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Can Music Help You Sleep?

Do you have difficulty falling or staying asleep at night? Relaxing sleep music is reported to ease neurological processes and improve sleep quality. 

25 Jan 2022 • 7 MIN Vincent Giampapa MD
Can Music Help You Sleep?

Whether you need motivation for your workouts or courage to confront intense situations, music positively impacts the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system. Music is always there to help you feel calm, relaxed and energized.

Listening to music is an excellent sleep aid if you have difficulty sleeping. It promotes peace and tranquility by lowering psychological tension to improve sleep quality.

Effects of music on the mind

You've probably experienced the urge to sing along or move when you hear music playing. It has a drastic physiological and psychological impact on the mind and body. It triggers hormone release, stimulates the immune system, and even alters the breathing and heart rate. But what makes music a powerful tool is that different melodies, tempos, and rhythms all have unique effects.

For example, numerous studies have found that classical music and sounds from nature assist sleep due to their soothing effects and their ability to become white noise (effectively a background noise that you don't need to focus on actively). The tones of classical music calm the heartbeat and reduce the stress hormones found in the body.

The physiological changes to your body that allow you to fall asleep (and stay in a deep sleep) are a steady heart rate, slower breathing, and lower blood pressure. Soothing music allows your body to switch quickly into sleep mode physically and psychologically, and it works quickly. A study reported that adults who listened to music before going to sleep had improved sleep quality within the first night.

Soothing, peaceful music can help you sleep better by:

  • Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Soothing the nervous system to allow you to relax
  • Alleviating muscle distress
  • Causing your body to release serotonin and oxytocin, two sleep-friendly hormones
  • Helping your body reduce cortisol, a sleep suppressing hormone.

The best kind of music for a good night's sleep

When using music to help develop a better sleep pattern, you have to decide the style of music that will work effectively for you. While classical music has a general calming effect, some prefer a stronger rhythm or music with lyrics.

One thing that makes a clear difference is the tempo of the music. The tempo, which can be expressed as the number of beats per minute (BPM), has a profound effect on the listener's mood - and heart rate. Upbeat and exciting music helps make a workout easier, so it makes sense that slower and softer music will help you relax.

Researchers have concluded that 60-80 BPM is an ideal tempo to promote relaxation, given that the typical heart rate is also between 60 and 100 BPM. The slower music allows the body to sync up with the tempo more efficiently. After a while, alpha brain waves are generated, indicating the body has reached a state of relaxation.

A self-made playlist with relaxing sleep music can work wonders for you. Even if you don't create a unique playlist, you'll find plenty of options accessible on the internet; experiment with different songs and rhythms to discover the right fit that gives relaxation and peace of mind.

The Surprising Wonders of Music - Backed by Science

Here's what science has to tell us about how music can enhance sleep:

Better Sleep Efficiency

Sleep efficiency is measured by sleep quality and how rested and refreshed you feel later. If you have trouble falling asleep (or falling back asleep if you wake up early), it can indicate a lack of efficient sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation says the average person should get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, depending on age. However, more than one in three adults don't get enough sleep due to stress or a sleep disorder like sleep apnea. Music can help. Recent research took a group of 50 adults with chronic insomnia and split them into two groups. One group listened to music when it was time to sleep, while the other didn't listen to anything. The group who listened to soothing music felt more rested than those who did not listen to any music.

Improved Mental Health

Sleep duration is part of the problem, but the quality of your sleep is just as important. Sleeping well will mean that you perform better after waking up. Better sleep allows you to feel more focused, creative, and alert throughout the day. Sleeping with music stimulates post-sleep concentration.

In a 3-day study, a 45-minute music CD was given to students at nap time and bedtime. This practice resulted in the students focusing and paying more attention during their lessons.

Distraction from Pain

Pain and sleep have a strong negative relationship. Pain affects sleep, and a disturbed sleep cycle can make you more prone to feel pain. One way to benefit from music for sleep is to use it to distract from physical pain and discomfort. A Journal of Holistic Nursing published that music created a significant distraction and soothing from pain in the postoperative period.

The participants also reported relief from pain, fear, and negative thoughts while listening to calm, familiar music. Whether it's back pain or neck pain, listening to music can help relieve acute and chronic pains, including more severe conditions like fibromyalgia.

Stress Reduction

When your head hits the pillow at night, your mind will wander. The day's events might replay on an endless loop, and all your worries will become more apparent than ever. Music can alleviate this stress and stop your mind from drifting to negative thoughts. One study found that patients undergoing surgery experienced reduced production of the stress hormone cortisol when listening to music, demonstrating that it can help in even the most extreme circumstances.

Sleep Music Genres

The best genres that are reported to create peace are discussed below. Be sure to add them to your next sleep playlist!

Classical Music:

Classical music is the least appreciated genre for attaining good sleep. Songs with energized rhythms won't make you feel relaxed, so trying something softer and slower is suggested. Piano tunes and symphonies are highly appreciated for their ability to help you drift off.

Modern Classical Music:

Classical music is often calming and peaceful, but avoid overtures as these can be loud and upbeat! Many modern classical tunes come with a relatively slow tempo which won't make your mind active and energized. They are an excellent choice for filling the bedtime playlist.

Jazz or Blues:

Trying jazz or blues can also help you sleep better. These genres create an ambient environment that doesn't let your mind settle on memories and past actions.

Sounds of Nature:

Meditation is the key to unlocking a peaceful mind. Similarly, meditation music or the sounds from nature (such as raindrops, thunder, waves, and wind) can quickly take you into the valleys of peace and serenity by becoming soothing background noise.

Marconi Union:

The song 'Weightless' by Marconi Union is said to be the best song to sleep to, as it has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels by 65 percent. It is the perfect addition to your sleep playlist.

How to Effectively Use Music to Sleep Better

Not sure how to incorporate music in your routine to regulate the sleep cycle? Here are our top tips:

  • Choose music with slow beats: Body and brain are highly responsive to musical beats and tunes. Use songs at 60-80 BPM to drift your body into sleep mode. Your heart rate will adjust to the slow beat, and your breathing will slow down.
  • Try lyric-free: For bedtime, it's usually easier to use music without words. The smooth rhythms will guide the mind towards peace, while lyrics can be distracting and cause the brain to become active, focusing on the words.
  • Avoid sentimental triggers: Songs you have emotional attachments with can trigger extreme sadness or excitement; therefore, it's better to stay away from them, especially while sleeping! Choose more ambient music with no emotional triggers.
  • Be consistent: Research supports the benefits of music for sleep are enhanced over time. You may notice no immediate difference, but keeping a routine for a week or more is likely to work.
  • Avoid excess earbuds use: Excessive use of earbuds can damage the ear canal, especially if lying down. Play music gently without the use of earbuds whenever possible.

Can Listening to Music Have Harmful Effects?

Using relaxing sleep music won't have any harmful effects, but the way that you listen to the music can. If you use earbuds to listen to music all night, it can cause severe health issues.

  • In the ear canal, wax is produced continuously. But the excessive formation of wax is harmful as it clogs the ear and impacts hearing. Using earphones for a long time can lead to wax buildup, which is unhygienic and can reduce your hearing ability.
  • Necrosis: The death of body tissues caused by lack of blood flow is known as necrosis. Earphones can cause this condition by disrupting circulation.
  • "Sleep Earworms"- according to a study by Michael Scullin at Baylor University, music listening at night may lead to involuntary sleep imagery, AKA a sleep earworm.

Another Option to Try with Relaxing Sleep Music

There are many RX sleep medicine options on the market, but they can often make you feel groggy - or, worse still, don't improve your sleep performance. Even if you're 'sleeping' for 7-9 hours a night, you could feel tired as your sleep quality is still poor. Read more about The Dangers of Rx Sleep Medications

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Each gel pack consists of over 2,384 MG of power sleep nutrients, including melatonin, lemon balm extract, 5HTP, GABA, and vitamin B6.

You'll feel genuinely rested and ready for whatever the day has in store when you wake up.

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