Music and Sleep


Written by Alison Deshong

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Breus

Our Editorial Process

Table of Contents

Music has a profound ability to influence a person’s emotions and energy level. For millennia music has served to both invigorate and to soothe. The sound of drums pounding and bugles blaring once helped troops prepare for battle while gentle lullabies sung across cultures continue to calm fussy babies to sleep.

The relationship between music and sleep isn’t limited to newborns and young children. Adults may also benefit from listening to calming music to help them sleep. We explore how music affects sleep and how to incorporate relaxing sleep music into a regular bedtime routine.

Key Takeaways


    • Experts suggest music may have positive effects on the body and mind.
    • Music for sleep should have soft melodies, repetitive rhythms, and a slow tempo.
    • Add music to your bedtime routine by making a playlist and playing at a low volume as you fall asleep.

Does Sleep Music Help You Fall Asleep?

Many health experts recommend playing soft music to relax before bed or to cover up background distractions. However, there’s a lack of high-quality research looking at the direct effect of music as a sleep aid.

Listening to music can play a role in good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to your pre-bedtime habits. Maintaining healthy habits as you get ready for bed each night can help improve your sleep. Common sleep hygiene recommendations include:

  • Avoiding caffeine later in the day
  • Avoiding alcohol or large meals close to bedtime
  • Performing a relaxing activity before bed
  • Keeping your bedroom cool and dark

Despite a lack of strong data, there’s some anecdotal evidence that music may help some adults sleep better. Experts suggest that the benefits of music may come from its positive effects on the body, mind, and emotions.

If you’re a parent or caregiver, music may also be helpful for your child’s sleep routine. Relaxing music can be a useful tool during sleep training for infants. And as your child grows, music can continue to play a role in building healthy sleep habits.

How Does Music Impact Sleep?

Many people choose to listen to music to help them sleep because they find it gets them in the right state of mind for sleep and blocks out thoughts or distractions that might be disruptive. However, more research is still needed to understand exactly how music impacts sleep.

Music and song are universal parts of cultures around the world. People listen to music in a wide range of situations. Music can serve to strengthen social connections as well as help people examine their innermost thoughts and feelings.

Music also helps people regulate their mood and energy levels, which may be helpful for promoting sleep. While music has the power to excite and energize, it can also create a sense of calming relaxation that may help decrease stress and improve sleep. Music can also serve to block out disruptive noises that make it harder to fall asleep.

What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a field of mental health counseling that emerged to harness the unique impact of music on the body and mind. Some evidence suggests that music therapy can be effective for people experiencing insomnia, a common medical complaint involving trouble falling and staying asleep.

Music therapy may also be helpful as a complementary treatment for a number of conditions that affect sleep, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Autism spectrum disorder 
  • Pain due to an illness or injury 
  • Cancer 
  • Dementia 

Music therapy or simply listening to music before bed may not work for everyone. However, the practice is inexpensive, easy to implement, and comes with very few downsides or risks.

What Are The Best Kinds of Music for Sleep?

There’s no consensus among researchers, but music with a relaxed pace, soft sound, and little variation in tone, pitch, or strength is probably the best for sleep. However, it’s important to note that there is little scientific evidence examining the best kind of music for sleep.

Despite a lack of research, scientists can make an educated guess about relaxing sleep music. The best music for helping adults fall asleep is likely to have the following characteristics:

  • Soft and quiet melodies 
  • Repetitive and predictable rhythms
  • Slow tempo or beats 
  • Minimal variations in tone or pitch

Certain genres may be more likely to include these characteristics. Classical or new age music is a popular choice for people who listen to sleep music. Be aware that other types of music can have the opposite effect. For example, it may be best to avoid songs with complex lyrics, strong beats, or those that invoke a strong emotional reaction.

However, it’s most important to find music that works for you, regardless of the genre. Choose sleep music that you genuinely enjoy and find relaxing so you’re more likely to build a lasting, successful sleep routine.

How to Make Sleep Music Part of Your Bedtime Routine

To make sleep music a part of your bedtime routine, make sure you pick the right songs, carefully control the volume, and stick to a regular schedule to create a strong habit. 

Music can be a healthy part of your nightly routine, but if you’re not careful, it can also leave you wide awake and alert. Several tips may help to ensure that music helps and doesn’t hinder your sleep.

  • Pick a playlist: Create a playlist of your favorite relaxing songs or purchase an album geared towards relaxation and sleep. Make sure to disable any auto-play features on your device so the music stops when your playlist ends. This ensures that music from another genre doesn’t begin playing and startle you from sleep.
  • Choose your device: Whether it’s from a stereo, smartphone, or your computer’s speakers, decide how you would like to play your sleep music. If you’re worried about disturbing your sleep partner, you can try using headphones, but make sure to find a model that’s comfortable for sleep.
  • Keep the volume low: To protect your sleep, keep your music at a low volume. Music that’s too loud can damage your hearing and make it harder to fall asleep.

About The Author

Alison Deshong

Staff Writer, Product Testing Team

Alison is a health writer with ample experience reading and interpreting academic, peer-reviewed research. Based in San Diego, she is published in the journal PLOS Genetics and the Journal of Biological Chemistry and has been a copywriter for SmartBug media. With a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Davis, she has nearly a decade of academic research experience in life sciences. She enjoys helping people cut through the noise to understand the bigger picture about sleep and health. Alison likes to stay active with rock climbing, hiking, and walking her dog.

  • POSITION: Stomach Sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Neutral Sleeper

Ask the Sleep Doctor

Have questions about sleep? Submit them here! We use your questions to help us decide topics for future articles, videos, and newsletters. We try to answer as many questions as possible. You can also send us an emailPlease note, we cannot provide specific medical advice, and always recommend you contact your doctor for any medical matters. 



close quiz
We Are Here To Help You Sleep.
Tell us about your sleep by taking this brief quiz.

Based on your answers, we will calculate your free Sleep Doctor Score and create a personalized sleep profile that includes sleep-improving products and education curated just for you.

Saas Quiz Saas Quiz