Our sleep quality and duration can have a massive effect on our overall health and well being – so optimizing our sleep should be a priority. There are tons of things you can try to help improve your sleep – avoiding caffeine and alcohol late in the day, reducing screen time before bed, getting a more comfortable mattress… the list goes on. But what about music? Is listening to music while sleeping beneficial, or harmful?

Listening to Music While Sleeping: Good or Bad?

In general, sleeping with music on in the background can be beneficial, so long as it’s the right type of music.

Calm, soothing music can have a relaxing effect on the mind and body. This can help you drift off to sleep faster, and in some cases may even help keep you sleeping more soundly.

Of course, it’s not all good. Sleeping with headphones on can be harmful, particularly in the long term. Headphones and earbuds can eventually start to damage your hearing and ear health, and can also cause excess bacterial buildup in the ears. Falling asleep with headphones on now and again isn’t too concerning, but try not to develop a habit of sleeping with earbuds in.

 

Why Does Music Help You Sleep?

Researchers are not entirely sure why music can help people sleep better. It’s thought that music can have soothing effects on the body, helping induce sleep. Some also believe that music can alter brain chemistry, stimulating the release of feel-good hormones in the brain.

Many people find that listening to soothing tunes just before bed helps them wind down from the busy day. And unlike watching TV or using your smartphone, listening to music while sleeping or just before bed does not disrupt melatonin production.

Music can also have some physical effects on your body that may contribute to its effect on sleep. Relaxing music can actually lower the heart rate and slow breathing, helping to induce sleep.

 

What Should You Listen To?

There are a variety of types of music for sleeping, such as:

  • “Easy listening” picks like jazz, classical and folk
  • Soothing instrumentals like piano
  • Ambient sounds like rain, wind, etc.
  • Familiar, soothing songs that you enjoy
  • Anything with a slow rhythm, ideally 60 to 80 beats per minute (check song BPM here)

Believe it or not, a good amount of research has been done on the best music for sleep. Popular streaming service Spotify compiled data based on user picks on sleep-related playlists, and found that British pop singer Ed Sheeran was the most popular sleep-inducing artist – by a long shot. No offense, Ed!

Another British band, Marconi Union, teamed up with sound therapists to create “the most relaxing song ever” – a claim that is actually backed up by nonscientific research. Here it is, for your viewing, listening (and sleeping!) pleasure:

 

In short, if you haven’t tried to sleep with music yet, it’s definitely worth a shot! Music can help you fall asleep quicker, and may help you sleep for longer. We recommend using a small speaker and keeping it relatively quiet – and try to make a playlist of soothing, calming music for best results.

Austin Meadows

Austin Meadows is a freelance writer, CPAP user, and self-proclaimed sleep enthusiast from the Seattle area. When he's not writing or researching about sleep science, you can find him snowboarding, cooking or traveling the world. Contact him at [email protected]

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