By Chiara Townley
Fact checked by Paula Field
Participants in a study reported that music helps them fall asleep and removes internal and external stimuli that disrupt sleep habits.
A high number of people use music to combat sleep disorders.
Sleep disorders are changes in sleep patterns that increase the risk of health problems and can impact a person's everyday quality of life.
Symptoms of sleep disorders include difficulty falling asleep, daytime sleepiness, and excessive movement during sleep.
One of the most common types of sleep disorders is insomnia, which is an inability to sleep. Other, less common, disorders include sleep apnea (irregular breathing patterns while asleep), restless legs syndrome, and narcolepsy (falling asleep at any time, often without warning).
Some people may experience insomnia during periods of excessive stress, but it can appear for no apparent reason and can become chronic if left untreated.
Facts about insomnia
According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), more than half of the participants experienced sleep disorders.
Symptoms mentioned by participants included difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night, being unable to get back to sleep, and waking up very early. Of the participants, 33 percent said they had experienced "at least one of these symptoms every night or almost every night in the past year."
Is sleeping too much bad for your brain?
A recent sleep study finds that sleeping too little or too much reduces our cognitive ability, but not on our short-term memory.
In occasion of the Annual Insomnia Awareness Day, in 2017, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine published an article about the impact of chronic insomnia. Studies revealed that insomnia is associated with about 253 million days of lost work each year in the United States and more than $100 billion in annual costs.
Can music improve our sleep habits?
Many people use medications to treat insomnia, but some medications may have side effects — while natural methods, such as music and meditation are unlikely to cause any serious harm.
According to a recent study, many people use music to fight sleep disorders. To get the data, Tabitha Trahan of the University of Sheffield, in the United Kingdom, and colleagues explored the use of music as a sleep aid, using an online survey — the first one on this topic. People with insomnia were not the focus of the study; it included the general public.
Up until now, there was a lack of data on how widely people use music as a sleep aid, why people use it, and the type of music that works for them. This online survey scored sleep habits, musicality, and open-end responses on the preferred type of music and reasons for the choice. The findings are available in the journal PLOS ONE.
More than 60 percent of the 651 participants reported that they listen to music to fall asleep. They mentioned 14 musical genres comprising 545 artists.
People who did not experience sleep disorders also said that they use music to improve sleep quality. Results also showed that younger people are more likely to use music as a sleep aid.
Participants believe that music stimulates sleep and helps remove internal and external stimuli. Even though the survey provides initial evidence on the use of music as a sleep aid, it does not draw any conclusions about music's physiological and psychological effects because it relies on self-reported answers.
"The largest-ever survey of everyday use of music for sleep reveals multiple pathways to effect that go far beyond relaxation; these include auditory masking, habit, passion for music, and mental distraction." The authors added:
"This work offers new understanding into the complex motivations that drive people to reach for music as a sleep aid and the reasons why so many find it effective."