Does falling asleep to music help sleep?



Should we fall asleep listening to music, or do we risk disturbed sleep, insomnia and other modern ills? It is usually a personal matter: there are those who sleep peacefully and wake up rested after going to bed with Metallica, and those who need absolute silence, or familiar sounds: nature if you live in the countryside, traffic and voices if you live in the city. Having said that, the subject is obviously more complex than that, sleep mechanisms are a well-studied subject and still not 100% scientifically owned; and also music, and everything it triggers in man, is a territory that is always in exploration. What happens when sleep and music intersect?

The sleep cycles:


Sleep is divided into cycles of about 90 minutes, which are in turn divided into phases of non-REM sleep and REM sleep. During the various phases, the brain activity passes through different stages of intensity, with the frequency of the waves lower and slower than those of wakefulness, except in the REM phase - the one in which we dream - during which the muscles are paralyzed. while the brain works as if it were awake. Of the many studies done on this subject, two seem particularly interesting as regards the connection with sleep: the first is a study published in Nature that focuses on individual reactions to one's favorite music. Participants in the study were made to listen to a genre of their choice, and it was found that during the experiment certain areas of the brain, connections and mechanisms were activated during listening in the same way that they were activated by private memories and thoughts, which which did not happen when using music other than one's favorite.

Falling asleep to music?


The conclusion is that there is no type of music that has standard effects on our brain, but that reactions are subjective and that listening to music, at the level of brain activity, is practically equivalent to thinking and remembering. Which leads us to the conclusion that there is no universally "suitable for sleeping" music, and that the areas of well-being and "relaxation" are stimulated by the kind of music that is familiar to us and that meets our taste. In short, there would be no need to type "sleeping music" in the YouTube search bar and enjoy hours of ambient and new age music: just meet our preferences and sounds that we know well, whether they are classical music or rock'n roll.

Music affects dreams:


The other study that is interesting to mention may have more to do with the REM phase, that of the dream. Starting from the assumption that space and time are not objective entities but depend on the perception we have of them, and vary according to factors such as mood, emotions, physical and psychological conditions, the authors investigated the ways in which listening to music is able to condition our perception of space and time. Also in this case, the results (quite predictable in truth) speak of subjective alterations of perception, also linked here to personal tastes: the music we like and perceive as familiar would make us underestimate the time intervals, while the opposite would happen with music we don't love. In any case, what is interesting is to note how listening to music has the power to alter our perception of reality. The question therefore arises whether it is not capable of altering the space-time "reality" of our dreams. As we have already said, during the REM phase our brain works the same way as when it is awake, so the answer should be that yes, the dreams we have can change if we listen to music while we do them. After all, it is not uncommon to find ourselves incorporating the sounds of reality into dreams: an alarm clock that becomes a telephone, the characters of the forgotten TV turned on who turn into our friends… it happens precisely when we are disturbed during the REM phase. In choosing the music to listen to when we go to sleep we could therefore take this into account, and study the lineup so that this phase coincides with songs that can make us have pleasant dreams, also because it is proven that music also helps insomniacs.

All that remains is to start compiling the goodnight playlist, and have a good rest.

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