Is it unhealthy to fall asleep listening to music and what are the favourable alternatives

By Vladimir Marchenko

The habit of falling asleep with headphones usually appears at school. However, sometimes even adults prefer falling asleep listening to their favourite singers. Today we going to find out what is a healthier alternative to listening to your best-loved albums and what are the benefits of listening to music while sleeping.

Music in our life

Music has a very strong effect on our emotional state. It literally grabs us by the soul, affects our mood and, among other things, modifies the physiological state of our body. Since ancient times, music has been used to treat various diseases. Arabic physicians worked in tandem with musicians, while the Greeks strongly believed that certain melodies could cure mental disorders. Charles Darwin (the author of the famous theory of evolution) called the ability to perceive music “the most mysterious power the humanity was gifted with”. Different melodies evoke a whole spectrum of emotions in us. Romantic ballads may cause melancholy, punk music - aggression, and dance motifs - euphoria. Music triggers a much more powerful internal response in comparison with words or images, especially if you are an auditory person.

It is still unclear how exactly it happens. Evolutionary, it is rather difficult to explain an infinite desire of mankind to compose music and share it with others, and why we experience emotions while listening to songs. Nonetheless, it is believed that music was one of the earliest forms of human communication. Our ancestors noticed that the frequency of beats and sounds produced by different objects is a much more universal language. Music fascinates us even if there are only sounds with no words in it as the overall impression of the song is much more important than its meaning. Ancient people also noticed that the world around them was filled with rhythmic sounds (mating calls of birds and animals, the sound of rain, leaves rustling under the feet, crackling fire, etc.) and tried to imitate the universal melodies of nature. Spiritual shamans were the first ones to make use of it, inducing the trance state with the help of simple tunes and the rattling of tambourines.

Later on, people started to use music for expressing and transmitting their emotions and as a component of group identification that unites people into communities. Dancing together and singing in chorus strengthened the feeling of belongingness (for exact same reason in most countries there still exist the national anthems). Melodies allowed people to dance “as one” making them feel connected as if they belonged to something bigger than themselves.

Certain classical music compositions reduce irritability, agitation and aggression

Music, apparently, carries some universal meaning that can be comprehended by children, adults and even animals. It acts as a uniting tool for groups of people and society as a whole and creates the group identity. Music evokes strong emotions connected with our experience, to the extent that the timeline of our life can be represented by a number of songs we associate our memories with.

What are the benefits of falling asleep to music

The 20th century gave people unique portable devices - from gramophones to tape recorders, CD players, smartphones and headphones. It is not surprising that listening to music has become available to everyone. Now we don't have to go to music concerts or listen to the radio. We are able to create personalised playlists straight on our personal devices. It wasn’t unpredictable we started to listen to relaxing music before going to sleep in order to reduce stress. It is due to using headphones we are not interrupting anyone with our musical preferences anymore.

The benefits of music were so obvious, that based on its relaxing effect a special technique for improving sleep was created, called “music of brain”, or bioacoustic correction. In this approach, for every patient, a number of tunes helping to switch the brain from the state of arousal to inhibition are selected. Potentially, the technique is capable of normalising the functions of the sympathetic nervous system, reducing the muscle tension and slowly drifting the patients into sleep.

The most popular Spotify sleep playlists:

Other benefits of listening to music before bedtime:

· your breathing pattern and heart rate adjust to the rhythm of the music (the range of 60-80 bpm is advisable);

· listening to your favourite tunes helps to fall asleep faster and have rest deeply (similarly to the lullabies we listen to in early childhood);

· level of serotonin increases while cortisol goes down;

· there occurs the activation of the hippocampus that is responsible for the formation of short-term memory;

· regularly listening to music before going to bed creates an habitual trigger of falling asleep.

There exist dozens of research dedicated to the benefits of falling asleep to music. Here are several of them:

What discomfort brings a dream to music

If you managed to find the music that suits you best while sleeping and guarantees proper relaxation and rest, it is great. However, if you are using the albums of your favourite bands there is always a risk of getting insomnia. Selection of music is very personal as the same songs may cause different effects on your nervous system depending on the mood. New songs you haven’t tested yet may, for example, unexpectedly provoke excitement or nervous tension which may postpone the long-awaited sleep.

! Avoid listening to the songs that act as emotional triggers before going to sleep. Don’t include in your evening playlist the music that is associated with a breakup or unhappiness !

Listening to certain types of music while sleeping does not allow the brain to fully rest as you continue to hear and process the melodies. Moreover, it may just wake you up at night or trigger “awake sleep” when you brain continues to function as if it is not sleeping. As a result, in the morning you may feel tired. In the long run it may cause even physiological dysfunction such as:

·  accumulation of ear wax. Ceruminous glands produce the secret necessary for lubrication and cleaning of the ear canals, as well as protecting the canals against bacteria and fungi. However, with the constant use of headphones earwax accumulates and presses the eardrum which leads to vomiting and feeling dizzy, and may even cause partial hearing loss;
·  poor blood circulation and pain. Sleeping with headphones is comfortable only when you lie on your back or stomach. However, we tend to toss around at night and often change the position. As a result, wearing headphones may cause pain and the compression of some body parts reducing the circulation of blood around them. Of course, it will not cause the pathology in one night but the adverse effects of using headphones may accumulate with time.

How to avoid the adverse effects of listening to music during sleep

If you have a habit of falling asleep to music and you would like to avoid the negative impact of it, here are a few simple recommendations:

1. Use simple and natural sounds or their combinations. The sound of the rain, singing of birds, fire crackling calm you down and facilitate falling asleep. As a rule, they are predictable for our brain and that’s why do not irritate the nervous system. However, bear in mind that every person is different.

2. Switch your phone to a bedtime mode or set a timer to mute all sounds for 30-40 minutes before and after going to bed. Thanks to this, you shall fall asleep calmly.

3. Adjust the volume of all sound to low. Prolonged exposure to external sound stimuli negatively affects the inner ear, especially at a volume level of 90-100 dB or more. Therefore, in the evening decrease the volume of music to the level of 20-30 dB and below.

4. Choose comfortable headphones for sleeping and meditations. Currently there are dozens of models on the market with flat speakers built in soft hypoallergenic bandages that can be pulled over the eyes. Even though the sound quality in such headphones is slightly lower than in the earbuds, they are more convenient and allow you to sleep comfortably on your side.

5. If you feel discomfort, you should stop using headphones. In this case, especially if you sleep alone, you can play the sleep sounds from your phone through the speaker and feel comfortable.

You can have access to the ideal soundtracks for falling asleep in Hypnopedia App. Relaxing sounds of nature that you can find in the application will help you create the perfect background that will contribute to relaxation and falling asleep quickly. Sounds will stop playing automatically after a while not to disturb further sleep during the night. The application allows you to use headphones or play music through the speakers. The volume of sounds can also be customised to your preference. Therefore, you will have a convenient tool for falling asleep, adjustable for your needs.

Moreover, the app has another useful function - it can read out motivational affirmations during your sleep, the effect of which accumulates night after night and boosts the potential of your body and mind in the long term. The affirmations are played at the most favourable times during your sleep so that you comprehend and process them without waking up. Additionally, the app is equipped with the built-in smart alarm clock with the soft wake-up function (haptic alarm). Therefore, in one application you have the whole set of tools for making your sleep comfortable at all stages and a unique scientifically-based technique that gradually pumps your mental health.

Ссылка App Store

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When it comes to relaxation, reducing stress and fighting insomnia it is very important to consciously use music during falling asleep and sleeping itself. If you are looking for background music to sleep more soundly try to use a set of natural relaxing sounds, the ones people have been using for centuries. Although the advantages of the sounds of nature are not fully understood, their effectiveness has been confirmed.

Hypnopedia Mental health Sleep Dreams