Effects of Listening to Music While Sleeping: Does It Enhance Sleep Quality?

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Effects of Listening to Music While Sleeping: Does It Enhance Sleep Quality?

by Eric Delloye — Опубликовано в Luminette

Are you perpetually tired during the day because you struggle to sleep well during the night?

Perhaps you toss and turn for hours before finally getting a shuteye. Maybe it’s already affecting your physical and mental health.

You’ve tried everything, but maybe not music. Well, there’s a connection between music and sleep that you can use to get better sleep.

This article examines how music can positively influence your sleep quality and duration. We also share the pros and cons of listening to music while sleeping.

What are the benefits of listening to music while sleeping?

Music affects us in many ways. If you’re a parent, you may have observed your baby falling asleep to the tune of your wonderfully rendered lullaby and nursery rhymes.

Anecdotal and scientific evidence show that listening to music before and while sleeping has tremendous benefits.

Music has that magic to improve sleep quality and duration, help you relax, help you fall asleep quicker, and trigger feel-good chemicals.

Below, we explore these potential benefits.

Effects of Listening to Music While Sleeping

Improves sleep quality & duration

Listening to music before and while sleeping can improve sleep quality and duration.

In a study to determine the effect of listening to music at bedtime in 60 people aged 60–83, researchers subjected the experimental group to 45 minutes of “soothing music” at bedtime daily for three weeks.

The results showed that the participants exposed to music at bedtime experienced “significantly” better sleep quality as measured by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

The participants also improved across all the individual components of sleep quality: sleep onset latency, sleep duration, sleep efficiency, sleep duration, and perceived sleep quality.

In another study, researchers divided 94 participants aged between 19 and 28 into three groups.

The first group listened to classical music for 45 minutes at bedtime, and the second group listened to an audiobook for the same duration daily. The third group, the control group, listened to no audio at bedtime.

The study results showed that classical music at bedtime statistically significantly improved the subjective sleep quality and depressive symptoms of participants.

These results were not observed in the group that listened to audiobooks at bedtime and the control group.

Countless other studies have established the same conclusion that relaxing or listening to sleep music improves sleep quality and can serve as an alternative, inexpensive intervention for reducing sleep issues like insomnia.

Sleep quality defined

Sleep quality is a measure used to gauge how well someone slept. It has four major components, namely:

  • Sleep onset latency: This defines how long it takes for you to fall asleep.
  • Sleep duration: The duration of sleep. Adults are expected to sleep between 6-8 hours daily.
  • Sleep efficiency: The percentage of time you actually spent sleeping out of the total time you spent in bed.
  • Wake after sleep onset: The time you spend being awake within your sleep window after first falling asleep.

You may also like: What is Core Sleep?

Relaxes the mind and body

Music has a profound effect on the human body and mind, including helping you relax and decrease physiological arousal.

Physiological arousal is “a state of heightened activity within the autonomic nervous system” typified by high cortisol (stress hormone) levels and increased blood pressure and heart rate.

Heightened physiological arousal makes it difficult for anyone to transition from a state of wakefulness to sleep, prolonging sleep onset.

You want to keep sleep latency to about 10 to 20 minutes. As we established earlier, sleep onset latency is one of the components of sleep quality.

Scientists have also established a bidirectional relationship between sleep and stress. Stress can lead to poor sleep, and poor sleep can increase stress, leading to a vicious cycle requiring significant interventions.

A meta-analysis of other studies showed that music had an immense impact on physiological arousal. It reduces cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate, making the transition from wakefulness to sleep more rapid.

Another study found that soothing music at bedtime improved sleep onset latency and efficiency. The participants also showed reduced situational anxiety, which is strongly correlated with sleep efficiency.

Helps you fall asleep faster

Another benefit of listening to music at bedtime is that it helps you fall asleep faster, what researchers call sleep onset latency.

As mentioned earlier, the goal is to fall asleep between 10 and 20 minutes in bed. Falling asleep quicker or later than this is considered nonoptimal.

For example, falling asleep as soon as you hit the bed may indicate pathologic sleepiness, a condition associated with impaired performance. Playing music at bedtime can help reduce some of the stumbling blocks and help people fall asleep quicker.

We’ve already mentioned that soothing music can reduce physiological arousal and speed up the wakefulness-to-sleep transition.

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 13 studies featuring over 1,000 participants. They found “evidence that, compared to no treatment or TAU, listening to music may reduce problems with sleep‐onset latency.”

Another study found that listening to bedtime music significantly improved sleep onset latency.

Trigger the release of feel-good chemicals

Music affects our brains tremendously, leading Stanford researchers to conclude that “listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication.”

Another example of what happens when you listen to music while sleeping is that it can trigger the release of certain feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin. Both dopamine and oxytocin are feel-good hormones that promote happy and euphoric feelings.

Research shows that “preferred music induces dopamine release in striatal regions,” similar in response to when humans eat or have sex. Dopamine is the hormone that gives you feelings of “pleasure, satisfaction and motivation.”

Research also shows that soothing music increased oxytocin levels in participants’ saliva. Harvard Health describes oxytocin as the love hormone due to its ability to help us bond with loved ones. More importantly, it plays a positive role in promoting positive feelings.

Oxytocin also has anti-stress and mental health-improving qualities, which make it a strong ally when you’re trying to get quality sleep.

Ultimately, these feel-good hormones improve your mood and make falling asleep quicker. As research shows, those with mood disorders typically complain of sleep issues like irregular sleep patterns, trouble falling asleep, and sleeping for too long.

What are the negative effects of listening to music while sleeping?

So, is sleeping with music bad? By itself, no! However, listening to music with ear accessories or corded headphones has potential downsides you should be aware of. These include:

Can lead to a condition called necrosis

Necrosis is when cell tissues die after a prolonged lack of blood flow. Listening to music while sleeping can lead to necrosis, but this risk only exists for those who sleep with headphones on.

Headphones that aren’t a good fit and are larger than your ear canal can cause little blood to flow to the region it surrounds. You will likely observe discomfort or pain while using it, which may become more extreme when you lay on your side.

Over time, continued use of the same headphones may lead to necrosis, a condition typified by black and brown tissue being left behind in the areas covered by the headphones.

Some additional risks with using headphones while sleeping include:

  • Using headphones immediately after a shower can trap moisture in your ear. Trapped water in your ear canal can become a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to an infection.

You may also develop future hearing impairments if you listen to music at very high decibels while asleep. One study found that participants who reported listening to music for three hours endured ringing in their ears.

Can cause wax build-up and compaction

One of the unintended consequences of using music devices like Airpods is that they can push ear wax farther back. Ear wax is a natural material that protects the eardrums from itching or drying and from dust and debris.
However, pushing them further can compact the wax into a hard layer rather than its natural, waxy nature. When this happens, it may become difficult for the ear to clean itself, leading to wax buildup in the ear canal.

Some wax buildup symptoms include partial deafness, ringing, earache, itchiness, feeling like your ear is full, and more.

If you observe any of these symptoms, you may need to consult a physician to have the wax removed.

Is it bad to sleep with headphones on?

Sleeping with corded headphones is dangerous. As you twist and turn, the headphone cord can accidentally wrap around your throat and strangle you while you sleep.

Another risk with corded headphones is that you can mistakenly increase the music volume to dangerous decibel levels while sleeping.

This alone can cause hearing impairment or prevent the wearer from hearing alarms that forewarn impending dangers.

Is it bad to sleep with headphones on

Additional tips to follow include:

  • Avoid noise-cancelling headphones to be able to hear alarms 
  • Use an external sound device like a Bluetooth speaker instead, so it’s more like background music

What are effective tips for improving sleep?

Sleep benefits from doing more of some healthy habits and foregoing harmful ones to your sleep quality.

Embodying these healthy habits below can transform you from a poor-quality sleeper to a high-quality one:

Be mindful of the food and drink you consume

General food choices and food consumed before bedtime affect your sleep quality.

A Japanese study of 3,129 female workers found a high correlation between vegetable and fish consumption and sleep quality. Participants who consumed vegetables regularly slept better.

Conversely, participants who skipped breakfast and ate mainly noodles, confectionery, and sweetened beverages endured poor sleep quality. These findings remained true after adjusting for other risk factors like age, alcohol intake, smoking, and others.

Another study found that participants with low protein intake typically struggled to initiate sleep.

Timing is also another factor when considering food’s effect on sleep. Research shows that eating late just before bedtime negatively influences sleep quality. Researchers observed this relationship to be stronger in individuals who rarely consumed bedtime food.

Eating late affects sleep because the body releases hormones like insulin, which may signal the brain to remain awake, interfering with the transition from wakefulness to sleep.

In light of the findings highlighted above, here are some food-related tips to help you sleep better:

Avoid high-fat, high-protein, and spicy food before bedtime

The body takes long hours to break down high-fat meals like steak. A 2010 study of 459 women found that high-fat content before sleep was highly associated with reduced sleep time.

Spicy food can lead to heartburn and indigestion, making you uncomfortable and stressed, both recipes for poor sleep onset and quality.

Avoid alcohol before bedtime and regular intake

Although alcohol may help you fall asleep quicker, it impacts the latter and restorative stages of sleep, causing wakefulness during the night. Waking up during the night and finding it hard to return to sleep leads to poor sleep quality.

Limit caffeine consumption to mornings and early afternoons

Caffeine can remain in the bloodstream for 6-8 hours, making its effect evident even after bedtime when consumed late into the evening. A study on the impact of caffeine zero, three, and six hours before bedtime showed that caffeine consumption six hours before bedtime caused sleep disturbance.

Avoid meals like pepperoni, hot dogs, pickled cucumbers, bacon, and processed cheeses

These foods contain tyramine, an amino acid that may trigger the release of norepinephrine, the hormone behind your fight-or-flight responses.

Norepinephrine in your bloodstream keeps your brain alert and makes it difficult to transition to sleep.

Read also: How Can Your Diet Improve Sleep Quality? Top Foods Revealed!

Switch off phone screens before bedtime to prevent blue light exposure

Source: Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care

Research has shown that phone use at or before bedtime can considerably affect sleep quality.

A 2019 study found that the longer one spends using a smartphone during bedtime, the higher the risk of being a poor-quality sleeper.

The risk of being a poor quality sleeper in those who use their smartphone at bedtime for 16 to 30 minutes was 2-fold. This risk jumps to 7.4-fold for those who use their smartphone for more than 1 hour.

blue light exposure

Smartphones emit blue light that disrupts your body’s circadian rhythm, which regulates when certain physiological actions like sleep happen. At specific intervals at night, the human body should release melatonin to signal to the body that it’s time for sleep.

Disruptions from smartphones, laptops, TVs, and room lights delay the onset of melatonin release, inhibiting the transition from wakefulness to sleep. Per this study, 99% of participants exposed to room light before bedtime experienced later melatonin onset.


  • Stop all gadget use at least 30 minutes before bedtime and avoid using your smartphone while in bed.
  • Keep the room dark and comfortable.

Use light therapy glasses

Circadian rhythm, the body’s clock and timekeeper, has many functions, including relaying to the body when to sleep and wake.

It would help if you had constant exposure to natural light, especially in the morning, to reset your body clock so that it continues to be accurate with its 24-hour cycle.

When your body cannot get cues from natural light, it runs on autopilot. With time, the 24-hour cycle elongates, as shown in this research paper when it ballooned to 26 hours.

Use light therapy glasses

In this example, the body’s sleep and wake prompts will be off by as much as two hours, meaning sleep onset will change from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

So, maintaining your circadian rhythm is especially important for falling asleep as it determines when melatonin is released into your body to signify sleep time.

But ask yourself how often you get out and see bright lights. With the recent acceleration of remote work, more people spend less time outdoors. That’s where light therapy comes in.

Use Luminette 3 light therapy glass

Luminette Light Therapy Glass is a best-in-class innovation of this product category, powered by more than four years of research at the University of Liege.

It’s perfect for those who get little to no sunlight during the day due to age or sickness-induced immobility, work schedule, nature of work, and generally anyone looking to sleep better, reduce fatigue, and improve their productivity and creativity.

The beauty of the Luminette 3 is that you can use it anywhere and while doing most of your daily activities. You wear it like a regular glass for only 20-45 minutes per day, depending on the light intensity you choose.

Some of the technical features of the Luminette 3 include:

  • Emits blue-enriched white light
  • Emits light at a wavelength of 468 nm, the most effective at replicating the sun’s positive effect
  • Certified safe and carries the CE Classification of safe eye devices
  • Free from infrared rays and ultraviolet rays

You can use it while having breakfast, brushing, reading a book, and performing light exercises.

The Luminette 3 is safe and easy on the body, and you can start enjoying the benefits after 4-6 days of continued use.

Additional tips to help you enhance sleep

These additional tips can also enhance your sleep quality and pattern:

  • Avoid prolonged daytime naps. Short power naps of 30-45 minutes are good.
  • Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Ensure the expected duration is 6-8 hours. This will help build a consistent habit.
  • Keep your bedroom environment clean, relaxed, and at the right temperature.
  • A bedtime routine can signal your brain that it’s time to sleep. Activities you can add to your routine include taking a shower, meditating, and, as already mentioned, playing calm music 30-45 minutes before your scheduled bedtime.
  • Change your mattress, bedding, and pillows for a more comforting sleep.

You may also like: Healthy Sleep Habits to Adopt Today.

Takeaway: Enhance sleep quality through the power of bedtime melodies

Incorporating music into your bedtime routine can be a simple yet powerful tool for enhancing your sleep quality and overall well-being.

Whether it's soothing classical melodies or your favourite tunes, music can relax your mind, reduce stress, and facilitate a smoother transition into sleep.

By harnessing the benefits of listening to music before and during sleep, you can create a conducive environment for restorative rest.

Tips like avoiding alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime and using light therapy devices like the Luminette 3 can make you a high-quality sleeper.

Combining music with the other healthy sleep practices we shared can optimise your sleep experience and leave you feeling rejuvenated each morning.

Do you want to sleep better and have tremendous energy throughout the day? Get the Luminette Light Therapy Glasses to stimulate the production of essential hormones your body needs for a good night's rest.


Can music help people with insomnia?

Yes, totally. Numerous studies have shown that listening to music before bedtime has many potential benefits.

Slow and soothing music can help reduce physiological arousal, such as high heart rate and blood pressure. Lower physiological arousal is essential for the body to transition from wakefulness to sleep.

Additionally, music triggers the release of feel-good hormones like dopamine and oxytocin, making you feel relaxed and less stressed.

Lastly, cueing music at a scheduled, specific time can become part of your bedtime routine. Research shows that having a bedtime routine will help you fall asleep faster and remain asleep longer.

What types of songs are best for sleeping?

Most popular sleep music has a relatively low tempo, between 60 to 80 beats per minute (BPM).

However, research suggests that the best songs for sleeping are self-selected rather than listening to generic playlists or sounds, even if the BPM is faster than the range mentioned above.

That’s why it’s essential to experiment with what works for you. You may fall asleep to fast-tempo music instead of classical music. So, feel free to explore from within your own music taste for the perfect sleep playlist.

Does it affect your dreams?

External stimuli during sleep, including auditory ones, can affect your dreams.

German researchers noted that music dreams formed 6.3% of all reported dreams in a study to determine whether music at bedtime affects dreams.

So, it affects your dreams the same way you can hear an alarm blaring in your dream only to wake up to the same reality.