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There was a period of time in my life where I listened to the same CD every night as I fell asleep. The gentle songs immediately soothed me into a relaxed state, helping me to fall asleep faster. When I am having trouble sleeping or am in an unfamiliar environment, music helps calm my body and my mind, and it drowns out noises that might otherwise keep me up.
Now scientists have discovered that my strategy works for many other people too. So how does music help you sleep, and what is the best music to help you sleep?
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Studies show that people with insomnia and other sleep disorders can benefit significantly from listening to music. If you want to know how to help insomnia in a simple, natural, and enjoyable way, you might want to turn to your favorite, soothing songs.
Numerous Studies Show the Benefits of Music for Improving Sleep
Music seems to be an effective relaxation technique before bed that helps to improve sleep quality.[1,2]
One study found that 45 minutes of music at bedtime for three weeks resulted in longer sleep duration, shorter time to fall asleep, higher perceived sleep quality, and less daytime dysfunction. A review of ten studies and over 500 participants found that music also eased acute or chronic sleep disorders like insomnia.
Not only did people report feeling that their sleep was improved, but polysomnography testing showed that people who listened to music had longer REM sleep. REM sleep is a restorative stage of sleep linked to psychological and emotional well-being.
Researchers aren’t quite sure why music has these effects. Music is known to act upon the central nervous system and has anti-anxiety and relaxing effects. It also may impact the production of compounds like opioids, which have pain-relieving and sedative qualities, as well as oxytocin, which is implicated in improving sleep as well.
Choosing Music to Help You Sleep
Try using music therapy to treat your insomnia today.
- Choose music that you are familiar with.
- The music should have a slow and stable rhythm (a tempo of 60 to 80 beats per minute), with low-frequency tones and relaxing melodies.
- Try out different genres, like classical or acoustic, to find what works for you.
- Put the music on as you get into bed to help you fall asleep, and use a sleep timer to make sure the music does not wake you up later in the night. Set the timer for a little longer than it takes you to fall asleep; this might be anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes depending on your sleep habits.
Share Your Experience
Do you use music to help you sleep? What type of music do you prefer? Share your tips in the comments section below.
Originally published in 2015, this post has been updated.