How Does Music Aid Sleep? Literature Review

Authors: Gaelen Thomas Dickson, Emer Schubert
Published In: Sleep Medicine Volume 63, November 2019, Pp. 142-150


“How Music Aids Sleep
(1) relaxation, where music encourages physiological or psychological relaxation; (2) distraction, where music acts as a focal point to distract from inner stressful thoughts; (3) entrainment, synchronization of biological rhythms to beat structures in music; (4) masking, obscuring noxious background noise with music; (5) enjoyment, listening to preferred, emotionally relatable or pleasant music; and (6) expectation, individuals cultural beliefs around music.”

We evaluated each RPR (research-proposed reason) in terms of the evidence available in the extant literature. Masking RPR was identified as having support for improving sleep. Relaxation, distraction and enjoyment RPR had mixed levels of support. Expectation RPR had possible support. Entrainment had mixed possible support. The paper discusses interactions between RPRs, and a call is made to turn research attention to sequencing the RPRs and possible RPR mediators, with relaxation being a likely mediator of several RPRs.