Insomnia is a sleep disorder that can result in difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, or waking up too early in the morning. When sleep does happen, it may also not be restful. Over time, it can lead to physical and mental health problems, including irritability, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating. Insomnia is often treated with medication, but there is a risk of abuse, dependence, and side effects with long-term use. Other treatment options include exercise, therapy, behavior modification, and following steps to promote a good night's rest. Listening to music is another step that warrants further study.
Researchers wanted to assess the effects of listening to music on insomnia in adults. The study, published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, found that listening to music for 25-60 minutes once a day may improve sleep quality in adults with insomnia.
The systematic review included 6 randomized trials that compared outcomes in 314 adults with insomnia. The participants were randomized to listening to music for 25-60 minutes once a day with or without standard care or no treatment/standard care. Quality of sleep, duration of sleep, daytime sleepiness, and other factors were measured through participant survey at beginning and end of interventions that lasted 3 days to 5 weeks.
Participants using music reported better sleep quality than those without music in an analysis of 5 trials with 264 patients. The addition of relaxation techniques did not have any additional effect. In 1 trial with 50 patients, no significant differences in sleep onset, total sleep time, sleep interruption, and sleep efficiency as measured in a sleep lab.
A systematic review is considered a more reliable form of research because it combines large pools of data. The review also focused on a reliable form of research, randomized controlled trials. However, the randomized trials were small studies of moderate quality which decrease their reliability. Some of the studies also focused on a specific population which means the treatment may not apply to the general population. While the results of this systematic review show promise, it will take more studies to better establish the benefits of music in adults with insomnia.
Listening to music is safe and easy to do; therefore, it is worth trying it as part of your current insomnia management plan. Participants in some of the trials selected their own music. Choose music that helps you relax and use it as part of an effective sleep strategy that includes shutting off electronics at least an hour before bedtime, keeping your bedroom dark and cool, and avoiding stimulants like caffeine before bedtime. Talk to your doctor if you are struggling with insomnia.
National Sleep Foundation
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Insomnia. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/home. Accessed September 29, 2015.
Insomnia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 24, 2015. Accessed September 29, 2015.
Jespersen KV, Koenig J, et al. Music for insomnia in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Aug 13;8:CD010459. [Epub ahead of print.]. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD010459.pub2/abstract;jsessionid=68D0233CF21394F5B69A27221501745C.f02t03. Accessed September 29, 2015.
What is insomnia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/inso. Updated December 13, 2011. Accessed September 29, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Michael Woods, MD