Posted on Mon, 23 Nov 09
Insomnia affects millions of people worldwide with many people turning to medications to help them sleep. There is however another treatment option, that is much cheaper, enjoyable and safer; music.
Music and the mind-body connection
The sound of relaxing music distracts your mind and induces a physical state of calmness. Relaxing music reduces the activity of the nervous system resulting in a decrease in anxiety, heart rate, slower breathing and lower blood pressure much like a state of meditation. Importantly, relaxing music has been found to reduce the stress hormone noradrenalin which is associated with insomnia (1).
A sound treatment for young and old
The benefits of relaxing music have been demonstrated in children, adolescents and older adults. A study in children found background music during nap time and before bed improved sleep quality. Students between 19-28 years of age who listened to relaxing music before bed experienced improvements in sleep quality and symptoms of depression. And in older adults relaxing music before bed has been found to improve sleep duration and quality and reduce the time to fall asleep (1-3).
Using music as medicine
Music is a safe, cheap and empowering treatment option for insomnia that may improve the quality of your sleep. Most studies have found increasing benefit after a period of 3 weeks of relaxing music for 45 minutes before bed daily. The following instructions may also help;
1. Lie in bed at the usual bed time with a comfortable room temperature, wearing comfortable nightclothes, and with lights out, and eyes closed.
2. Play the music at a comfortable volume.
3. Use earphones or not, as preferred.
4. Do not worry about turning off the music, but just let it play.
Importantly, a wide variety of relaxing music has been found to be effective; slow jazz, piano, classical and electronic with lyrics or without (4). Find slow, peaceful, calm, relaxing music you enjoy. In one study, a CD entitled “The Most Relaxing Classical Music Ever” was used, however it should be noted the entire study group previously enjoyed classical music.
1. Lai HL, Good M. Music improves sleep quality in older adults. J Adv Nurs. 2005 Feb;49(3):234-44.
2.: Tan LP. The effects of background music on quality of sleep in elementary school children. J Music Ther. 2004 Summer;41(2):128-50.
3. Harmat L, Takács J, Bódizs R. Music improves sleep quality in students. J Adv Nurs. 2008 May;62(3):327-35.
4. Siedliecki SL, Good M. Effect of music on power, pain, depression and disability. J Adv Nurs. 2006 Jun;54(5):553-62.