Music to Enhance Sleep​

Sleep depravation is a prevalent problem which negatively impacts our well being. Because music can have a positive effect on physical, psychological and emotional states, it is being successfully used to improve the quality of sleep.
The National Institute for Health  published a research study entitled “The music that helps people sleep and the reasons they believe it works: A mixed methods analysis of online survey reports” (Trahan et al, 2018) that explores:
1) Who is using music as a sleep aid;
2) What kind of music is being used, and
3) Why they believe that using music helps them sleep.

Four themes emerged, describing beliefs about music’s ability to support sleep.

  1. Music provides unique properties to stimulate sleep.
  2. Music is a habit within a sleep routine.
  3. Music induces the sleep state.
  4. Music distracts or blocks stimuli known to disrupt sleep.

This article provides new information about the relationship between music and sleep for a wide range of ages, musicality, stress, and sleep routines. The results note the diversity in music choices and reasons good sleep is enhanced with music which surprisingly exceeded anticipated relaxation states. 651 participants over the age of 18 completed a comprehensive online survey which was created to study the use of music as a sleep aid. 62% of the respondents indicated that they used music for that purpose. The survey incorporated self-report scales and method response questions which were designed to answer the question of who is using music as a sleep aid and how often it is being used.  Custom-written mixed methods response questions were formulated to determine the type of music used and the reason it was being used as a sleep aid. A final open text response addressed the frequency of use and the type of music chosen.

This study found that younger people with higher musical engagement were more likely to use music to aid sleep. Self-selected music was reported as being more sleep inducing than unfamiliar music. And preferred music had a greater impact on the sleep experience than did the general structure of the music used. Respondents reported that the main reason they used music as a sleep aid was to change their state of mind, relax, focus or initiate change in mood. Prominent themes included music’s unique properties that stimulate sleep, distract from negative thoughts and mask external sounds.

This survey did not directly quantify the effect music has as a sleep aid. However, prior studies support its effectiveness. Using music as a sleep aid can provide a low cost non-pharmaceutical alternative with no determinable side effects.
Listen to this Music4Life solo violin music to see if it may relax you, as other people have reported its effectiveness in reaching the sleep state. If it does not relax you into a sleep state, then a Mood Sequence Formula may be recommended for prescriptive listening targeting sleep.
Trahan T, Durrant SJ, Müllensiefen D, Williamson VJ. The music that helps people sleep and the reasons they believe it works: A mixed methods analysis of online survey reports. PLoS One. 2018 Nov 14;13(11):e0206531. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206531. PMID: 30427881; PMCID: PMC6235300. Accessed on April 8, 2022 at

Today’s article was written by our Guest Blogger:

Judith Pinkerton, LPMT, MT-BC

Licensed board-certified music therapist