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The Science Behind Sleep Music: How Music Can Help You Sleep Better

If this title got your attention, that's because you probably have a sleep problem, or some difficulty falling asleep. I have suffered for years with trouble sleeping and did not realize it was a part of my fibromyalgia. Many things make more sense now that I have the diagnosis.

What I have learned is that many of my clients suffer from poor sleep health! Without good sleep and rest your body gets into a vicious cycle of overstimulation and is unable to turn down the volume to the signals it’s sending fact your body actually turns the volume up because it doesn’t think you can hear the signals!

If you have trouble sleeping don´t worry, you´re not alone. You´re just part of a global epidemic. In fact, the prevalence of sleep problems in the population is up to 56 % worldwide. In Canada, Sweden, and the US, almost 30 % of the population suffers from insomnia.

In this post, I´ll guide you through practical and easy steps that will help you get a better night of sleep. We´ll cover the following topics:

Everything you need to know about sleep

The consequences of sleep restriction

What is insomnia, its causes, and its symptoms?

How music can help you sleep better?

What kind of music to choose for a better night of sleep?

Should you listen to music before going to bed?

Everything you need to know about sleep

Sleep is a fundamental and conserved behavior. From worms to human beings, every animal studied to date has a regular pattern of rest and activity.

Sleep is characterized by reduced responsiveness to sensory stimuli, suppressed locomotor activity, and rapid reversibility to wakefulness.

In humans, it can be divided into 4 stages:

Non-REM sleep

The electroencephalogram (EEG) is defined by high-voltage, low-frequency waves. While in non-REM sleep, you´ll progressively lose your consciousness. Non-REM sleep is divided into three stages:



N3 – it´s considered the deepest sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep (SWS).

REM sleep

It´s the stage where spontaneous rapid eye movements occur. In this stage, you´ll have muscular atonia, and it´ll be more difficult to wakening under stimuli. The electroencephalogram is defined by low-voltage, mixed-frequency, non-alpha records. This is the stage where you dream.

In a regular night of sleep, you´ll alternate between the different stages, including non-REM (N1, N2, N3) and REM sleep.

Sleep Restriction and Sleep Deprivation

Every day you wake up early, get ready for work, drop your kids off at school, spend hours in traffic or public transportation, come back home, and take care of household chores. When you realize, it's already late, and you still haven't had time to study, exercise, and spend time with your family. Can you identify with this scene?

You´re always trying to embrace the world to be a good parent, a good partner, a good employee. You also want to have a social life, so you´re always connected to your smartphone. Sleep is left behind. It´s not that important.

The truth is you´re sleeping less than you need, day after day. This is known as sleep restriction.

This is one of the reasons sleep problems are skyrocketing in our society. And with them, comes the consequences.

Consequences of Sleep Loss

Restricting your sleep regularly leads to chronic sleep loss, which can affect your overall health.

Here we´ll show you some of the bad consequences of sleep loss:

Weight gain: loss of sleep can make you feel hungrier and less satisfied. It'll make you crave sweets, salty and starchy food, which can potentially add a few pounds to your scale.

Immune system impairment: it´s more likely you'll catch a cold if you're sleep-deprived. Your body will recover poorly from infections as well.

Mood disorders: when sleep-restricted, you tend to feel more irritated, anxious, and depressed. Remembering things will get more difficult.

Cardiovascular diseases: sleep loss can increase blood pressure and the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Safety issues: when sleep-deprived, it´s difficult to concentrate on everyday tasks. Driving or operating heavy machines can be potentially dangerous.

Insomnia: The Most Common Sleep Disorder

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in the US. The definition of Insomnia is: difficulty falling asleep or maintain sleep, even when a person has the chance to do so. If you have insomnia, you might feel dissatisfied with your sleep, and experience one or more of the following symptoms:


Lack of energy

Loss of concentration


Decreased performance in work or study

Insomnia can be acute (when you can´t sleep because of a stressful situation). Or chronic, when these symptoms persist for at least three nights per week and last at least three months.

The most common causes of chronic insomnia are:

Unhealthy sleep habits

Shift work

Other clinical conditions

Certain medications

Treatment is usually based on psychological, pharmacological components, or a combination of both.

Non-pharmacological treatments are a good option because they tend to be safer (causing less adverse events), and cheaper, making people adhere more easily to the treatment.

The Power of Music

Music is a cultural manifestation of the human race. No civilization has no musical manifestation of its own.

It has the power of making you feel calm, excited, sad, or even angry. It can bring people together, and it can generate disagreements too. The right combination of sounds and frequencies can awake all types of emotions and disparate a variety of physiological responses in your body.

In his book “Why we love music?” John Powell shows how music can change our body chemistry. For example, classical music can make you spend more money in a store, loud and rhythmic music can increase your adrenaline levels, which will help to keep you awake during a boring activity. And if you can´t sleep, relaxing music will help to reduce the amount of the ‘vigilance chemical’ noradrenaline in your system.

How Music Can Help You Sleep Better

This subject is increasingly calling the attention of scientists from all over the world. Dickson and Shubert (2019) performed a review of the literature regarding how music can aid sleep. They´ve noticed that the majority of researches where based on the following propositions:

Music can promote relaxation

It can improve relaxation indices of heart rate, arterial blood pressure, and respiratory rate, thus promoting better sleep quality.

Music can distract you from your inner thoughts

Music can potentially distract you from ruminating stressful thoughts while trying to fall asleep.

In a research carried out with abused women, 20 minutes of relaxing music was capable of distracting them from recurring stressful thoughts, thus reducing their self-reported anxiety levels (Hernández-Ruiz, 2005).

Music can synchronize your biological rhythms

Rhythmic entrainment is the synchronization of the listener's low-frequency neural activity or heart rate to the tempo of the music.

Music with rhythmic phrases is capable of entraining cardiovascular parameters such as heart rate, arterial blood flow, and respiration rate (Bernardini et al., 2009).

Music can mask background noises

In hospitalized patients receiving intensive care, music improved sleep quality by increasing deep sleep (non-REM, stage N3) (Stanchina et al., 2005). Their night-time noise perception decreases as well (Hu et al., 2015).

Listening to music can be pleasant

Listening to music can be an enjoyable experience, positively impacting your mood. Researches show that both sad and happy music improved self-assessed sleep quality scores. Participants also reported feeling rested.

Individuals beliefs around music (spiritual, religious)v 0063

In this case, music can act as a placebo, affecting those who believe certain music will aid their sleep.

Which Music Should You Choose to Help You Sleep Better?

In an online survey with 651 participants from the UK, 62 % stated that they listen to music to help them sleep. The respondents reported 14 genres, as follows:















According to the authors of this research, it seems that slow, quiet music, with minimal modulation, may be more suitable for aiding sleep than others. With the great variety found, it looks like self-selected music is more beneficial than unfamiliar ones. Thus, the perfect sleep music is the one that combines the right psychoacoustic characteristics and, is pleasant to your ears.

The music therapy literature recommends that music used for sedative purposes should be characterized by a slow tempo and an absence of abrupt changes and rhythmic complexity.

The 432 Hz Music

432 Hz music is known for some people to have healing powers. For that reason, it´s used for relaxation purposes.

The majority of studies investigating the impact of music on sleep quality by using relaxing music. One study mentions that 432 Hz frequency music has some significant calming effect as reflected by increased alpha activities without any significant effect upon the sleep latency in the daytime naps.

Another study investigated the calming effects of the 432 frequency and found that it can decrease ameliorate vital parameters (blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation), perceptions (physical and emotional sensations, for example, fatigue and stress), levels of concentration during the listening session, and general satisfaction with the experience when compared to the 440 Hz frequency music.

It also improved the perception of anxiety of people about to have their teeth operated on.

More studies with larger sample sizes could help us reach an evidence-based conclusion about the benefits of this specific frequency.

Brain waves translated into music

In a very interesting experiment, the scientists transformed brain waves (recorded during normal sleep) into music. Then, 33 people were divided into 3 groups:

Group 1: listened to REM brain-wave music

Group 2: listened to slow-wave sleep (SWS) brain-wave music

Group 3: listened to white noise

The music was played for 20 minutes before bedtime for 6 days. The results showed that SWS brain-wave music may have a positive effect on sleep quality, while REM brain-wave music or WN may not.

Should you listen to music to help you sleep?

Sleep music is a non-pharmacological approach to help people sleep better, and it can be used to improve insomnia symptoms. There´s scientific evidence that it improves both subjective, and objective sleep quality parameters, although more studies, and literature reviews are necessary to conclude regardless of its benefits. Besides that, is safe, easy, and cheap.

The perfect sleep song is the one you like and has the right characteristics. Cultural and demographic aspects also play a role in that matter.

Here are some additional tips to help you sleep better:

Apply sleep hygiene to your routine. This is a simple measure that you can take to train your brain to have better sleep quality.

Exercise during the day

Avoid long naps during the day

Make sure that your sleep environment is pleasant

Avoid stimulants such as alcohol or caffeine near bedtime

Have a regular sleep-waking schedule

Expose yourself to daylight early in the morning

Avoid light exposure during the night (avoid computer and cell near bedtime).

Only go to bed if you´re sleepy

Avoid stressful situations near bedtime

Have a healthy diet and avoid fatty, fried, heavy food near bedtime.

If you suffer from poor sleep I encourage you to put some of these tips into your routine and I bet you’ll see an improvement in your sleep...which will, in turn, improve your overall health and wellbeing.

If you’re feeling that you want to learn more about insomnia or difficulty sleeping and how to incorporate sleep hygiene into your fibromyalgia treatment plan, you can take it one step further and join my Sunshine Functional Healing Tribe Facebook group.

To schedule a comprehensive evaluation to diagnosis insomnia and start treatment today click here.

Important: sleep disorders are a serious problem, and can affect your overall health. Always seek specialized medical counseling before starting any treatment.


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