The Relationship between Sleep and Music

Good quality sleep can be so elusive sometimes, can’t it? It’s actually something of a hot topic these days with everyone always talking about “sleep hygiene”, sleep apps and so on and so forth. One of the most interesting aspects of it all though, from a musical perspective at least, is the relationship between sleep and music.

A mysterious phenomenon….

When you think about what goes on when you listen to even a relatively simple piece of music, it makes you realise how mysterious music really is. Let’s think about a classic song structure with some nice catchy introductory phrases followed by a pleasing melody formed into three verses and three repetitions of a chorus. The effect on your emotions is extraordinary! How can sound waves be doing this? We think of them as physical things these days but then they also affect the psyche so profoundly. It can sometimes feel foolish to speak of the soul or the heart, in the metaphysical sense, living in such a materialist and empirical culture, yet this relationship between the physical and the soulful remains unexplained.

Concerning sleep

More specifically, as far as sleep goes, we do at least know that slow music tends to slow the whole human organism down and help it to move towards sleep and that fast music speeds the system up. So if you listen, for example, to something like Saint-Saens’ “Bassoon Sonata in G Major”, you’ll find some interesting effects going from one movement to the next. The second movement will, without fail, speed the heart rate and the breathing right up and agitate both mind and body. The third movement on the other hand will slow it all down. A more modern example would be going from a The Prodigy’s “Wind it Up” to something like Elvis’ “Crying in the Chapel”.  So for those struggling to sleep and turning to music for help, always make sure to choose the slow pieces.

The whole picture

Of course it isn’t just the tempo of the music that helps or hinders sleep. The emotional range and tone are important too. Do you want to be moved to tears as you’re dropping off, for example? Do you want to be deeply stirred? Perhaps you do, but it’s not always desirable. Then there are the other elements of your environment to consider as well. Does the décor of your room induce sleep or agitate the senses? Does the bed itself offer the right structure for the body? A proper bed and mattress are obvious factors but they’re often overlooked. This is a ridiculous area to miss when cheap bed frames that provide good support are now so readily available from suppliers such as Bedstar.

Final word

Last but not least, remember the most basic thing: don’t drink caffeine too late in the day if you’re struggling to sleep at night! It’s not just the coffee and tea to watch out for but the cola too. Just after lunchtime is a good cut-off point, and though it might seem excessively early, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.