There’s a good reason why we sing lullabies to help babies fall asleep. For many people, listening to music is a soothing, relaxing experience.
These mood-altering properties are one reason why music can function as a sleep aide.
But what is the science behind the relationship between music and sleep?
Why Does Music Help Us Sleep?
Music can also help address physical or emotional conditions that can contribute to poor sleep quality or a lack of sleep.
Stress, anxiety and pain can impact our sleep and there is research to show that music can provide some relief from these afflictions.
A recent review of 10 research studies has shown that people from all over the world, from a wide range of ethnicities and cultures, have successfully used music as a sleep aid.
When we’re sleeping, sudden changes in the level of noise around us can wake us up.
If the right piece of music is used, it can help us sleep because it creates a constant, predictable noise environment. In this way, it works a bit like white noise.
However, while white noise provides an equal level of sound across all frequencies, this could prove unhelpful for someone suffering from tinnitus, or who simply finds those frequencies too distracting.
A piece of music that you find pleasant and relaxing may be an ideal substitute for white noise because it is less likely to distract you with tones and frequencies that you don’t enjoy, or that could irritate a condition like tinnitus.
The Role Of Frequency
Frequency can also play an important role in using music as a sleep aid.
The concept of binaural beats, first discovered in the mid-19th century, uses two tones of music played at different frequencies. The difference in these frequencies is said to induce a specific response in the brain.
Certain binaural beat frequencies are believed to promote relaxation and sleep.
Binaural beats are best listened to through earphones or headphones, as each ear will hear a slightly different frequency which will maximize the effect of the music.
Recent research into binaural beats has found that the concept shows promise for those experiencing difficulty sleeping.
Music and Health
Psychological research has shown that music can ease anxiety which can impact sleep.
These studies used music with a limited tempo range, a subtle, constant rhythm, strong melodies and constant harmonies. They reported a noticeable impact on anxiety levels.
Choosing the Right Music
The most important thing to remember in choosing the right piece of sleep music is to pick a style that you know you enjoy.
For instance, if you don’t enjoy classical music, listening to it may be too much of a distraction for it to be of any help.
Research has shown that music with a tempo of 100 beats or fewer per minute is optimal.
Songs with stable rhythms and low frequencies are also believed to help induce sleep.
If you’re not very musically inclined and aren’t able to connect the terminology with a particular song, there are numerous smartphone apps that can perform this task for you. Some are designed specifically with babies or children in mind, although there are many that are geared towards adults with sleep difficulties.
If you find that music is not helping you sleep, don’t worry. Not every type of sleep aid will work for everyone.
If you are experiencing poor quality sleep or have serious difficulty falling asleep and music is not helpful, consult a medical professional.
There are many treatment options available and a doctor can help you determine the best path to better sleep.
Sleep Music Checklist
- Choose a style of music you enjoy
- Make sure the music has a slower tempo
- Choose an instrumental song without lyrics; lyrics could prove to be a distraction
- Situate yourself in a comfortable environment and position
- Dim the lights
- If it’s comfortable for you, use earphones or headphones to block out other noises
- If you find that the music is too distracting or that after 30 minutes or so it isn’t helping, take a break and try again later