A good quality sleep is essential to ensure health of body and mind, concentration, attention and energy during the day and a good mood. However, more and more often there is an increase in sleep-related problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, disturbed sleep and night awakenings. Music can help reduce falling asleep times and may improve sleep quality. But are all types of music equally useful for this purpose? And classical music is always a good choice, as you think? A very recent study offers the answers to these questions. The research can be consulted online and was published in the journal PloS One by a group of Danish scientists (Scarratt et al, PloS One, 2023).
Natural remedies to improve the quality of sleep
Drinking a relaxing herbal tea, such as that prepared with chamomile, linden, hops and valerian, but also diffusing in the room or smelling from a handkerchief particular essential oils, such as lavender essential oil, have shown to improve sleep quality. But there is also another remedy that we can use if we suffer from sleep disorders, and that is listening to music. Listening to music before going to sleep is a very ancient habit, just think of the lullaby that mothers have always sung to their children to help them fall asleep peacefully. Nowadays, also thanks to modern devices such as smartphones, listening to music in the evening, in bed, to help fall asleep and have a good restful sleep, is a very common practice. But which music to choose to sleep better? In fact, not all music is the same… let's try to understand what the research we are talking about today says.
Music that helps you sleep, the study
Unlike previous studies that had analyzed the effects of music on sleep by considering only one country and a very limited sample of people, the research carried out by Danish scientists is global, since it analyzes the habits of people from as many as 92 different nations, for a total of 225,626 music tracks cataloged as audio tracks for sleeping. What has emerged is that music for falling asleep changes according to the purpose for which it is used. That is, if the person is trying to calm down because he/she is agitated and under stress, then the audio tracks will be slow, instrumental, with a simple and repeatable rhythm, which leads the heart and breath to adapt, relaxing the whole body and favoring falling asleep. The brain is not amazed by surprises in the rhythm, which is instead easily predictable, and this helps to detach from the obsessive thoughts of the day, also favoring low brain frequency waves, typical of states of relaxation and falling asleep. Instead, in case of bad mood and anxiety, the music that is chosen is a well-known one and one that the person likes, it could also have a fast rhythm and be more energetic, but in this case what matters are the feelings that are aroused in the listener, in a sort of refuge music, soothing and calming. In addition, the fact that music is known makes it predictable, which facilitates relaxation of the brain. Instead, surprisingly, classical music is one of the last choices when it comes to falling asleep, unlike what researchers hypothesized before starting the study. This is probably due to musical tastes and habits that change over time.
Listening to music can be a valid aid in promoting a restful sleep, with a few tricks. It is important to choose music with slow and repetitive rhythms, not sung but only played, to generate calm and relaxation in the brain. But even sung music, with energy and fast rhythms can work in case of anxiety, fears or bad mood, as long as it is a well-known and appreciated music, so that the brain can predict the various moments of the audio track. In this way bad thoughts and obsessions are removed, promoting relaxation and the ability to fall easily asleep. As a support to the music you can also prepare a calming herbal tea, based on chamomile, linden, valerian, hops, but also orange blossom. You can have a mixture of these herbs prepared at the chemist's shops to use to prepare an infusion, a spoonful in a cup of boiling water, leave to brew for ten minutes. As mentioned, essential oils can also help. Research has shown that a blend of ylang ylang, lavender and bergamot was able to stimulate deep and restful sleep and to improve sleep quality (McDonnell et al, J Altern Complement Med, 2019).