picture of headphones next to music albums for insomnia treatment

Yes, Music Really Can Help Your Insomnia

By Jason Wooden, PhD | August 10, 2018

Every night millions of people struggle with sleep.  Insomnia is such a common problem that over the years people have tried all sorts of remedies.

We’ve all heard about counting sheep, drinking warm milk, listening to white noise, or taking a hot shower – popular tricks that work to varying degrees.

Out of desperation or convenience, many people resort to sleeping pills.  (Past CDC estimates suggest that 4% of US adults use prescription aides each month.)

Unfortunately, these drugs have serious downsides which include drug dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and rebound insomnia.  (You can read more about this here.)

One natural remedy which continues to grow in popularity is music.  In fact, some people swear by it.

However, can it really help you sleep better?

In one of the most comprehensive music and sleep studies to date, researchers recently analyzed the results from 20 different clinical trials that directly tested whether music improves sleep.

Altogether, this analysis involved 1339 patients with primary insomnia.  (These are patients whose sleep issues are not caused by another health condition.)

The study looked at how long it took subjects to fall asleep, how much they actually slept while in bed, and how well subjects felt they slept.

Music was shown to be clinically effective in dealing with all three issues.  Subjects fell asleep faster, slept more in bed, and felt that their sleep quality was better.

So, the answer is yes – music really can help your sleep.

The connection between music, emotion, and health has been talked about since the time of Aristotle.

What exactly does it do to help you fall asleep faster and sleep better during the night?

It turns out that music can relax the body and mind which is thought to help prepare you for sleep.  In fact, studies have shown that music can directly affect the stress response in the body.

Studies have also shown that listening to music can increase feel good chemicals in the brain such as dopamine.  It can also mask ambient noises in the bedroom that disrupt sleep.

This has led to the emergence of music therapy, an exciting new therapeutic field.  Besides  insomnia, it’s currently being used to help with depression, anxiety, memory loss.

Now, before you start blasting your favorite hard rock artist at bed time, you should make sure you’re listening to the right type of music.

Picture of musician at rock music concert

Loud music that gets your heart racing won’t help you fall asleep

Basically, what you want is calming music that will help sooth you to sleep, not something that can get your heart racing and keep you wide awake for hours.

Popular choices include classical and new age music.  You may have to experiment a little to figure out what works best for you.

Be sure to also practice good sleep hygiene.  These are the things you during the day and at night time that can help set the stage for quality sleep.  If you ignore this, music may not work as well.

Sleep hygiene includes things like avoiding stimulants, keeping a bedtime routine, and improving your sleep environment.  Ideally, your bedtime music should be a part of your regular routine.

Finally, listening to music may not work for everyone.  However, it’s a natural and low-cost option well worth trying.  And when it comes to insomnia, it doesn’t hurt to have more options.

Picture of musical instruments used to make music that can help with insomnia

What’s the best music for insomnia?

  • Start with familiar songs
  • Try lite music: classical, jazz, folk, or “new age”
  • Avoid music that overly excites or is loud enough to keep you awake
  • Look for music that’s slow and stable rhythm (60 beats / minutes) with low tones.  You can check the BPM for your music here.

What’s the best music for insomnia?

  • Start with familiar songs
  • Try lite music (classical, jazz, folk, or “new age”)
  • Avoid music that overly excites or is loud enough to keep you awake
  • Look for music that’s slow and stable rhythm (60 beats / minutes) with low tones.  You can check the BPM for your music here.

What’s the best music for insomnia?

  • Start with familiar songs
  • Try lite music (classical, jazz, folk, or “new age”)
  • Avoid music that overly excites or is loud enough to keep you awake
  • Look for music that’s slow and stable rhythm (60 beats / minutes) with low tones.  You can check the BPM for your music here.

Sources:

1. Can music improve sleep quality in adults with primary insomnia?  A systematic review and network meta-analysis.  International Journal of Nursing Studies, 2018, volume 77, pages 189-196.

2. The Effect of Music on the Human Stress Response.  PLOS ONE, 2013, volume 8, issue 8, e70156.

3. Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music.  Nature Neuroscience, 2011, volume 14, pages 257–262.

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