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Music is a popular sleep aid, new research shows

A new study from the University of Sheffield has found that 62% of 651 survey participants use music as a sleep aid. This is the first online survey used to track the use of music as a sleep aid within the general population.

Tabitha Trahan and her colleagues scored the survey based on musicality, participant sleep habits, and open-text responses on what music helps participants sleep and why. They went into their research believing that music may be a cheap alternative to medicinal sleep aids.

Of the 62% of survey participants who said music helps them get a better night’s sleep, those involved described 545 musical artists within 14 musical genres. Those who don’t suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders even stated that listening to music on a daily basis helps them sleep better at night. And younger people who regularly engage with music often use it as a sleep aid, as well.

“The largest ever survey of everyday use of music for sleep reveals multiple pathways to effect that go far beyond relaxation; these include auditory masking, habit, passion for music, and mental distraction,” the study’s authors wrote. “This work offers new understanding into the complex motivations that drive people to reach for music as a sleep aid and the reasons why so many find it effective.”

Participants, who were self-selected and therefore could have influenced the survey with music-loving bias, said via the survey that they believe music stimulates sleep and thwarts internal or external stimulus that would inhibit sleep. Furthermore, the authors of the study, published November 14 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, note that physiological and psychological effects of music on sleep were not taken into consideration within the survey.

Despite the above shortcomings of the survey, the participants provided beginner evidence to show that people use a diverse variety of music to aid sleep. From here, researchers can continue to uncover the scientific reasons why music is such a useful sleep aid for a large percentage of the population.

The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

By Olivia Harvey, Staff Writer

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