Sleep & Music

Whether you suffer from insomnia or just have trouble switching off when you climb into bed, the struggle to get some quality shut eye is a common problem for many Kiwis.

We spoke to clinical psychologist Dr Kimberly Falconer to understand how music can help with sleep. With over ten years’ experience working throughout NZ, the US and the UK, Dr Falconer now works at NZ Respiratory and Sleep Institute in Auckland, specialising in using best practice cognitive behavioural therapy to treat insomnia and other sleep/anxiety disorders.

“As many parents will attest – lullabies are one of the best ways to help children fall asleep more easily. Unfortunately, though, as with many sleep strategies we use for children, adults aren’t always the best at applying them to our own sleep. However, with so much growing interest around sleep and its improvement it’s no surprise that research is now starting to look at how and why a harmony to our ears might support a more balanced night’s sleep overall.”

“Research around whether music can help with sleep generally, or even with more specific sleep concerns such as insomnia, has been somewhat varied to-date.”

“However, research does show that most meta-analyses of music and sleep-related studies highlight a mostly positive result. In fact, it seems that with virtually no adverse side effects, music has the potential to help with sleep quality in addition to improving the time it takes to fall asleep.”

“More recent research has shifted to look at why music may in fact aid sleep. A 2019 review in journal Sleep Medicine summarised six main reasons which included relaxation, distraction (where music helps to distract from stressful thoughts), entrainment (where biological rhythms are synchronised to the beat of music), background masking (where music blocks out noxious environmental noises), enjoyment (where music promotes pleasure or emotional validation), and cultural beliefs around music.”

“Moreover, it’s becoming clear that relaxation may in fact be a key mediator in the relationship between music and sleep. In other words, music helps with sleep when it aids in creating a relaxed state at bedtime. It’s important to keep this in mind when considering any tips for incorporating music to aid sleep – make sure the music calms you and puts both your body and mind into a restful state.”

Tips for using music to aid sleep

Dr Falconer recommends incorporating music into your sleep routine. Here are her top tips on how to achieve a relaxed and peaceful night’s sleep using music.