Lack of sleep is a common problem affecting millions of people worldwide. According to The National Sleep Foundation, more than 45% of Americans have poor sleep at least once a week. And considering the wide-ranging, negative effects on your health, it's a problem we should take seriously. For instance, it makes you less safe behind the wheel and even increases your long-term risk of obesity and heart disease.
Many of us turn to sleep medications when we have trouble sleeping, but the side effects of these medications make them unsafe to use without advice from a qualified sleep professional. But here's another treatment for those sleepless nights. It's cheap, easily accessible and has no negative side effects. And that treatment is: MUSIC.
Some of us turn to calming music when we have sleep problems. We do this in the hope it relieves some anxiety and helps us relax before bed. In fact, we have been doing this for most of human history. that shows listening to music before bed improves your sleep quality and the time it takes to sleep. But have you ever considered why music works? This guide looks at how music impacts your mind and body and also how it can be used for your sleep.
How music affects the mind and body
Music can be powerful. When we hear our favourite song on the radio, we instantly get a rush of pleasure. For many this could be a smile on your face, a tap of your feet or even a dance!
But these are just some of the effects of music we can see on the outside. Underneath, the effects of music on the body and mind are staggering:
Lower heart rate and breathing: Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the UK found that music had a restorative effect, activating our parasympathetic nervous system commonly involved in relaxing our heartbeat, lowering our blood pressure and slowing down our breathing
Better immunity: Music was found to improve the body's immunity by increasing Immunoglobulin A, an antibody that plays a critical role in the immunity of your "Natural Killer Cells" (these are cells that attack invading germs and bacteria)
Better memory: Music's effects on the brain, in particular the hippocampus helps boost your memory and create a positive emotional response. This is why your favourite song can sometimes trigger happy memories
Better performance: Music also stimulates parts of the brain that make it ideal for improving athletic performance. The tempo of music is key for this. Matching the tempo of music to the kind of work you want to do increases speed and stamina
Using music for sleep
The effects of music on the mind and body can make it a particular useful sleep aid.
The slower heart rate, slower breathing and lower blood pressure help induce a state of sleep and the soothing effect of music on the mind can help with winding down just before bed. This means, listening to music can be a great way to prepare your body and mind for sleep!
So it's no surprise then that music has been hugely beneficial for sleep:
Better sleep efficiency: Music can improve the efficiency of your sleep. This is when you spend more time sleeping (and less time awake) while you are actually lying in bed. A lower sleep efficiency means you have trouble falling asleep, are restless at night, or wake up early unable to go back to sleep
Ideal for insomniacs: If you are an insomniac, music can also improve the quality of your sleep too, with no side effects.
What music is best for sleep?
Even though music choice is a personal preference, not all music works for your sleep. The wrong sounds can keep you awake all night and even make it difficult for you to switch off before bed. But how do you find the right type of music to help you fall asleep. We've put together some great examples for you here. But if you prefer to experiment on your own, here's what to look out for:
Slower beats: To move your body into a state of relaxation, slower beats in the range of 60-80 beats per minute are the best (commonly classical, jazz or folk music). Your body and mind are very sensitive to the tempo of music and anything with a fast tempo can increase your alertness and heart rate, making it difficult to fall asleep.
Instrumentals only (no lyrics): It's best to avoid music with any lyrics to stop your brain from following the song and being mentally stimulated
Avoid music that means something: Your mind tends to wander and reminisce while listening to a song that is familiar (for example a song during your wedding) making it difficult to wind down for sleep
Try different things but be consistent in routine. Ultimately listening to music is a personal experience, so it's important to listen to yourself and reflect on whether a certain type of music is helping you or not. But it's also important to be consistent, as it's unlikely you will see a difference to your sleep and relaxation immediately in the first few evenings. Creating a new routine and wind down time just before bed and sticking to it for a few weeks will help you reap the rewards.
Also remember, how you listen to music is important too. Playing it on your phone or laptop while the device is next to you will be distracting. Try keeping screens outside of the bedroom and using a pair of headphones designed for sleep.
Learn about Kokoon
Kokoon Sleep Headphones are a great way to listen to your favourite music in bed. Kokoon also comes paired to a mobile app that has hours of music and other audio content designed to induce sleep and keep you sleeping for longer. Here's what's in our app:
We have worked with world renowned composers and experienced sleep scientists to develop a variety of soothing melodies aimed at helping you switch off and sleep
Soundscapes are sounds or a combination of sounds arising from an immersive environment. Commonly thought of as background sounds of nature, soundscapes could also be foreground sounds such as bells and sirens. Many of our Kokoon users find soundscapes helpful as it transports them to a calmer and serene environment. We have a range of soundscapes available in our app from calming rainfall to cosy campfire.