Try This Scientifically-Proven “Sleepytime” Music

Consistently getting enough sleep is a key ingredient in the recipe for good health and longevity.

Unfortunately, millions of Americans don’t get nearly enough sleep—and it’s ruining their health. So much so, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has classified sleep disorders as an epidemic.

Especially since adults who get less than seven hours per night are more likely to develop one or more of these 10 major chronic health conditions:

chronic disease related to sleep
IMAGE SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The good news is, researchers have discovered a very effective and accessible solution that not only helps you sleep, but also safeguards your heart. And all you need is a certain type of music…

Music-listening promotes better sleep

In a 2017 meta-analysis involving nearly 1,350 insomnia patients, researchers found that music-induced relaxation was more effective than standard insomnia treatment in terms of:

  • Sleep quality (how easily you fall and stay asleep)
  • Sleep onset latency (how long it takes for you to fall asleep)
  • Sleep efficiency (the time in bed spent sleeping)

And in a 2013 study, researchers also examined the effects of music-listening on sleep in 60 adults over the age of 55. They were split into two groups: Group one listened to soft, slow, instrumental music (approximately 60-80 beats per minute) for 40 minutes before bedtime. Group two went to bed in silence.

After six weeks, researchers found that those in the music-listening group enjoyed significant improvements in their sleep quality compared to the no-music group.

The proper bedtime music also helps your heart

Even better are music’s effects on key measures of heart health.

In a 2018 study from the European Society of Cardiology, researchers looked at the effects of different kinds of music on heart rate variability (HRV) and anxiety in nearly 150 healthy people.

As I’ve talked about before, your HRV is a very reliable health marker in determining your current state of health and fitness.

(A higher HRV generally indicates better health, a younger biological age, and better aerobic fitness.)

The study consisted of three nightly sessions. Each night, the participants slept in a new sound environment. They consisted of:

  1. Relaxing instrumental music
  2. Pop music with steady beats
  3. No music

The participants had their HRVs measured before, during, and after each session. The researchers found that HRV:

  • Increased during the relaxing instrumental music (Remember, this is a good thing!)
  • Decreased during pop music (Not a good thing!)
  • Remained mostly unchanged without music

The researchers also found that the participants’ anxiety levels significantly dropped after listening to the relaxing instrumental music and increased after listening to the pop music or being in silence.

Additionally, most of the participants reported more positive moods after the relaxing instrumental music than they did after the pop music.

The right music for sleep

Here are a few tips to get you started with the perfect bedtime music:

  • Remember, according to the studies, there are specific qualities your sleep music should possess. It should be:
    • Slow (approximately 60 to 80 beats per minute)
    • Instrumental (free of lyrics)
    • Played at a low volume
    • Played for at least 40 minutes
  • In order to have the right music ready to go at bedtime, you might want to put together a playlist.

    I recommend using YouTube or Spotify. On these sites, you can find pre-made playlists by simply searching “60 to 80 bpm instrumental music.”

    (Just be aware that without a subscription to these sites, some of these recordings contain jarring ads right in the middle of the recording! I unfortunately learned this the hard way…)
  • If you don’t want to use one of the sites I suggested above, you might opt to softly play a classical music radio station on your bedside alarm clock.

  • For more on sleep, check out the archives on my website. Having personally struggled with sleep issues, I’ve researched and written on the topic quite extensively. I’ve even developed certain science-backed tools to help with sleep. You can learn more here.

And last but not least: The sleep benefits of music will continue to increase over time. So don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first night.

After a few nights of consistent exposure, your brain will learn to associate this type of music with deep, restorative sleep. Just press play and let the music do the rest.


SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017.) Data and Statistics: Short Sleep Duration Among US Adults. CDC.gov. Retrieved from: cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html

Feng, F. (2018). Can Music Improve Sleep Quality in Adults With Primary Insomnia? A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Nursing Studies. 77: pp. 189 – 196. Retrieved from: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29100201/

Shum, A., Taylor, B., Thayala, J., and Chan, M. (2013). The Effects of Sedative Music on Sleep Quality of Older Community-Dwelling Adults in Singapore. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 22(1): pp. 29 – 56. Retrieved from: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24559816/

European Society of Cardiology. (2018) Listening to yoga music at bedtime is good for the heart. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from: sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180827080852.htm

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About the author

Jim Donovan M.Ed., is a professional musician and educator. He's an Assistant Professor at Saint Francis University where he teaches music and how the power of sound can help you experience a healthier life.