There may not be many obvious similarities between the children’s lullaby “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and BTS’s international smash “Dynamite”, but it turns out that both tunes are frequently used to induce sleep.
So were the researchers, whose work was published today in the academic journal “Plos One” under the title “The acoustic properties of sleep music: Universal and subgroup characteristics”.
It’s usual to use music to help you sleep.
The researchers noted an earlier study showing that nearly half of those surveyed use music to aid in falling asleep. Despite how widespread the practice is, there hasn’t been any in-depth investigation into the kinds of music that people are really listening to for this purpose.
Researchers looked at information from Spotify, an audio streaming service, to find out what kinds of music individuals listen to before bed in this study.
They noted that people of all ages use music streaming services and that Spotify is used in 92 countries, despite the fact that the data was anonymised. They think this gives their study the most comprehensive look into sleep music to date.
What was the most well-liked “sleep music”?
The results were eliminated if they weren’t music (such as podcasts or nature sounds), weren’t intended for sleep (such as band names including the word “sleep”), or had fewer than 100 followers, before the researchers began their analysis. They first compiled a list of all playlists containing any variation of the word “sleep” in any language.
They were left with 986 playlists and 130 150 distinct tunes. The recordings were then statistically analysed by the researchers, who categorised them into clusters based on factors including tempo, loudness and energy.
The ambient sounds made up the vast majority of the cluster, as predicted by the researchers. However, other sizable clusters were filled with modern radio music, such as indie and pop songs.
Classical and instrumental were among the most popular genres for sleep music, according to earlier self-reported surveys. The latest study’s unexpected finding – that both genres had fewer occurrences than either pop or rap – was revealed by the researchers.
Reasons why some songs are chosen for sleep
Dr Alex Dimitriu, double board certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine, noted that the human brain is a pattern recogniser and truly appreciates getting it right.
“Songs that are extremely danceable or upbeat may, under the correct circumstances, really aid in sleep,” says Dimitriu.
Without loud transitions or abrupt shifts in pace or intensity, Dimitriu asserts that these tunes were “probably nonetheless ordered, symmetrical, and predictable”.
It also helps if you are familiar with the music, to have a higher chance of falling asleep to them.
The brain is kept alert by novelty. To promote sleep, music – whether fast or slow – probably has to be devoid of “newness” or surprises, according to Dimitriu.
“It's not surprising that people use music to sleep because sleep issues are such an incredibly common problem and music can be calming,” says Dr Kuljeet (Kelly) Gill, a physician who specialises in sleep medicine.
“The capacity to fall asleep while listening to music is not always determined by how danceable it is.
“The difference is whether the music evokes strong emotions or not. Positive music may be comforting for certain people,“ said Gill.
Music as a sleep aid
Many individuals use music to aid in falling asleep, but is this a wise choice? Dimitriu said, "Music is fantastic for falling asleep, as long as it is not too thrilling.
"Music is among the finest sleep aids out there, among all the things people attempt. It helps individuals go asleep (preferably early) and enter a state of relaxation, introspection, and even meditation. Another benefit for deep sleep is that music can be heard in dim light.“
Dimitriu suggested the following to ensure sound sleep after listening to music:
- Avoid wearing headphones that need to be taken off or might become caught in something.
- Use a sleep timer to turn off the music automatically.
- Practise standard sleep hygiene techniques, like avoiding screen time before bed and going to sleep at the same time every night.
"A highly rigorous sleep-wake pattern is the most crucial component of sleep. Though it seems straightforward and clear, it’s not as simple to put into practice. Maintaining that rigid pattern, even on the weekends and holidays, is a crucial component of teaching our bodies to sleep soundly,“ said Gill.
“A signal to go to bed at the same time every day might be a part of a sleep regimen. Music may serve as such an indication.”