kristin joy miller
The Lullaby Effect: Music & Sleep
There’s a reason singing a lullaby will put most babies to sleep. Music promotes relaxation because it directly affects the brain’s rest system, otherwise known as the parasympathetic nervous system. The measured beat of a musical rhythm can slow your breathing and heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and may trigger a release of chemicals in the brain that just plain make us feel good.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that adults who listen to relaxing music for 45 minutes before bedtime fall asleep faster, sleep longer, wake up less often, and wake up feeling more rested. Babies and children also benefit, which makes music, even singing a lullaby, a good go-to for parents at bedtime and naptime too.
Music has incredibly therapeutic properties and not just for sleep. Tapping into those properties can positively impact other areas too. It’s believed that music can help improve focus and concentration, especially for those who struggle with attention deficit disorders like ADHD. Calming instrumental music, like classical in particular, has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in both kids and adults. The right music at bedtime can relax a racing mind at the end of the day by giving the brain something soothing to focus on. If it’s soft and methodical, with a relatively slow beat, it can induce the delta brain waves essential to produce sleep. Sleep specialists suggest music with a rhythm ideally between 60 and 80 beats per minute. These are songs typically classified as easy listening like classical, jazz, or instrumental tracks.
Your child may benefit if you insert the music option into your bedtime routine anytime while you unwind, but it’s typically best started after finishing hygiene activities like teeth brushing and bathing. Once music is in your child’s nighttime routine, be consistent. The positive effects will build over time and eventually just hearing bedtime music will cue your child’s body to begin relaxing and shutting down for sleep.
There is a wide variety of music available for free online and most producers will indicate if an album or track is good for concentration, relaxation, and even deep REM sleep. For some kids, ambient sounds, or white noise, like the repetitive lull of the ocean, running streams, or raindrops can induce sleep because those sounds tell the brain to increase its level of calming alpha waves.
Whether it’s musical melodies or the sound of rain in the woods, sleep experts caution not to let your child wear earbuds or headphones to bed. They could hurt young ear canals and there is a danger of strangulation during restless sleep. Besides, they tend to be uncomfortable and that detracts from relaxation.
Most relaxing music tracks are literally hours long and will run well into the night. You can build a playlist with various options, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Pay attention to what works best for your child with music and sounds, especially at bedtime. Calm and relaxing tones can help you unwind too! So tap into the lullaby effect and see if everyone in your home doesn’t sleep a little bit better.
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Barnett, Bob. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/can-music-help-me-sleep#1.
KidsHealth. (2015, September). What to do if you can’t sleep. Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/cant-sleep.html.
National Sleep Foundation. Can music help you calm down and sleep better? Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/can-music-help-you-calm-down-and-sleep-better.
Sleep.org. Learn about the all-natural sleep aid that helps you fall asleep fast and wake up refreshed. Retrieved from https://www.sleep.org/articles/sleep-music/.
Sleep Advisor. (2019, June). Effects of listening to music while sleeping–is it bad? Retrieved from https://www.sleepadvisor.org/listening-to-music-while-sleeping/.