At Pzizz, our goal is to help you fall asleep fast, stay asleep, and wake-up refreshed.
As we’ve written about before, there is abundant evidence that music helps people fall asleep faster.
But what about staying asleep?
Well, it turns out that some of the same studies that looked into music’s effect on falling asleep, also examined its effect on staying asleep.
In 2008, researcher’s published the results of a randomized controlled experiment with ninety-four college students, which examined the effects of listening to relaxing music before bed on sleep quality.
University student’s are known to be at risk for sleep deprivation, and this can impair learning ability.
Not only did the researcher’s find that music helped these student’s fall asleep faster, it also helped them have less sleep disturbances.
This study was distributed by a reputable publisher, and was printed in an impactful journal;so there is good evidence that music can help you stay asleep.
However, there are some limitations to drawing general conclusions from this study.
First, sleep disturbances includes more then just waking in the night. So we need to examine the issue a little more closely.
Second, psychology researcher’s conclusions can be limited to the context of the study. This means that a study with students (age nineteen to twenty-one) may not apply to other groups.
Another study looked at a very different population, women over the age of seventy, who were experiencing sleep troubles at least three nights a week. These sleep problems included both falling asleep and staying asleep.
Deep sleep is known to decrease with age, and this is thought to be related to cognitive impairment.
And again, relaxing music not only helped these older women fall asleep, but helped decrease the number of nighttime awakenings.
Not only did listening to music before bed lead to a significant reduction in the number of times these women awoke during the night, but several of the women reported that if they did wake up in the night, music helped them go back to sleep again. This effect of improving the ability to fall back asleep, unlike the reduction in nighttime awakenings, was not measured in any rigorous was. However, it was mentioned frequently enough that the researcher’s included it in their final discussion of the results.
Additionally, guided imagery appears to have a small, but long term effect of reducing nighttime awakenings.
But why do music and imagery help you stay sleep?
It’s not well understood, but the theorized mechanism is stress reduction.
Scientists looked at people with insomnia that involved nighttime awakenings, but not trouble falling asleep, and found a strong relationship to stress.
Since certain types of music are known to reduce stress, it seems likely that music is helping people stay asleep by helping them deal with stress.
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Harmat, L., Takács, J., &Bodizs, R. (2008). Music improves sleep quality in students. Journal of advanced nursing, 62(3), 327–335.
Johnson, J. E. (2003). The use of music to promote sleep in older women. Journal of Community Health Nursing, 20(1), 27–35.
Knight, W. E., &Rickard, N. S. (2001). Relaxing music prevents stress-induced increases in subjective anxiety, systolic blood pressure, and heart rate in healthy males and females. Journal of music therapy, 38(4), 254–272.
Labbé, E., Schmidt, N., Babin, J., &Pharr, M. (2007). Coping with stress: the effectiveness of different types of music. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback, 32(3–4), 163–168.
Morin, C. M., &Azrin, N. H. (1987). Stimulus control and imagery training in treating sleep-maintenance insomnia. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55(2), 260.
Waters, W. F., Adams Jr, S. G., Binks, P., &Varnado, P. (1993). Attention, stress and negative emotion in persistent sleep-onset and sleep-maintenance insomnia. Sleep, 16(2), 128–136.