Many people, especially light sleepers, like to listen to music in bed.
Playing music can block out external sounds, including a snoring partner or ambient noise outside a window. However, opinions vary on whether listening to music while sleeping is safe.
Relaxing music that unfolds at 60 beats per minute matches your sleeping heart rate, encouraging the body and mind to fall asleep.
Avoid headphones at bedtime as they’ll be uncomfortable to wear and will disturb your sleep. At worst, you risk irreparably damaging your hearing and ear canal.
Audio stimulation overnight is not for everybody. Some experts will offer reasons why you shouldn’t listen to music while sleeping, mainly concerning potential disruption to sleep.
If you find the act soothing, there’s no reason not to enjoy music in bed.
What Happens When You Listen to Music While Sleeping?
Listening to music has an undeniable impact on the body, and sleep doesn’t change this. The parasympathetic nervous system will still react to audio stimuli if you play music while you doze.
Your heart rate and emotional status react when you listen to music. If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep, enjoy calming, low-key music that reduces stress hormones and encourages relaxation.
When we refer to relaxing music, we need to drill deep into the beats per minute of the audio. Regardless of whether jazz, dance, or rock music relaxes you, avoid tracks that exceed 60 beats per minute if possible – certainly never go over 80 BPM.
This is because when you lie down and listen to music, your heart rate will imitate the BPM of the audio. A sleeping human heart will typically beat 60 times in a minute, and music of the same tempo will encourage the heart to maintain this ratio.
As you close your eyes and drift off, the music will work in tandem with your heart rate to make you sleepy. Avoid your favorite songs, as these will provide an emotional reaction and negate the process. Gentle, generic beats can encourage a good night’s sleep.
Does Listening to Music Impact Dreams?
As discussed, it’s advisable to stick to music between 60 and 80 beats per minute. These will keep your heart rate steady and likely ensure that you remain asleep overnight. This music can still impact your dreams, though.
While the body transitions between sleep stages into REM sleep, brainwaves continue to take in the impact of ambient noise. This means that calming music is likelier to inspire positive dreams. Aggravating sounds, meanwhile, may result in nightmares.
What is the Best Way to Listen to Music While Sleeping?
When people ask, “why is it bad to listen to music while you sleep?” the answer is often, “because it’s dangerous.” Wearing headphones in bed – especially earbuds – raises the potential for harm.
Thankfully, the rise of Bluetooth technology means that pillows, headbands, and other peripherals can now be used to play music from a smartphone or tablet. Alternatively, play a radio or speaker at an appropriate volume.
Pros and Cons of Listening to Music While Sleeping
So, is it good to listen to calm music while sleeping? Or is it advisable to skip out on any external audio? Let’s investigate the positive and negative outcomes of sleeping while enjoying music.
Benefits of Playing Music While Sleeping
It’s undeniable that there are some advantages to listening to music while you sleep. The approach isn’t for everybody, but if it works for you and does not disturb anybody that shares your bed, it can be a great way to improve your sleep schedule.
Encourages Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene revolves around forming a reliable, unwavering routine ahead of retiring for the night. Music can play a vital role in this, especially if consistent with your selections.
Find a suitably calming form of music and listen to it each night before bed. Play the music while brushing your teeth or undertaking other routines around thirty minutes before bed. Over time, this will train the brain to associate music with sleep.
You’ll need to be careful about your choice. Anything too intense may increase your heart rate or stir an emotional reaction, which will keep you up later. The right choice can help you settle down by triggering positive associations with bed.
A study discussed in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews explains how music can aid adult insomnia. The study claimed that 314 insomnia patients slept through the night when listening to music rather than experiencing periods of wakefulness.
This suggests that the steady beat of appropriate bedtime music can resolve sleeplessness. It may not be a failsafe approach, but if you struggle to get any sleep at all, some restfulness is a step in the right direction.
Blocking External Noise
If you play music at night, you’ll soon fall asleep, which means that you’ll no longer be actively listening to the music. It will remain on your subconscious radar, though, taking on the effect of white noise.
This can be invaluable to remaining asleep, especially if you are a light sleeper. Music will become rhythmic and block out other external sounds. This could be a snoring partner or ambient noise outside the home, such as traffic or sirens.
Drawbacks of Listening to Music While Sleeping
At the risk of repeating ourselves, allow us to stress once more that earphones are a strict no-no while sleeping.
If you’re using wired headphones, strangulation is a risk. Not for you, maybe – it’s unlikely you’d strangle yourself without waking – but a pet or child co-sleeping with you could be in greater danger.
Slightly likelier is the risk of necrosis. As you lean on headphones, especially if sleeping on your side, blood flow can be restricted. Keep this up long enough, and you risk the tissue dying off. Even if that doesn’t arise, wax can build up and damage the ear canal.
Having established that headphones are inadvisable, you may be looking to proceed by listening to music out loud while you sleep. This is still not without risk, though.
Bluetooth Radiation Concerns
You may not use wireless Bluetooth technology to listen to music in bed. Even if you do, Bluetooth appliances emit less radiation than a standard cellphone. If you regularly make phone calls, worrying about this is akin to locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.
This does not mean that proximity to Bluetooth devices is not a concern for some. The International Journal of Environmental Research explains that Bluetooth use in the enclosed parameters of a car emits potentially hazardous radiation levels.
Factor this possible risk into your decision-making. If you are concerned about radiation, avoid any products that utilize Bluetooth technology. Even if you do not consider this a hazard, do not enclose yourself in too small a space – and open a window if possible.
We’ve discussed how listening to music can lead to a steady and reliable heart rate that helps you sleep. The opposite can also be true, though. If your heart rate matches the beats of music, you can be shaken from slumber as easily as being rocked to sleep.
Imagine that your playlist changes genre, from a gentle lullaby to a louder, faster-paced song. Consider whether an advert may begin to play on a streaming service, interrupting the soundscape. Consider a sudden, unexpected increase in volume. Even a time change within an existing song may rouse you from sleep.
You’ll need to choose your music carefully if you plan to sleep to it. Avoid any audio that will stir your emotions or cause a physical reaction. Such tracks may do more harm than good in the longer term.
Another risk of listening to music while sleeping is its possible impact on personal security. Playing music can block external sounds, for good or ill. If you’re listening to music, you will not hear any potential hazards in the home.
Initially, this may sound a little paranoid. You may be confident that your home is unlikely to experience a break-in and that music will not prevent you from hearing the footsteps or actions of an intruder.
How about alarms, though? Could listening to music make it challenging to hear smoke or CO2 detectors? If such an alarm is sounding, reaction time may be of the essence. The seconds or minutes it takes to penetrate through music could prove dangerous.
Forming Dependence Upon Music
You should be mindful of growing reliant on music to sleep. You’ll not always be in your own bed or sleeping alone.
If you cannot sleep without music, how will you manage when you need to spend the night in a hotel or with friends or family? What will happen if you begin sharing a bed with a new partner that prefers to sleep in silence?
We all have personal sleep rituals that help us drift off into a healthy, deep slumber. Try to avoid becoming so dependent on external stimulus that you cannot doze without it, though. This can become problematic down the line.
What Kind of Music Should You Listen to While Sleeping?
As discussed, even if you enjoy listening to music in bed, not every genre is suitable. Try to avoid turning on the radio or placing Spotify on shuffle. You need to ensure that any nocturnal music choice is appropriately calm.
Everybody has a different definition of what calms them when it comes to music. For example, heavy metal music has a reputation for provoking aggression, but Frontiers in Human Neuroscience disputes this claim. A fan of extreme metal may be more agitated by classical.
Regardless of this, it’s advisable to avoid music considered a personal favorite. Familiar, favored music will likely stir emotions in the body and mind, which will, in turn, disturb sleep. Instead, find another form of relaxing music.
Meditation music is also known as relaxation music. This genre of audio is often used in therapeutic settings. The Journal of Advanced Nursing confirms that relaxation music is considered a cheap, effective form of clinical therapy.
You’ll be able to find relaxation music in most mainstream locales. You can stream it through online services (or even for free on YouTube) or invest in sleep-centric smartphone apps that offer musical tracks. CDs are also available for sale if you prefer physical media.
In a medical setting, and increasingly commonplace among consumers, are binaural beats. According to Anesthesia, this approach is prevalent in a pre-operative environment for promoting calm. If you suffer from anxiety at night, investigate binaural beats.
Classical music is often considered to be calming. The Journal of Music Therapy claims that Mozart’s 1787 composition Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, in particular, reduces psychological stress. In theory, this makes classical music ideal for sleeping.
Tread carefully when listening to classical music overnight, though. This genre can stir many emotional reactions. Even positive feelings, such as euphoria, can disrupt sleep. Unlike relaxation music, classical does not retain the same tempo throughout.
As undeniably impressive as the musicianship of classical music is, it doesn’t always lend itself to a good night’s sleep. The sound can go from calm and quiet to bombastic and frantic instantly. Classical music may be better enjoyed before, not during, sleep.
An alternative to listening to music while you sleep is audiobooks. Cast your mind back to childhood, and you may recall falling asleep as your parents told you a story. There’s no reason you cannot adopt a similar approach in adulthood.
In theory, audiobooks are a safer approach than music. An audiobook reading will likely retain a consistent volume and timbre, assuming the narrator does not start yelling.
You’ll need to choose an audiobook carefully. Don’t listen to the latest page-turning thriller that you’ve been looking forward to. You’ll likely become emotionally invested and struggle to nod off. Pick something familiar and comforting that will not engage you too much.
If you find yourself wondering if you should listen to music while sleeping, try it for yourself and find out. There is no hard-and-fast rule on whether sleep is helped or hindered by audio – it all comes down to personal preference. Find appropriate music and observe the results.