Mental Health

Music To Help You Sleep Better: What To Listen To?

Just take a look around and you will find evidence that people are extremely dependent on music. Be it those who are ready to splurge on expensive concert tickets right down to the ones who cannot get through a commute without their earphones.

Studies have shown listening to music can have a variety of benefits. It can make our workouts more efficient, increase productivity, reduce anxiety levels, and even help with pain management. So it hardly comes as a surprise that people also lean on music to stave off insomnia.

In the United States alone, an estimated 50 to 70 million adults report facing sleep difficulties. Over time, sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain, worse memory, increased risk of injury and more.

In a newly published survey featuring more than 600 participants, a majority reported using music at some point to help them fall asleep. Johann Sebastian Bach seemed to be the most popular artist for bedtime listening followed by the likes of Ed Sheeran, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Brian Eno, Coldplay, and Frédéric Chopin.

It is obvious classical music ranked first as far as the genre was concerned — over 30 percent of participants reported this type of music helped them sleep. 

Indeed, take a look at sleep-related playlists and you will find they often include classical pieces as well as the artists cited by the respondents. These playlists, curated by algorithms or handpicked by real people, can be found on websites like Spotify and 8tracks.

While these mixes may be well-intentioned, just how effective are they as a sleeping pill alternative? Like many things, it really varies by the individual. Even the most calming songs may not help those of us who need a personal touch.

This is why the Sleep Foundation recommended listening to songs you are familiar with to achieve a relaxed state of mind. When we already know the words and the melody, it makes sense we find comfort in what feels like a routine. In contrast, hearing new notes and decoding new lyrics might just take up too much brain power and keep you awake instead.

If you would like to put together your own "sleep playlist," Lyz Cooper of the British Academy of Sound Therapy recommended picking songs that have 60 beats per minute or less. Overall, Cooper believed there are two ways of approaching the use of music as a form of sleep aid.

One can seek out music which "is designed to relax us does this through repetition of rhythms, music phrases, slow tempo, and low tones," she said. On the other hand, one can opt for music "that has positive memory association" as this provides a psychological benefit by reminding us of a pleasant time.