Everyone has a unique way of drifting off to sleep. Some like to listen to their favourite album, while some prefer to listen to white noise and yet others prefer a random 12-hour audio clip ‘For Sleep’ on Soundcloud.
Another misinterpreted consensus akin to the above is that lullabies are only for babies. In reality, lullabies provide efficient sleep therapy for adults too! Moreover, having adequate sleep is necessary to keep your body and mind healthy not only for the day, but also for your entire lifespan! Boons and banes of sleeping are solely dependent on your choice of how deep you are ready to sleep, in the first place!
What is Music for Sleep?
How do you define sleep? Is it an active or inactive state? Unlike the popular view, sleep is not just a switched off state. In fact, sleep is a highly active state. Of all the daytime interactions of the millions of neurons and their zapping electricity rate with the brain, nighttime interactions are tenfold more active! These are called the brain wave interactions. Our brain waves change with respect to our emotions and activities we indulge in.
Music therapy involves using these soothing sound waves such as lullabies and nature sounds to create an optimum setup for the distressed or somnipathy minds to relax faster and drift off to sleep. There are many types of music therapies, which involve connecting a person, act or feeling with a soothing music to rehabilitate or calm the stressed mind.
When you listen to specifically designed music for sleep, your brain relaxes. It also alleviates addresses and resolves the psychological and physical stress that adds to your poor circadian rhythm and somnipathy. Just as we wake up from sleep when a noise is heard, sleep music creates rhythmic noises to drown the disturbances and keep us asleep.
How does Music for Sleep work?
Firstly, there are two stages of sleep – REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and Non-REM sleep. While the former comprises of the last stage of sleep where our dreams are lucid and retrievable after waking up, the latter is sans dreams and any depth of sleep. It is further divisible into five stages. They are:
- Stage 1 (Non-REM 1): Light/ Drowsy sleep where eyes roll around and muscles are subject to motion. This lasts for ten minutes (5% of sleep) and is also dreamless, although hypnagogic (micro-awakening) jerks are largely observed too. The unsynchronised and faster waves called gamma and beta changes into synchronized, slow waves of alpha and theta during the same. This stage is also the transition from consciousness to the state of subconscious.
- Stage II (Non-REM 2): The eyes stop rolling as the brain waves and muscles begin to slow down while consciousness of the outside world and its disturbances, fade off. While theta waves establish its specific brain and neuron interactions, sleep spindles (Short-30 seconds and sudden jerks or outbursts called sigma waves) and K-complexes (Short negative peak to slower positive peak to a negative peak, which lasts for 1-2 minutes). This comprises 40%-60% of all adult sleep durations.
- Stage III (Non-REM 3) Stage IV (Non-REM 4): As both the phases, are almost indistinguishable in its aspects, it is considered as one sleep phase. Also known as Deep sleep or slow wave sleep, mainly because of the delta waves (slower waves) which impacts in a sleep stage from which it is difficult to get up;
Occurring during the initial 20% of the total sleep time, these stages are responsible for sleepwalking, sleeptalking or somniloquy and nightmares.
- Stage V or REM sleep: breathing becomes shallow and muscles enter temporary paralysis, eyes start to rapidly move or jerk to both sides;
As this is the core phase of our sleep, the brain tries its best to prevent any disturbances to the same. Exemplifying, if a sleeper feels the urge to urinate during this phase, the brain incorporates this into his or her dream, and the person ends up bedwetting.
The brain waves transmitted during sleep by our neurons can be measured using EEG to measure total activity in the brain (electroencephalogram ); EOG to record muscle tone (electrooculogram) and EMG to observe Eye Movement (electromyogram). When we listen to music, it changes our feelings and perception and hence our brain waves too. While some music is designed for entertainment, there are also specific music to trigger deep sleep, theta sleep, dream sleep, meditation and concentration in a person as music therapy.
Following is how music for sleep works to affect and heal the sleeping disorders of the mind and body:
Relaxation for the Body:
– When soothing musical waves intersect with the brain waves, the body relaxes. Often, it is difficult for people with chaotic circadian rhythms to relax their bodies when trying to sleep. While faster tracks or music can alert your mind, slower soothing sounds can erase your stress in just a wink! Sleep Music calms down the body by echoing the rhythm of the heart to relax the tense muscles our restless physique. This is how music helps to achieve the completely relaxed physical state or partial meditation.
Relaxation for the Mind:
– When a person drifts off to sleep, the overactive mind and its restless thoughts slowly fade as abstracts. As this mind relaxation occurs, the conscious mind shuts off, transitions into theta waves or slow brain waves and plunges into the commotion of the subconscious. Only a relaxed mind can unlock the subconscious mind. Hence, music for sleep creates an optimum mindfulness, when a person sleeps. With sleep music like binaural beats and white noise, the mind is relaxed to achieve a mindful or meditative state (even though silence is the most popular trigger to active meditation). This is achieved by creating sounds that induce slow waves that intersect and superimpose the brain waves to create a meditative state.
Cut out disturbing background noises:
– A literal blanket to eliminate all background noises that is capable of awakening the person drastically while in Sleep Stage 1, 2 or even 3 & 4, sleep music is an elixir to resolve this. White noise and such ambient sounds can help in drowning the background noises and external disturbances to help the sleeper from waking up in the middle of sleep. If you have an unbearable noisy background or locality, binaural beats or any continuous stream of audio can help you to continue the deep slumber.
Creates a healthy sleeping cycle:
– Another important benefit of music as a sleep therapy is how it grows as a necessity or habit in the due course. The effects might not be immediate, but if you religiously follow a particular sleeping course for 6-8 weeks, your circadian rhythm will normalize and a healthy sleeping cycle will be, created. This also helps to prevent many fatal somnipathies like sleep apnea and narcolepsy as well.
Sleep Music for Babies
Almost 99% of our world believes in the magic of lullabies or music for sleep when it comes to babies. The fact is that baby sleep music requires no vocals, but if it has a handful of calming scat singing, t does not hamper the effect. Science advocates that majority of the people believe that music for helping babies sleep, is highly beneficial for their emotional and psychological growth in the first year. Baby sleep music is usually, an adequate mix of white noise and peaceful nature sounds. One can extend the use of this music to relax the baby at any time, as these relaxing sounds also helps to develop the intellect of your baby.
Certain parents ensure pin-drop silence when putting the baby to sleep, while others believe in systematically soothing and relaxing the baby to a sweet sleep. Nevertheless, all parents believe that singing lullabies to their kids always enhance the quality of their baby’s sleep. In fact, music therapy has been specifically, focussed on babies to aid them gain weight as well.
The best music therapies for babies are classical music, like that of Mozart, White noise, Brahms and instrumental long hour tracks.
Sleep Music for Everyone
Soft notes (And, high notes- select to avoid these) like that of Beethoven (Moonlight Sonata), Mozart (Serenade No: 10), Pachelbel (Canon), Jules Massenet (Thaïs- Méditation), Johann Bach (Suite No. 3 in D Major) and Franz Schubert (Piano Quintet).
An instrumental track sans any persistent type of beat like that of Carbon Based Lifeforms (World of Sleepers, John Foxx (Cathedral Oceans), John Hopkins (Opalescent), Diatonis (Ambient Life), Royskopp (Melody AM) and Steve Roach (Structures from Silence);
Two varied frequencies of beats simultaneously heard from each ear by the usage of head phones to create any auditory illusion through utilizing different waves. Examples: Delta Sleep Wave (create an audio with 100 Hz through one ear and 104 Hz through another to make the third brain wave of 4 Hz/ Delta Wave).
Rock music with lesser beats with an emphasis on melody and soothing vocals (or no vocals); Example: Flunk (For Sleepyheads Only), Zero 7 (The Garden), Royksopp (Melody A.M) and The Orb (Orblivion).
Sounds of Nature
Natural sounds like that of rain, chirping birds and oceans, which is any steady stretch of undisturbed sounds;
It is a steady noise with different frequencies and equal intensity like that of a radio hunting for frequency, ceiling fans, grains on phone when malfunctioned and random signals with spectral density of flat power.
Relaxation Melody Apps
There are many apps that provide pre-set audio riffs of white noise, ambient and natural sounds in Theta waves and binaural beats as sleep music;
Apart from the above, there is much World music, contemporary classical and specific meditational chants that are specifically, mastered to create relaxation sleep music for everyone. If you cannot find any particular track while you want to sleep-off, here is a quick mantra: switch on your ceiling fan and sleep! Utilizing white noise such as these to fall asleep is an age-old technique and most people even make it a habit, involuntarily and enhance their circadian rhythm.