Sleep Better with Music

Sleep Better with Music

Healthnotes Newswire (March 3, 2005)—Listening to soft music at bedtime may improve sleep quality in older adults who have difficulty sleeping (insomnia), reports the Journal of Advanced Nursing (2005;49:234–44).

Insomnia affects more than 50% of people age 65 and older. The problem may occur in getting to sleep or staying asleep. Chronic insomnia in older adults is usually due to normal age-related changes in sleep patterns. Poor sleep hygiene habits like watching television in bed and using alcohol or tobacco products close to bedtime may also contribute to sleep problems. Insomnia can result in daytime fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, increased sensitivity to pain, and immune system suppression.

Going to bed at a regular time each night, engaging in regular physical activity, and avoiding caffeine and daytime naps can sometimes help to restore normal sleep patterns. In cases of insomnia that don’t respond to conservative measures, medications may be used to induce sleep. Over-the-counter drugs such as doxylamine (Unisom™) and prescription medications like zolpidem (Ambien™) can be used for the short-term relief of insomnia. These medications may cause daytime drowsiness and rebound insomnia (insomnia that returns after discontinuing the medication).

The new study investigated the effects of soft music on sleep quality in older adults in Taiwan. Sixty people with insomnia whose average age was 67 years were assigned to either a music intervention group or to a control group.

Those in the music intervention group chose one of five different Western music selections that were shown in previous studies to decrease pain or a Chinese orchestra folk music selection. The investigator taught participants a relaxation technique to relax their bodies while listening to the music. After mastering the technique, the participants were instructed to lie in bed at the same time each night in comfortable clothes with a comfortable room temperature, lights out, and eyes closed, and to play the music tape. The process was repeated each night for three weeks.

The control group was not given music tapes or instructions. The following parameters were measured before the study and after the first, second, and third weeks: sleep quality, time taken to fall asleep, duration of sleep, sleep efficiency (how rested they felt for the amount of time spent asleep), sleep disturbance, and daytime dysfunction (sleepiness, decreased alertness).

The music intervention group had significantly greater improvements in sleep quality, time taken to fall asleep, duration of sleep, sleep efficiency, and daytime dysfunction than the control group. Listening to music did not reduce sleep disturbance. Overall, the music group experienced a 35% improvement in measures of sleep quality. The effects of the music intervention were also cumulative; sleep continued to improve over the three-week period.

Listening to sedative music at bedtime appears to be an effective, safe, and inexpensive aid for improving sleep in older adults with insomnia. The selections used in the study are commercially available and include selection No. 1 from Comfort Zone by Steven Halpern, Gnossienne No. 5 from Fresh Impressions by Georgia Kelly, “Gigi” from Nadia’s Theme by Roger Williams, Symphony No. 6 by Beethoven, “When Joanna Loved Me” from Easy Living by Paul Desmond, and folk music by the Shanghai Chinese Traditional Orchestra.

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She is a co-founder and practicing physician at South County Naturopaths, Inc., in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp teaches holistic medicine classes and provides consultations focusing on detoxification and whole-foods nutrition.

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