Having trouble sleeping can have wide-ranging, negative effects on your health, so it’s something that you should take seriously. For instance, it makes you less safe behind the wheel and increases your long-term risk of medical conditions such as obesity and heart disease. Though medical sleep aids may work quickly to help you drift off, they can have side effects and aren’t good to use in the long term. Luckily, there is another treatment for sleepless nights that’s cheap, isn’t habit-forming, and has absolutely no negative side effects: music.
Music is more than something that’s simply enjoyable to listen to. It has a direct effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your body relax and prepare for sleep. Older adults who listen to 45 minutes of relaxing music before bed fall asleep faster, sleep longer, wake up less during the night, and rate their nights as more restful than when they don’t listen to music. Similarly, when younger adults are given the option to listen to classical music, books on tape, or nothing before bed, the ones who relax with music see the greatest improvement in sleep quality.
If you feel calmer when you’re enjoying good music, it’s not your imagination. Music has the power to slow your heart rate and breathing, lower your blood pressure, and it may even trigger your muscles to relax. These biological changes mirror some of the same changes that your body undergoes when you’re falling asleep, making music the perfect preparation for restorative slumber.
Choosing a type of music is a personal preference, and you’re most likely to relax while listening to familiar music that you enjoy. But keep this tip in mind: Slow tunes are ideal. Look for a rhythm of about 60 to 80 beats per minute (BPM), which you’re likely to find among classical, jazz, or folk songs.
Once you integrate music into your bedtime routine, stick with it. The positive sleep effects can build over time, as listening to your relaxing sleep soundtrack becomes a habit that cues your body to prepare for shuteye.