There is a common perception that relaxing melodies can help you fall asleep. After all, parents have been singing lullabies to their children for centuries. But does this ring true for all age groups? Can calm music aid in getting better sleep?
Can Music Help You Sleep?
Music can be a great tool to help lure yourself to sleep.
In one study among elementary school children, those who listened to a 45-minute classical CD before naptime and bedtime for three consecutive weeks reported significantly better sleep efficiency and longer sleep duration. Classical music for sleep also decreased the number of poor sleepers in the experimental group from 68.9% pre-test to 6.7% by the end of the experiment.
But why is this true? In science, we can find the answer.
Why Does Music Affect Sleep?
Research has shown that soothing background noises can reduce stress and result in improved sleep quality. This is because sound waves can trigger electrical signals in the brain and regulate the levels of hormones in the body.
Listening to music can increase levels of dopamine, a happiness hormone, and decrease levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. These triggers enhance one’s mood, uplifting any feelings of anxiety before bedtime.
Furthermore, music can contribute to relaxation by soothing the automatic nervous system. By calming your mind and body, relaxing sleep music can slow down your breathing, lower your heart rate, and reduce your blood pressure. All in preparation for mental and physical rest.
With the use of polysomnography (PSG) tools, it has been shown that slow-wave sleep brain-wave music can decrease the delta band electroencephalography (EEG) power spectral density. In turn, this shortens sleep latency or the time it takes to fall asleep.
What Kind of Music is Best for Sleep?
Aside from classical music, nature sounds have also been shown to improve sleep, such as rain sounds for sleeping, water streams, and wind, among others.
Further studies also explored the use of brain-wave music and binaural beats for improving sleep.
In a study among 33 participants, the authors observed the impact of three types of music on three experimental groups, namely: rapid eye movement (REM) brain-wave music, slow-wave sleep (SWS) brain-wave music, and white noise (WN). By letting participants listen to this music for 20 minutes before bedtime for six days, the authors found that the SWS group had the greatest increase in sleep efficiency and positive sleep quality.
Another study further investigated the use of music and binaural beats in reducing anxiety, a common hindrance to healthy sleep. Among 141 patients, it was found that both binaural beat music (BB) and music intervention (MI) resulted in decreased anxiety levels versus the control group. Musical arrangements of relaxing melodies, tones, and rhythms of 60-minute duration resulted in reduced blood pressure (BP), heart rate, and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory questionnaire (STAI) scores.
The Benefits of Music for Sleep
With numerous studies on the effect music has on sleep, what are the specific components of sleep that music can aid?
In one study, it was found that participants who listened to music before taking a nap had a longer duration in the deep sleep stage, which is essential for memory consolidation. Aside from this, music also positively improved overall subjective sleep quality.
In this study, sleep was measured both subjectively, using self-expressed metrics, and objectively, using polysomnography (PSG). The authors found that music improved subjective sleep quality compared to the control group. In addition to this, music also significantly increased the amount of slow-wave sleep (SWS) or deep sleep.
Similar studies have proven that classical music for sleep resulted in improvements in global sleep quality over time. These covered all components of sleep quality including sleep latency, sleep duration, perceived sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep disturbance, and sleep-aiding medication.
Likewise, listening to deep sleep music has been shown to enhance sleep efficiency and positively affect sleep quality.
Adding Music to your Sleep Routine
As part of healthy sleep hygiene and habits, creating a calm and relaxing environment before bed can help you reap these positive benefits and get a good night’s rest.
Before going to bed, take the time to play calming sleep music in the background for 20-60 minutes for the best results.
Different software and apps have a collection of relaxing nature sounds, classical music, or scientifically based brain-wave music that can help aid sleep. Examples include Pzizz, Calm, Slumber, and Noisli.
Music to help you sleep includes a wide range of classical music, nature sounds, binaural sounds, and brain-wave music. Aside from easing anxiety and helping you relax, music can improve sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep latency, and lengthen deep sleep. Adding music to your everyday sleep routine can result in a healthier, better sleep – as proven by science.
Cordi, M. J., Ackermann, S., & Rasch, B. (2019, June 24). Effects of Relaxing Music on Healthy Sleep. Nature News. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-45608-y.
Gao, D., Long, S., Yang, H., Cheng, Y., Guo, S., Yu, Y., Liu, T., Dong, L., Lu, J., & Yao, D. (2020, February 11). SWS Brain-Wave Music May Improve the Quality of Sleep: An EEG Study. Frontiers in neuroscience. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7026372/.
Tan, L. P. (2004, January 1). The Effects of Background Music on Quality of Sleep in Elementary School Children, Journal of Music Therapy. DeepDyve. https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/oxford-university-press/the-effects-of-background-music-on-quality-of-sleep-in-elementary-ZaUfaNRcFt?articleList=%2Fsearch%3Fquery%3DThe%2BEffects%2Bof%2BBackground%2BMusic%2Bon%2BQuality%2Bof%2BSleep%2Bin%2BElementary%2BSchool%2BChildren.
Wiwatwongwana, D., Vichitvejpaisal, P., Thaikruea, L., Klaphajone, J., Tantong, A., & Wiwatwongwana, A. (2016, October 14). The effect of music with and without binaural beat audio on operative anxiety in patients undergoing cataract surgery: a randomized controlled trial. Nature News. https://www.nature.com/articles/eye2016160.