Playing background music while sleeping is becoming increasingly popular, but what impact does it actually have on your sleep quality?
Music is often celebrated for its ability to inspire, evoke emotion, and bring people together. But one thing we don’t often hear is that music is a useful tool for improving our sleep hygiene.
However, in recent years more and more of us have taken to listening to music while we fall and stay asleep. Fans of this technique hail music as a way to relax, feel at ease, and reduce background noise.
But how useful is music when it comes to sleep, and what kind of music is the best option for helping you nod off?
Can music actually help you sleep?
Using music as a way to sleep isn’t a new phenomenon. Parents and caregivers have relied on lullabies as a way to calm restless children for generations, after all, and studies have found that children of all ages – from newborns to primary school students – tend to sleep better after listening to soothing music.
But children aren’t the only ones who can benefit here. One study carried out by the National Centre of Biotechnology Information found that adults who listened to 45 minutes of music before going to sleep reported better sleep quality from the very first night, and these benefits only grew as they continued to use music in their nightly routine.
Studies also show that music could have you fall asleep faster. In a study of women living with insomnia published by the Journal of Community Health Nursing, participants played music before bed for 10 consecutive nights, and the time it took to fall asleep dropped from 27-69 minutes to 6-13 minutes on average.
However, there are factors to consider. Some researchers have found that abrupt changes of song can lurch listeners our of sleep, and sleeping with headphones is considered a health risk that could cause permanent damage to your hearing.
How does music impact sleep?
As the brain interprets the music we hear, it has direct physical effects on the body. Depending on the music you’re listening to, these could be physical responses which promote sleep and relaxation.
Several studies suggest that music aids sleep by impacting our hormone release, including the stress hormone cortisol. A 2011 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that listening to music decreases levels of cortisol, helping to reduce stress levels. Music also triggers the release of dopamine, also known as the pleasure hormone, which can help to reduce feelings of acute and chronic pain.
What kind of music is best?
If you do decide to listen to music to help you sleep, it should come as no surprise to hear that slower tempos are the best option. However, outside of that there is no clear consensus about the best music to listen to for sleep, as your body’s reaction to music is based primarily on your own individual music taste.
The best way to make music work for your sleep health is to incorporate it into your routine every night, creating a calm and consistent schedule that you can stick to. It’s also best to avoid songs with that evoke a strong emotional response, instead opting for music which makes you feel more positive.
In the end, it’s about finding what works for you. Some people will find music to be a useful way to relax the mind and drown out background noise, while others will find it too distracting.