase the duration of deep sleep and the quality of sleep, putting forward the hypothesis that in this way sleep can be positively influenced. For this latest cycle of research, the authors of the study wanted to analyze cardiac activity (using the electrocardiogram), and this allowed them to discover that the heart slows down its activity only after listening to relaxing words.

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Cardiac activity has long been thought to contribute to how we perceive the world around us, but most of the evidence supporting this theory comes from experiments in which participants were awake. The Belgian study, however, shows that this also applies when sleeping. “Most sleep research has focused on the brain and has rarely investigated bodily activity,” explains Professor Christina Schmidt.

Researchers hypothesize that the brain and body are connected even in situations where complete communication is not possible, such as during night sleep. They underline the importance of considering both information coming from the brain and that coming from the body to understand how we react to the environment around us. The hope is that the study will inspire others to explore the heart’s role in sleep-related functions. By focusing on cardiac responses to words and sounds, the researchers believe they could also investigate how hearing influences the emotional processing of memories when we sleep. And dreams could benefit too.

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