Swiss Researchers Develop “SleepLoop” a Device to Improve Deep Sleep

What if a lightweight handheld device could improve sleep quality through sound stimulation? That’s the experiment conducted by Swiss researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. According to the first clinical study, the tool is effective, but not for everyone.

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SleepLoop

SleepLoop. Credit: ETH Zurich

With aging, sleep quality tends to decrease, and deep sleep is disturbed. To improve this particular sleep phase known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep,  Swiss researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) have conducted a clinical trial to test a new device.

The device is a portable device called “SleepLoop,” designed to emit sounds to the ears (via headphones) during the deep sleep phase. The device includes a headband with electrodes and a microchip that continuously measures the sleeping person’s brain activity.

The data collected is analyzed in real-time and autonomously, thanks to the microchip, using custom-made software.

As soon as the sleeper shows slow waves (signs of deep sleep), the system triggers a small auditory signal, characterized by a small “click”.

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Upon receiving this sound, the body can synchronize the neuronal cells and amplify the effect of the slow waves. Of course, SleepLoop is designed in such a way that the person wearing the headphones is not awakened by these sounds!

The first experiment involved 16 participants aged between 60 and 80 who wore the SleepLoop directly at home. The volunteers wore the device every night for a total of four weeks. Auditory stimulation was only given every night for 14 days, without the participants knowing exactly when.

The results, published in the journal Communications Medicine, are encouraging. “It worked very well. We had surprisingly little data loss and the participants found the device easy to use,” explains Caroline Lustenberger, who led the study.

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But while the trial was successful in terms of familiarizing them with the object, not all participants expressed the same sensitivity to the audio stimuli. “Some people generally responded well to the stimuli and showed clearly improved slow waves, while others did not respond at all” notes Caroline Lustenberger.

Therefore, the researchers will use this data to optimize the effectiveness of SleepLoop so that it benefits as many people as possible.

References

Auditory deep sleep stimulation in older adults at home: a randomized crossover trial

Enhancing deep sleep

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