Many people suffer from sleep problems, and use relaxing music at night to help soothe their mind and allow a peaceful transition to sleep. But it’s unclear if sleep music is just folklore or if there’s actual medical research suggesting certain types of music are effective for improving sleep quality.
In this article we’ll review medical studies to determine whether sleep music is a real phenomenon, and if certain types of music lead to superior sleep outcomes.
Medical Study Review
Surprisingly, there is actually a significant amount of medical research on the use of music as a sleep aid.
One medical trial compared participants listening to music to participants listening to audiobooks or receiving no intervention before sleep.
The group listening to music had statistically significant improvements in sleep quality. The measured outcomes were sleep duration, sleep disturbance, perceived sleep quality and more.
Interestingly, the audiobook group and the control group had reported no benefits at all, making the sleep music link stronger. The music used in the study was “relaxing” classical music.
Another study, this time on an older population, found the same results. The group listening to music (this time the music choice was “sedative music tapes”) had better sleep outcomes than the control group.
What’s fascinating about this second study is that the researchers found a dose-dependent response, like you’d often see with herbs or drugs. This means that the sleep quality was further improved in later weeks than in earlier weeks, even though the sleep music treatment was exactly the same.
This suggests that people trying relaxing music to better their sleep may want to give it a few weeks before deciding whether to continue or exit the program, since the benefits may compound positively.
A third study found that not only was sleep music effective for improving sleep quality in patients with schizophrenia, but it also improved their emotional state. Their situational anxiety was significantly decreased.
Does Type of Music Matter?
A wide range of music was used in the medical trials on sleep music. What was consistent throughout was that the music was “relaxing”.
There is no perfect “relaxation music” that works for everyone. Relaxing is a subjective term, since it’s culturally defined. Music that’s relaxing to one person may be exciting or stressful to another.
But if the sleep music is relaxing to you as the patient, that seems to be the determinant for whether or not it’s likely to be effective.
So we’d recommend that people considering sleep music as a natural way to improve sleep quality choose any type of music that they personally find relaxing, rather than try to mimic music used in any of the studies.
Where Can I Find Sleep Music?
There are many playlists and songs on YouTube and Spotify that can be accessed for free that are titled “sleep music” or “relaxation music”.
We recommend trying out different types until you find one that you find relaxing.
Most of the medical studies leveraged sleep music for a fixed period of time (like 45 minutes before bed), but you may want to keep the music playing throughout the night, especially if you live in a noisy area. You can set YouTube videos to loop prior to going to sleep if this is your goal.