Lullabies aren’t just for babies. Music is a common therapeutic tool that people can use to help improve the quality of their sleep. For people who have trouble falling asleep, music offers a non-pharmaceutical method that helps them fall asleep quickly and wake up feeling more refreshed. With the countless music apps and nighttime playlists available, it’s easier than ever to bring music therapy into your home.
Keep in mind that it’s not as easy as turning on your favorite artist, however. Certain types of music help and others hurt. Here’s everything you need to know about using music to help improve your sleep quality.
How Music Can Help You Sleep
There are no known negative side effects associated with sleeping to music. Research has shown that listening to music can help you fall asleep faster and increase the quality of sleep you get when adding it to your nightly routine.
Music can distract you from stressful thoughts and mask out distracting noises in the environment. Put simply, it relaxes you. Studies have shown that music has the ability to reduce sympathetic nervous system activity, which decreases your blood pressure and heart and respiratory rate. It even decreases your anxiety levels. But music doesn’t just serve as a distraction from noise and thoughts, even though it does that quite well.
Another study suggests that music helps us sleep because of its effects on hormone regulation — namely cortisol, the stress hormone. Elevated levels of cortisol in the body that accompany stress actually make us more alert. Listening to music is an effective way to lower cortisol levels in the body, making it easier to fall asleep. In addition to impacting cortisol levels, music has also been proven to boost serotonin levels.
Benefits of Music Therapy for Sleep
Music therapy is a non-pharmaceutical, clinical, and evidence-based therapeutic method that can be used for various self-identified goals like managing stress, improving communication, and more. Additionally, music therapy is a dependable way to improve your quality of sleep.
A 2020 study found that music therapy increased the quality of sleep of student participants. The study said, “Music therapy is a pain-free, safe, and affordable treatment method without any side effect that could be used in every area of health.”
A different study explored a self-selected album’s impact on sleep for women with symptoms of insomnia. Prior to the study, participants reported that it took them between 27 and 68 minutes to fall asleep. After integrating the album into their nightly routine for 10 consecutive days, it only took them 6 to 13 minutes.
Types of Music Best for Sleep
Not every type of music will help you sleep. There’s actually a reason some types of music help you sleep while others keep you up. Generally, people can fall asleep to a wide range of music, though some are better for sleep quality. Music with a tempo of around 60 to 80 beats per minute will have a calming effect on your body. Music with about 70 beats per minute best matches the average resting heart rate, which will be the most conducive to quality sleep.
Music that is slow with repetitive rhythms helps induce the body’s sleep response since it evokes feelings of safety and familiarity. If you’re going to curate a music playlist for your nighttime routine, try to pick slower music.
What type of music should you listen to at night?
- Slow music with a tempo of 60-80 beats per minute.
- Songs with binaural beats or lower frequencies slow down brainwave activity, which helps you relax, feel less anxious, and ultimately fall asleep.
- Music that doesn’t evoke emotional responses — no power ballads or sad songs.
- Classical music or songs without lyrics.
Evening Routine for Great Sleep at Night
Creating a nighttime routine is an effective way to get your body ready for bed each night. For the most part, your routine will be entirely dependent on your lifestyle. However, every person can incorporate a few common threads into their nightly routine, like turning off their phones and TVs at least 45 minutes before bed or avoiding fatty foods at night.
It’s recommended that you incorporate relaxing activities into your nightly routine. That way, your body begins to wind down and get ready to sleep. Here’s where music comes in. With little effort, you should be able to work in listening to music without disrupting your routine.
Use these tips to make the integration as smooth as possible:
- Commit to it. To ensure the process has the most impact, you will want to make this a habit. That goes for the entirety of your sleep ritual. Listening to the same playlist will also help signal to your brain it’s time to go to sleep.
- Create a dedicated sleep playlist. You’ll want your playlist to have characteristics conducive to aiding sleep. Try to avoid songs that bring up an emotional reaction or have too fast of a tempo.
- Don’t listen to it too loud. Listening at too high of a volume will get in the way of the relaxing benefits of listening to music.
How to listen comfortably:
While there are no associated dangers of listening to music while you sleep, some risks are associated with sleeping with earbuds, including wax build-up and potential necrosis. Not to mention it’s not exactly comfortable, and in certain positions can cause some real pain.
If you find that headphones are not for you (or just not your style), alternatives are available.
- Sleep headphones — Headphones that are designed for sleep are generally considered safe. They have additional padding to stay secure while you’re sleeping. If you don’t want anything going into your ears, you can try the headband-style headphones for sleep. The earbud speakers are embedded into the headband that goes around your head. Some of the most popular headphones are AcousticSheep, CozyPhones, and Hoomband.
- Sleep Eye Masks — Yes, some eye masks also play music. With this variation, you get additional light-blocking benefits.
- Bluetooth Pillows — If you have especially sensitive ears and don’t want anything too close to your ears when sleeping, there are also Bluetooth pillows you can turn to. Most Bluetooth pillows allow you to control what they play conveniently through an app.
- A radio or alarm clock — It’s a bit old school, but if you’re not ready to invest any money in sleep products at the start of your music-sleep journey, starting with a radio is an excellent way to know if falling asleep to music is right for you.
Best Music Sleep Apps
- Deep Sleep — From Spotify, Deep Sleep is more than 11 hours long in its entirety. It’s designed to help you get a peaceful sleep all night long.
- Slumber — Slumber has ready-to-play tracks that are designed to help you relax and fall asleep.
- Headspace — In addition to the music catalog that Headspace offers, you can also take advantage of its meditation lessons.
- Relax Melodies — While the song section of this app isn’t as robust as other apps out there, its user-friendly design makes Relax Melodies one of the easiest to use.
- Calm — With Calm, you aren’t limited to classical music or stock melodies they provide. You can access music from popular artists with its diverse collections.
Too Long, Didn’t Read?
Music therapy is a clinically proven method that helps people sleep better. Thankfully, you don’t have to go to a music therapist to take advantage of the concepts that music therapy uses to help increase sleep quality. It’s as simple as finding the right music that’s conducive to sleep and integrating it into your nighttime routine.
Just a quick recap, here’s how music can help you sleep better:
- Working music into your nightly routine can help you fall asleep fast.
- It can help you sleep better by lowering cortisol levels.
- It can decrease blood pressure and heart and respiratory rate.
- Music triggers the feel-good chemicals which help you relax.