Self-reported reasons for listening to music for sleep




This paper investigated why music may aid sleep. 161 university students completed an online survey about the reasons music aided or inhibited sleep. Responses were then analysed through directed content analysis. Six researcher proposed reasons for how music could potentially aid sleep were identified: (1) entrainment, (2) masking, (3) enjoyment, (4) distraction, (5) expectation and (6) relaxation. 84.47% of participants reported listening to music as a sleep aid. Relaxation and distraction were found to have the greatest influence on the participant's decision to use music as a sleep aid. However, distraction was also the most frequently reported reason for not listening to music for sleep because it could increase wakefulness. Expectation, masking and enjoyment were significantly under-represented as reasons to listen to music. Entrainment was significantly under-represented as both a reason for and for not listening to music. Relaxation appears to be a unique reason for music aiding but not hindering sleep and may have particular significance for research on music and sleep. The present study demonstrated the importance of teasing apart (a) how well known a particular approach is in connection with sleep versus (b) the utility of the same approach for sleep induction in comparison to perpetuating wakefulness.


Cao X-L, Wang S-B, Zhong B-L, Zhang L, Ungvari GS, Ng CH, et al. The prevalence of insomnia in the general population in China: A meta-analysis. PloS one. 2017;12(2):e0170772.

Nowicki Z, Grabowski K, Cubała WJ, Nowicka-Sauer K, Zdrojewski T, Rutkowski M, et al. Prevalence of self-reported insomnia in general population of Poland. Psychiatr Pol. 2016;50(1):165-73.

Benbir G, Demir AU, Aksu M, Ardic S, Firat H, Itil O, et al. Prevalence of insomnia and its clinical correlates in a general population in T urkey. Psychiatry and clinical neurosciences. 2015;69(9):543-52.

Leger D, Poursain B. An international survey of insomnia: under-recognition and under-treatment of a polysymptomatic condition. Current medical research and opinion. 2005;21(11):1785-92.

Opie IA, Opie P. The Oxford dictionary of nursery rhymes: Clarendon Press; 1952.

Kirkpatrick R. Edition of the Goldberg Variations. New York/London: G Schirmer. 1938.

Richter M. Sleep2015.

Morin CM, LeBlanc M, Daley M, Gregoire J, Merette C. Epidemiology of insomnia: prevalence, self-help treatments, consultations, and determinants of help-seeking behaviors. Sleep medicine. 2006;7(2):123-30.

De Niet G, Tiemens B, Lendemeijer B, Hutschemaekers G. Music‐assisted relaxation to improve sleep quality: meta‐analysis. Journal of advanced nursing. 2009;65(7):1356-64.

Wang C-F, Sun Y-L, Zang H-X. Music therapy improves sleep quality in acute and chronic sleep disorders: A meta-analysis of 10 randomized studies. International journal of nursing studies. 2014;51(1):51-62.

Trahan T, Durrant SJ, Müllensiefen D, Williamson VJ. The music that helps people sleep and the reasons they believe it works: A mixed methods analysis of online survey reports. PloS one. 2018;13(11):e0206531.

Alessandri E, Williamson VJ, Eiholzer H, Williamon A. Beethoven recordings reviewed: a systematic method for mapping the content of music performance criticism. Frontiers in psychology. 2015;6:57.

Buysse DJ, Reynolds III CF, Monk TH, Berman SR, Kupfer DJ. The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index: a new instrument for psychiatric practice and research. Psychiatry research. 1989;28(2):193-213.

Key Survey Inc. Braintree, MA.

Hsieh H-F, Shannon SE. Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative health research. 2005;15(9):1277-88.

Dickson GT, Schubert E. How Does Music Aid Sleep?, Literature Review. Sleep Medicine. 2019.

Bernardi L, Porta C, Casucci G, Balsamo R, Bernardi NF, Fogari R, et al. Dynamic interactions between musical, cardiovascular, and cerebral rhythms in humans. Circulation. 2009;119(25):3171-80.

Picard LM, Bartel LR, Gordon AS, Cepo D, Wu Q, Pink LR. Music as a sleep aid in fibromyalgia. Pain Research and Management. 2014;19(2):97-101.

Stanchina ML, Abu-Hijleh M, Chaudhry BK, Carlisle CC, Millman RP. The influence of white noise on sleep in subjects exposed to ICU noise. Sleep medicine. 2005;6(5):423-8.

Talbot LS, Hairston IS, Eidelman P, Gruber J, Harvey AG. The effect of mood on sleep onset latency and REM sleep in interepisode bipolar disorder. Journal of abnormal psychology. 2009;118(3):448.

Hernández-Ruiz E. Effect of music therapy on the anxiety levels and sleep patterns of abused women in shelters. Journal of Music Therapy. 2005;42(2):140-58.

Gitanjali B. Effect of the Karnatic music raga" Neelambari" on sleep architecture. Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology. 1998;42:119-22.

Su CP, Lai HL, Chang ET, Yiin LM, Perng SJ, Chen PW. A randomized controlled trial of the effects of listening to non‐commercial music on quality of nocturnal sleep and relaxation indices in patients in medical intensive care unit. Journal of advanced nursing. 2013;69(6):1377-89.

Sharpe D. Your chi-square test is statistically significant: Now what? Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation. 2015;20.

Wickens TD. Multiway contingency tables analysis for the social sciences: Psychology Press; 2014.

Bewick V, Cheek L, Ball J. Statistics review 8: Qualitative data–tests of association. Critical care. 2003;8(1):46.





Full Length Articles