Ah, sleep. The sweetest elixir required for any human's health and wellbeing. Sadly, slumber can often be elusive. Mental unrest, physical ailments and occasional bouts of insomnia can make getting a good night’s rest difficult. Many have tried every trick in the book to achieve respite from the nightly struggle -- special pillows, white noise machines, special diets and even exercise regimes in an effort to feel fully relaxed come bedtime. Fortunately, research suggests that one simple solution may be right in front of your face -- music.
Relying on background sounds to get you ready in the evenings has been around since ancient times. But now science is suggesting that listening to certain kinds of music can not only help you fall asleep easier, but also maintain a high quality rest over the course for the night. Once you understand how the rhythms, melodies, and lyrics of your favorite songs influence the way your brain interacts with the environment and the power of music for creating positive states, it will come as no surprise that sound can be harnessed as a strong sleeping aid.
So what kind of music should you pick if you're interested in taking advantage of this potential benefit? It all depends on what effect you're interested in having. Calming music may help reduce stress levels and lower heart rate, while songs with slower rhythm and melodic patterns may be better suited towards relaxation and sleepiness. And while both types of tunes are likely beneficial for calming the mind, other research suggests the features of the music you choose matters. In particular, listening to gentle, slow, repetitive instrumental music like that of classical guitar, jazz saxophone, or a soft string orchestra may be particularly helpful and effective at encouraging a deep sleep.
Sometimes choosing the most appropriate sound makes all the difference. For example, you may like metal music, but it just won’t calm you down and put you to sleep like other gentler genres would. Instead, find the most peaceful types of music with the desired tempo, pitch and loudness level. This could be anything from jazz, classical, Irish flute music, gentle piano improvisation to nature sounds. Another great way to wind down and prepare for bedtime is dance music, like salsa or disco.
So why does music work to soothe you into slumber? Scientists believe it has to do with the psychological power of music on the brain. Specifically, this could mean that music can promote “functional connectivity” connections between neural networks in the brain, allowing messages to travel between different areas of the brain. It also helps reset our circadian clocks to the natural rhythms of the day and the evening.
The takeaway is that incorporating a little music into your pre-bedtime routine isn't just relaxing, it could actually combat sleeplessness and lead to a better night's rest. So if your current approach isn’t helping you get a better ZZZs, you might consider moseying on over to your favorite streaming service, downloading a few albums, and setting the perfect mood for a peaceful night’s sleep.