We all know what it feels like to be so tired, only to find an hour later, you’re lying in the dark, completely, 100% wide awake.
Not getting enough sleep can be a real vicious circle, as you become more and more anxious and stressed out as you lie awake and begin to think about all of the different ways that the next day is going to be ruined.
Even worse, not getting enough sleep has negative influences on both physical and mental health in the long term, as well as an obvious effect on how productive and effective you are in the short term. If you’re tired, chances are you’ll be in a bad mood, and much less productive.
But could music have the answer to this enduring problem? Many people claim that music might hold the key to better sleep, but are there any facts to back it up?
Well, simply put, if you’re someone who particularly enjoys music, then you’ll be pleased to know that it’s likely that music will be a be a big help for you. Much more so than for someone who isn’t really into their music.
Studies suggest that music can have a real, measurable impact on how well we sleep.
As someone who is predisposed to enjoy music, listening to music at night is likely to trigger positive emotions, allowing you to feel relaxed, happy and at ease if you listen while attempting to sleep.
There are some important things to think about when it comes to choosing your songs for slumbering, however.
The dopamine Effect
A study from McGill University found that listening to music you enjoy releases dopamine – the feel good chemical, which improves mood.
Listening to music was found to offer a chemical hit of pleasure – in the same way that making money, eating delicious food, and falling in love can make us feel good.
Dopamine is a chemical that is linked to linked to reinforcement and motivation – scientists believe it is key to our survival as a species, as it encourages habits that are good for survival, often linked with base needs like eating, reproducing and exercising.
The study found that dopamine levels in participants were as much as 9% higher in participants who listened to music that they enjoyed.
Another interesting find was that more dopamine was released by songs that the participants particularly enjoyed.
This is why it’s important to use music that you like.
Many people make the error of choosing spa-like music, or endless piano. These can certainly work if you enjoy them, but if you are not a big fan of this type of music, you’ll just get bored – and won’t experience the positive, relaxing effects as acutely.
We’d recommend finding music you enjoy, primarily.
Feeling good and feeling at ease, is important, and will help you to enjoy better quality sleep. If you’re anxious, stressed out and your mind is racing, chances are you’ll struggle to sleep when you attempt to.
A Systematic Review published by the Cochrane Library looked into evidence of whether music could be used as a sleep aid to treat insomnia.
The authors found evidence that listening to music as a sleep aid ‘may be effective for improving subjective sleep quality in adults with insomnia symptoms.’
Those findings are also backed up by research published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, which reached a similar conclusion that ‘Listening to soothing music at nocturnal sleep time improved the rested rating scores, shortened stage 2 sleep, and prolonged REM sleep.’
REM sleep is believed to be particularly restorative, suggesting that music can enhance the quality of sleep, as well as helping to encourage it to arrive.
The authors noted that there was ‘little effect on sleep quality as measured by polysomnography and in self-reported questionnaires.’
A Meta Analysis of evidence published on the US National Library of Medicine, recommends that nurses should use music as a low cost, safe and easy to administer way to improve sleep quality.
Tips for choosing the perfect sleep music
It’s quite clear that the scientist believe music can play a real role as a tool to aid with quality sleep. But which music should you choose?
Studies have indicated that the ideal BPM ranges between 60-80 beats per minute, with many people linking the beat to that of a resting heart beat. Whether connection is significant or not, it’s clear that slower-paced music has a positive influence on relaxation levels.
There’s a reason parents sing babies lullabies – soft, relaxing and gentle music is perfect for calming and relaxing, and drifting away into sleep.
We also recommend instrumental music, as music with lyrics tends to engage the brain, as it is tuned to make sense of words, in order to process language. This is why most music for sleep is instrumental.
20-45 minutes is the ideal length to let it play for. We would advise to aim for 45 minutes if you do struggle with sleep, as the music ending can have the effect of snapping you out of the process of falling asleep.
We would also suggest listening to similar music each night. Ideally the same piece. Your brain will begin to unconsciously associate it with winding down, and with falling into a deep restful sleep.
It’s best not to let the music play all night, as it can start to disturb you later, interupt your sleep patterns, and wake you up.
How to listen
Another question is how to listen to the music – especially if you don’t want to annoy a partner. While you can just play it on a speaker, we have found that wireless headphones (like these) built into sleep masks to be a good option. This avoids you having to deal with wired, will give you the benefit of extra darkness – great for sleep – and also avoid you having to put headphones in all night, which can be problematic.
You can also find pillows and cushions which contain small speakers within them – or speakers designed to be slipped into a pillowcase (like this one) perfect if you’d rather not bother with asleep mask.
Wireless earphones can also be pretty good – particularly we have found the AirPods style ones, as these don’t sit in the ear canal. They will also tend to fall out during the night, which is actually a good thing, as it lets your ears breathe, and the music won’t be playing all night.
Making smart music choices
There’s little doubt that music can be a great aid for getting better sleep. While it’s not a magic potion that will instantly carry you away, making smart choices about the music you play, and how you play it can make a real difference, and allow you to tap into a relaxed state of mind, open to falling into good sleep as quickly as possible.
Take the time to experiment with different songs and styles to see what works for you.
Work your music into a bed time routine, and you’re likely to quickly notice positive results. As someone who enjoys music it can be an enjoyable and relaxing part of your day.
Let us know your favourite songs for better sleep down below.
We’re also launching a special new course designed to help you sleep better in just 21 days – using the power of music. See more, and get 50% off the launch price here.
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