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Music for Sleep

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Updated July 12, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

For people struggling with sleep problems, listening to soothing music may lead to sounder sleep. Research shows that music can help reduce several factors known to interfere with sleep (including stress and anxiety), promote physical changes that support more restful sleep (such as lowered heart and respiratory rates), and aid in treatment of chronic sleep troubles like insomnia.

Health Benefit of Music for Sleep

Music-assisted relaxation may improve sleep quality, according to a report published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing in 2009. The report's authors analyzed five clinical trials (with a total of 170 participants) and found that music had a moderate effect on the sleep quality of patients with sleep complaints.

Other research indicates that listening to music may help lengthen sleep duration, shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, reduce the number of nighttime awakenings, and enhance daytime functioning in people with sleep problems. Furthermore, a 2005 study from the Journal of Advanced Nursing suggests that music might have a cumulative effect on sleep, with improvements in sleep quality increasing over time.

How to Use Music for Sleep

When selecting music for sleep, soft music with slow rhythms might be your best choice. Some research shows that listening to relaxing classical music before bed might be particularly effective in improving sleep. In addition, using relaxation techniques (such as yoga and hypnosis) may augment the sleep-promoting effects of soothing music.

Learn more about using music for health purposes.

Should You Use Music for Sleep Problems?

Listening to relaxing music can be a safe, easy, and low-cost way to improve your sleep quality. But since sleep disorders may cause fatigue, intensify anxiety, increase sensitivity to pain, trigger inflammation, and raise depression risk, it's important to talk to your doctor if you're experiencing chronic sleep disruption. In some cases, it may be necessary to combine alternative approaches like music with more conventional therapies in treatment of sleep problems.

Sources:

de Niet G, Tiemens B, Lendemeijer B, Hutschemaekers G. "Music-assisted relaxation to improve sleep quality: meta-analysis." J Adv Nurs. 2009 Jul;65(7):1356-64.

Harmat L, Takács J, Bódizs R. "Music improves sleep quality in students." J Adv Nurs. 2008 May;62(3):327-35.

Johnson JE. "The use of music to promote sleep in older women." J Community Health Nurs. 2003 Spring;20(1):27-35.

Lai HL, Good M. "Music improves sleep quality in older adults." J Adv Nurs. 2005 Feb;49(3):234-44.

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