Music to Help You Sleep: How to Cure Insomnia by Listening to Music

The best music to help you sleep should be something with a slow and stable rhythm, like classical or acoustic.

Woman trying to listen to music to help sleep

Music to help you sleep should have a slow and stable rhythm (a tempo of 60 to 80 beats per minute), with low-frequency tones and relaxing melodies.

© 88and84 | Dreamstime

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? 

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.[3] A review of ten studies and over 500 participants found that music also eased acute or chronic sleep disorders like insomnia.[4]

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.[5]

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.[4]

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.[4]
  • 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.

Other tips for helping improve your sleep include keeping your bedroom cool and removing blue light from your bedtime routine.

Share Your Experience with Music For Sleep

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.

[1] J Adv Nurs. 2009 Jul;65(7):1356-64.

[2] J Adv Nurs. 2013 Jun;69(6):1377-89.

[3] J Adv Nurs. 2005 Feb;49(3):234-44.

[4] Int J Nurs Stud. 2014 Jan;51(1):51-62.

[5] Int J Nurs Stud. 2012 Aug;49(8):921-30.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

View all posts by UHN Staff

Enter Your Login Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.