We have all experienced a bad night’s sleep at one point or another in our lives. Sometimes we know exactly what it is that’s keeping us awake, but other times the cause is a mystery! Have you ever had the feeling that there was absolutely nothing bothering you, but you just couldn’t fall asleep? Or maybe you feel sleepy, but when you lie down sleep evades you…
The bad news: It will happen again.
The neutral news: It happens to everybody.
The good news: There is a treatment! It’s free, it has no side effects and it is accessible to all. What is this miracle therapy you ask? The answer is simple, one of mankind’s oldest and most basic forms of art… Music!
Sleep deprivation is classified as a low quantity or low quality of sleep and it has real negative effects on mood and health. It can be linked to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and obesity to name a few (do we even dare mention falling asleep behind the steering wheel?).
So, how can music help us combat this ailment and does it even work? Luckily for us, the work has already been done and we have some answers. Doctors and scientists have conducted numerous studies in the past that proves that there is indeed a link between music and good sleep. The old wife’s tales about lulling your child to sleep with a sweet song scientifically proven as “correct”! Music has an effect on the parasympathetic nervous system which can help the body relax and get you ready fo sleep. Soothing tunes slows down the heart rate and breathing, it can relax your muscles and can also lower your blood pressure, all of which are great precursors for a restful night’s sleep. Our daily hustle and bustle is what gets our bodies into a stressed state.
Even when we are not consciously aware of being stressed out, our bodies retain a lot of stress derived from our everyday activities. We live in a fast-paced society where there is hardly time to grab a quick coffee to go between work events, social gatherings and family responsibilities. The tension in our bodies often remains with us long after the hustle and bustle of the day. It’s almost as if our normal level of functioning has become a semipermanent state of stress! When you keep this in mind, it is no wonder we sometimes struggle to fall (or stay) asleep. Here are a few pointers to help you get the rest you need.
Now that we know that music can really affect your sleep quality, it is important to emphasize a few key factors. First off, just like music has the effect to calm you down, it also has the ability to stimulate your brain. Listening to your hard rock collection right before bedtime is probably not the best idea. Likewise, music that elicits strong emotional feelings, be it anger, sadness or ecstasy should be avoided. Instead, experts advise listening to soothing music with a relaxed rhythm and beat.
We mentioned earlier that music has the potential to slow down your heart rate. Studies found that music with a rhythm of 60 – 80 beats per minute (bpm) work best when you want to fall asleep as this brings about a drop in your heart rate that roughly correlates to the beat of the music. A resting heart rate of 60 bpm is ideal for sleeping. This means that not only will the music help you to fall asleep, it will also ensure a better quality of sleep with fewer moments of wakefulness throughout the night!
Some sleepy tunes to help you drift off
Types of music that can aid you in your journey to dreamland are classical music, jazz and country. Less lyrical songs seem to have the more calming effect when compared to songs with a high word count. Sorry for all the rap fans out there…
Not all songs are created equal
When it comes to choosing a song – or songs – to go to sleep to, science has given us the answer yet again! According to Reader’s Digest, these 5 songs will help you get to destination dreamland via the shortest route. In order, they are:
“Weightless” by Marconi Union
“Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy
“Canzonetta Sul-aria” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
“Nocturne in E Flat Major Op. 9 No. 2” by Frederic Chopin
“The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel
Ed Sheeran has also been getting quite a bit of attention as a singer that can put you to sleep (and not in a bad way). According to recent polls, his are the songs most related to the incidence of people falling asleep whilst listing to the radio. So if the list as mentioned above does not tickle your fancy, it might be worth your while to try his slow-dance hits.
Of course, you can always type “Sleepy tunes” or “music to help me sleep” into Google. You will be bombarded with songs and playlists to make you feel sleepy!
Not satisfied with music!?
We all have different preferences when it comes to music. So even though classical music is rated as the best choice to induce that sleepy feeling, it may have the opposite effect on you. What to do when you don’t want to listen to classical music, but punk is also off the table?
Well, then you have to turn to nature to find the answer. The sound of the wind blowing through the leaves, ocean waves breaking on the shore or the pitter-patter of raindrops on the ground. Nature has an amazing array of sounds and a lot of these will have you fast asleep in no time.
Some last few tips
Start listening to calming music/sounds 45 minutes to an hour before you want to go to bed.
When you find the melodies that work for you, stick to it:
Cultivate your pre-sleep routine into a relaxing habit. Having a set pattern helps the body realize it’s time to shut down.
A final word, even if you don’t have access to digital audio, remember that the human voice is also an instrument. Many of us who were fortunate enough were sung to sleep with sweet lullabies by our parents, elder siblings or caretakers. So if you struggle to fall asleep, ask your partner to hum you a lullaby and you’ll be drifting off in no time.
Sound-sleeping to all!