Grown-Up Lullabies: the New Sleep Aid

Fitness lovers know that music can inspire you to work out harder, but did you know it may also help you sleep better too. 

Lullabies might have once only have been heard in a baby’s nursery, but recently there has been a boom in sleep music for adults. 

New data from the music streaming service Spotify shows that sleep and relaxation albums are its fastest-growing category. Its users have created almost three million sleep-themed playlists. A British composer has even collaborated with a neuroscientist to create an eight-hour classical music album, Sleep, which he describes as a “personal lullaby for a frenetic world”.

With one in three of us experiencing sleep problems from time to time – and a chronic lack of sleep linked to increased risk of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, obesity and an early death – there’s certainly a ready market. But what do the experts say about whether music can help you get a better night’s sleep?

Researchers have found that no matter whether it’s Bach or Beck, music activates the regions of our brain involved in movement, planning, attention, and memory. So when we listen to music, we aren’t just simply processing sound, like background noise. Music actually makes a more meaningful connection with essential parts of our brain.
man relaxing in hammock with guitar
So perhaps it’s not surprising that a meta-analysis of 10 studies about music and chronic sleep disorders found that music generally caused significant improvements in sleep quality. The findings suggest the benefits accumulate over time and listeners may get better results from music they know and like.

The researchers did, however, sound a note of caution as some of the studies were only looking at small groups of people, and they weren’t able to determine how exactly music could benefit sleep. They called for more research, for example into the types of music, when exactly to play it before bedtime, and how long to play it for.

Overall, though, since listening to music at an appropriate volume can’t do any harm – and it is a potentially cheap and easy remedy – there’s really no reason not to try it. Simply put on your favourite soothing album, lie back and wait for a gentle slumber to follow.
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