How Music can affect Your Sleep

Sleep… sleep… sleep…. No wait! Not yet! Read this first! You see sleep is a tricky business, isn’t it? It should be simple, but so often it’s not. You’ll find yourself falling asleep at the wrong times- on the train on the way home so you miss your stop, or at the crucial moment during that important meeting. And then, when it comes to the proper time to sleep at night, the body just won’t drift off, as the mind is racing and you keep tossing and turning.

One of the best things you can do is listen to music, and many do make a habit of listening to help them sleep. However, not just any music will do.

Different genres of music tend to produce different responses in any human being, but within the genres there are differences, and from listener to listener the effects do vary as well. For instance, within the Classical genre, that most associated with sleep, there are certainly some very relaxing pieces; but there are also some extraordinarily powerful pieces that far from sending one to sleep are more likely to inspire one to get up and go for a deep, moonlight romp. Equally, a regular listener to Metal will probably be able to drift off pretty easily to a favourite album, but for one whose ears are unaccustomed to the intensity of Metal, sleep is very unlikely to set in. 

The main point here is that the system responds to certain types of sound and certain rhythms. The beat of a drum is like a heartbeat and tends to accelerate or decelerate our minds and bodies. Drum n’ Bass is renowned for its high rate of beats per minute, and will nearly always fire one up. The classic childhood lullaby in contrast slows everything down, including the breathing, and when we sleep our breathing is typically very light and slow (though snoring is another story)!

Of course the bed is important as well, and no matter how relaxing the music being listened to, if the mattress is lumpy and the bed you’re sleeping in doesn’t offer proper support then sleep will remain elusive. Mattresses should be replaced regularly and the easiest thing is generally just to get a new mattress online. Then you can settle down in your fresh sheets for a nice bit of Mozart and drift off with no trouble.

One of the best things you can do is listen to music, and many do make a habit of listening to help them sleep ((according to

The other point here is a psychological one. So often it’s not the case that we’re not relaxed enough to sleep, it’s that we’re preoccupied with something- stress at the office, say. It’s the tendency to try and solve problems as we lay in bed at night and the inability to keep strong emotions in check that often troubles us. Music can come in here to simply occupy the mind- not so much that it becomes stimulation itself, but just enough that it provides an even distraction from other concerns while the tiredness that is felt, but unable to manifest itself, works its way through. There are other techniques here worth checking out if this is you.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

Send your music to [email protected].

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