Be It Happy or Sad Songs, Music Before Bed Could Mean Better Sleep

young woman listening to music in bed with headphones

Westend61 / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • Research surrounding the habit of music played before bed has been mixed.
  • A new study suggests listening to happy or sad music before bed can improve sleep quality.
  • Relaxing music has been linked to decreased heart rate and blood pressure, whereas fast, loud music can have the opposite effect, according to experts.

We all have our bedtime routines. Depending on the person, these can include a skincare regimen, finishing a chapter in a book, making a cup of tea, or watching a favorite TV show. Most of these habits help us wind down at the end of the day and, hopefully, induce a good night's sleep.

But one bedtime habit has proven controversial: listening to music. Past research exploring music played before bed has been divided. Some studies have shown relaxing classical music reduces sleep issues, while others have shown that people who frequently listen to music before going to bed suffer worse sleep quality.

The answer to this debate may lie in the type of music that's played. A new study focusing on young adults in Singapore suggests that specifically happy or sad music played before bed can actually benefit a person's quality of sleep.

Varied Frequencies at Bedtime

Researchers asked 62 participants, who ranged from 19-32 years old, to focus on three types of music before bed: happy music, sad music, or pink noise, which consists of sounds at a frequency that filters out distractions.

Each participant spent five consecutive nights listening to the assigned audio before bed—two nights were spent without music between each condition. Participants then self-reported on their quality of sleep.

Study authors

Music listening is relatively cheap and easy-to-implement, healthcare professionals and lay individuals alike can use music listening as a cost-effective and convenient intervention.

— Study authors

The results revealed that participants experienced better sleep quality after listening to happy or sad music over listening to pink noise. But no significant difference in sleep quality was reported between listening to happy or sad music. The benefits also continued, as participants also reported reduced stress and greater life satisfaction the following day.

"Music listening is relatively cheap and easy-to-implement, healthcare professionals and lay individuals alike can use music listening as a cost-effective and convenient intervention for improving subjective sleep quality and other daily well-being outcomes," study authors wrote.

It's important to note that the study wasn't without limitations. Because results were self-reported there's great risk of subjectivity and variability. At the same time, researchers did not gauge participants' familiarity with the music, which could affect its impact.

Music and the Mind

Psychiatrist Alex Dimitriu, MD, who specializes in sleep medicine, notes that music is a fairly powerful emotional tool. This means it can also be an effective distraction for racing thoughts while trying to fall asleep. Studies have shown that playing music at bedtime can encourage the physical and mental tranquility necessary to achieve a good night's sleep.

Alex Dimitriu, MD

Music can bring out feelings, including relaxation, and also reduce mind wandering often seen in anxious or stressed individuals

— Alex Dimitriu, MD

"Music can bring out feelings, including relaxation, and also reduce mind wandering often seen in anxious or stressed individuals," he says.

Music can have a real physical impact, as well. Research exploring music's effect on the body has shown that relaxing music can actually reduce heart rate and blood pressure. At the same time, Dimitriu notes that, because fast, loud, or intense music could potentially have the opposite effect and increase heart rate, it should be avoided before bedtime.

"Check in with yourself and make sure you like how the music makes you feel," Dimitriu says. "Again, this effect should be subtle. Sleep is a natural process that occurs best in a cool, dark, and quiet room."

What This Means For You

Playing music that makes you feel happy and calm before bed can benefit your quality of sleep. Curating a playlist dedicated solely to sleep music can be an effective method of minimizing any issues you may have while falling asleep.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tan YZ, Ozdemir S, Temiz A, Celik F. The effect of relaxing music on heart rate and heart rate variability during ECG GATED-myocardial perfusion scintigraphyComplement Ther Clin Pract. 2015;21(2):137-140. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2014.12.003

  2. Harmat L, Takács J, Bódizs R. Music improves sleep quality in studentsJ Adv Nurs. 2008;62(3):327-335. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04602.x

  3. Scullin MK, Gao C, Fillmore P. Bedtime music, involuntary musical imagery, and sleepPsychol Sci. 2021;32(7):985-997. doi:10.1177/0956797621989724

  4. Majeed NM, Lua VYQ, Chong JS, Lew Z, Hartanto A. Does bedtime music listening improve subjective sleep quality and next-morning well-being in young adults? A randomized cross-over trialPsychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain. 2021;31(3-4):149-158. doi:10.1037/pmu0000283

  5. Dickson GT, Schubert E. Music on prescription to aid sleep quality: a literature reviewFront Psychol. 2020;11:1695. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01695