How Music Can Help You Sleep Better

Music is a very restorative tool for our emotions. It helps us relax and sleep better and has been shown to improve how we perform through the day. Throughout history, music has been utilised to calm worried rulers, put crying babies to sleep and soothe the nerves. In Ancient Arabia, musicians played next to the doctors as they worked.  Ancient Greeks knew the positive effects that music has on the mentally ill. After the Second World War, traumatised soldiers were treated in the military hospitals by both physicians and professional musicians.

The effect of music on the body and mind


Most of us have experienced the feeling of joy we get when we hear a familiar old song. The temptation to get up and dance can be inspired by a foot-tapping tune. Music has a powerful effect on our physiological and psychological health. It can change how fast we breathe, and how fast our heart beats. It can cause hormones to be released and can activate the immunity. It even innervates the emotional and intellectual centres.


Everyone responds differently to music which is why it’s such a one-of-a-kind and powerful aid. Every individual will have a specific response to a melody and beat. Music is powerfully tied to our memories and hearing a song from the past can trigger a remembrance of where we were, who we were with, and how we felt. Music does not just work on one area in the brain, but triggers reactions in many areas.


If we look specifically at the area of sleep, here’s how gentle, calm music can help:


  • It decreases the breathing rate
  • Decreases the heart rate
  • Normalizes blood pressure
  • Calms the nerves
  • Relaxes tense muscles
  • Decreases stress levels
  • Enables the calming hormones to be released, for example oxytocin and serotonin


Interestingly, music can have the opposite effect too. If it’s loud and has a stimulating beat, here’s what it can do:


  • Increase heart rate
  • Increase endurance and resilience
  • Releases stimulating hormones, for example dopamine


This is why it’s important to pick the music that’s appropriate for the occasion, depending on what effect you’re aiming at. Scientific studies have shown many beneficial ways in which the correct musical choice can enhance restfulness. The bodily effects that soothing music causes are similar to a state of sleepiness. The changes we’ve listed such as a lowered heartbeat, calmer breathing and a decreased blood pressure are physical changes that must occur for us to fall asleep and remain asleep. Music soothes our emotions too, easing worry and tension.


Playing gentle music in bed before trying to sleep gets your body and brain into the right mode for sleep. Studies have been done on both children and adults that showed how gentle music played at sleep time improves the quality of sleep. They also showed that insomniacs benefit from playing soothing tunes at bedtime.


The term “sleep efficiency” describes how long you actually sleep for as opposed to just lying in bed. Soft music improves this efficiency, reducing the periods of wakefulness and restless sleep. It also reduces the number of occasions one awakes too early and then has difficulty with going back to sleep. Research has proven that listening to music before bed gets you to fall asleep quicker. It’s a treatment with no bad side-effects for sleep disorders of all kinds.


If the research has convinced you to start listening to music as part of your bedtime routine, here are a few hints to ensure you do it right:


  1. Pick tunes with a slow tempo. You’re aiming at around seventy beats a minute to nudge your mind and body into sleepiness. Your heart rate will slow to match the tempo, and your breathing rate will decrease as well. Rather keep those faster rhythms for your morning wake-up routine or your session at the gym.
  2. Be careful not to choose songs with emotional connotations. Keep away from music you shared with an ex-lover, for instance. You’re aiming at calming your emotions, not stirring them up.
  3. Rather pick tunes with no words for falling asleep to. The problem with lyrics is that your brain keeps track of them and becomes stimulated. The idea is to give as many centres of your brain as possible a rest.
  4. As with anything, listening to music to fall asleep works better if you practice it. Make it a part of your nightly routine. Studies have shown that the effects become greater with time. At first, particularly if you’re stressed and anxious, you may not see an effect. Stay with the routine for a couple of weeks though, and you’ll soon start to notice you’re sleeping better than before.
  5. Other areas of your nightly routine are also important and can negate any positive effects of your soothing music if you’re not careful. For instance, keep the lights dim towards bedtime and keep away from your mobile phone and computer for at least an hour before bed.
  6. Avoid listening to your music with earphones when you are listening at bedtime. It’s not a good idea to fall asleep with them in your ears as they may damage your ears.
  7. Notice how you feel with different types of music. Every individual will respond differently to different musical compositions. Be aware of which genres work best for you. Most people find classical music is the most rest inducing, but if you don’t enjoy it then it will probably just irritate you. Try something like Indie music instead.


We’re sure by now you’re convinced of the benefits of including a little gentle music in your bedtime routine. It helps your body and mind relax, improves your immune system and initiates peaceful sleep. Make it one of your nightly habits and see the difference for yourself.

Leave a Reply