Is it good for babies to fall asleep to music? Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple yes or no. My Baby Nursery is your one-stop baby product store.
There are advantages and disadvantages of parents putting on some tunes before bedtime that you should consider. Read through our blog post and let us know what your opinion is!
Does Music and White Noise Help Baby Sleep Longer?
All new parents want their newborns to get the proper amount of sleep.
Not just because it helps them to get some much-needed rest when their babies sleep, but because they understand that sleep is essential for the healthy development of their little ones.
If your infant has been having trouble falling asleep or sleeping through the night, consider introducing baby music and/or white noise into your baby’s bedtime routine.
It’s no secret that music can play a part in inspiring emotions – it can give you a boost first thing in the morning, make you dance around your kitchen in the evening and put a smile on your face at pretty much any time of day.
When it comes to getting your child to sleep, music can be a big help to soothe your little one into a peaceful sleep.
Including it as part of your little one’s sleep routine can make a big difference.
Why Does Music Affect Sleep?
The ability to hear music depends on a series of steps that convert sound waves coming into the ear into electrical signals in the brain.
As the brain interprets these sounds, a cascade of physical effects is triggered within the body. Many of these effects either directly promote sleep or reduce issues that interfere with sleep.
Several studies suggest that music enhances sleep because of its effects on the regulation of hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol.
Being stressed and having elevated levels of cortisol can increase alertness and lead to poor sleep. Listening to music decreases levels of cortisol6, which may explain why it helps put people at ease and release stress.
Music triggers the release of dopamine, a hormone released during pleasurable activities, like eating, exercise, and sex. This release can boost good feelings at bedtime and address pain, another common cause of sleep issues. Physical and psychological responses to music are effective in reducing both acute and chronic physical pain.
Listening to music can also contribute to relaxation by soothing the autonomic nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system is part of your body’s natural system for controlling automatic or unconscious processes, including those within the heart, lungs, and digestive system.
Music improves sleep through calming parts of the autonomic nervous system, leading to slower breathing, lower heart rate, and reduced blood pressure.
Many people with poor sleep associate their bedrooms with frustration and sleepless nights.
Music can counteract this, distracting from troubling or anxious thoughts and encouraging the physical and mental relaxation needed to fall asleep.
Whether it’s from roads, aeroplanes, or noisy neighbours, night-time noise can decrease sleep efficiency and is linked to several adverse health consequences, including cardiovascular disease.
Music can help to drown out these environmental noises and increase sleep efficiency.
What Kind of Music Is Best for Sleep?
It’s natural to wonder about the best type of music for sleep.
Research studies have looked at diverse genres and playlists, and there isn’t a clear consensus about the optimal music for sleep.
What we do know is that studies have typically used either a self-curated playlist or one that has been explicitly designed with sleep in mind.
One of the most significant factors in how music affects a person’s body is their musical preferences.
Influential custom playlists may include songs that have been relaxing or that have helped with sleep in the past.
When designing a playlist, one factor to consider is the tempo.
The tempo, or speed, at which music is played is often measured in the number of beats per minute (BPM). Most studies have selected music that is around 60-80 BPM.
Because typical resting heart rates range from 60 to 100 BPM11, it’s often hypothesized that the body may sync up with slower music.
For those that don’t want to design their own playlist, online music services have stepped in and usually offer pre-packaged playlists for specific activities.
Helpful playlists may be curated for sleep or relaxation. It may be easiest to find playlists that focus on calming genres, like classical or piano pieces.
Feel free to experiment with different songs and playlists until you find one that’s right for you. It may also be helpful to try out a few playlists during the daytime to see if they help you relax.
While many people can benefit from making their own playlists or finding something pre-mixed, others may benefit from a more formal approach.
Certified music therapists are professionals trained in using music to improve mental and physical health.
A music therapist can assess a person’s individual needs and create a treatment plan that can involve both listening to and making music.
Evolving Science About Music and Health
Interest in music’s effects on the body continues to grow, and primary research programs are dedicated to uncovering new ways that music can benefit health.
For example, in 2017, the National Institutes of Health partnered with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to announce the Sound Health Initiative.
This program initiative supports research that focuses on the use of music in health care settings and has already funded several projects.
But Why Is Music Such a Welcome Addition to Your Child’s Sleep Routine?
Creating a Relaxing Environment
From the moment that you bring your precious newborn home, they’re overloaded with new experiences.
This can be overwhelming to their developing senses, making it especially important to create a calm, relaxing environment in order to give them the soothing atmosphere they need to nurture their sleeping pattern.
Soft music played each night can not only relax your child, but it can also help to create a sense of routine for your little one.
Acting almost as a trigger, letting them know that it’s time for bed, it’s the perfect way to add another sense of familiarity – which can leave your baby feeling more secure and, in turn, more relaxed.
Lullabies are so effective (and popular) the physiological effects they can have on your child.
Naturally, our bodies will respond to the rhythm and tempo of the music we listen to, meaning that slow, soft, repetitive music will actually slow our heartbeats and allow for deeper, calmer breathing.
The swaying rhythm of a lullaby is purposely close to the child’s own heartbeat, and the quiet sounds are essential to calm down a baby after a day of potentially loud and chaotic sounds.
Slower music will lower what is known as ‘threat responses’ in your baby, so they’re far less likely to be activated, which makes their bedroom feel both safer and more secure.
Benefits of Baby Music for Sleep
Just like listening to certain types of music and calming sounds such as the ocean or thunderstorms can help adults fall asleep, there are certain sounds that can also soothe a baby’s brain and help put him into a peaceful state.
Lullaby music for babies is a particularly popular choice since lullabies are specifically designed to promote a sense of comfort and familiarity in children.
This is hugely beneficial when you’re trying to help your infant unwind and drift off into a deep sleep or when you’re beginning to sleep train your child or transition him from co-sleeping to sleeping independently.
Just be aware that not all lullaby music is ideal for bedtime. Some are more fun, upbeat and playful, which are best reserved for daytime and car rides.
For bedtime, choose a collection of lullabies with soothing instruments and a background ambience that won’t overstimulate your baby’s brain.
Another fantastic choice for bedtime music is classical music since it doesn’t contain any lyrics, which can be distracting and overwhelming for a baby’s brain.
Classical music also contains soothing, gentle instruments and tones, as opposed to heavy percussion instruments – there’s a long-held (though mostly anecdotal) belief that classical music can even help boost a baby’s brain development both in and out; of the womb!
Benefits of White Noise for Baby Sleep
White noise machines create a comfortable, womb-like environment that soothes anxious infants, encouraging them to calm down and fall asleep sooner – and helps them to stay asleep for more extended periods of time.
Why does white noise work so well? Babies cycle in and out of periods of deep and light sleep.
Every 20 minutes or so, they are in a cycle of light sleep and can wake quickly. White noise works to silence any background noise or environmental disturbance that may otherwise cause your baby to wake up during one of these light sleep periods.
The calming noise provides comfort that can get your baby to fall back into a deep sleep.
You can incorporate music and white noise into your baby’s sleep routine at any time. Your baby is never too young to experience a peaceful, comforting way to drift off into a restful slumber.
When to Play the Music
We recommend putting on your favourite lullabies/background sounds around half an hour before your child’s bed or nap time, allowing them to absorb the music and “wind-down” before you actually put them to rest.
The familiar routine will let your child know bedtime is coming soon, making it less of a shock when it’s time to be put down for sleep. If there is a risk of noise or factors which may disturb sleep, then it is recommended to leave the music on throughout the night.
As the music can drown out other sounds which may disturb, such as wind and rain (or noisy neighbours), the music acts as the most effective, consistent distraction from this.
How to Choose the Best Music to Put Baby to Sleep
Music can be an essential part of sleep rituals, and as such, a pivotal part of sleep training, giving obvious and soothing cues signifying that bedtime has arrived.
That said, baby sleep music is a tool that should be used precisely and carefully. The wrong kind of music used inappropriately can actually cause more problems than it solves.
The key is to end the music before the kid falls asleep and make it as dull as possible.
Music, if used every night, will become a ‘sleep onset association’ for the baby, and then the baby comes to depend on this music for the transition into sleep.
Then, no matter where the baby sleeps – at his or her grandmother’s, at daycare, at a hotel and so on – he or she may need it there, too, so it has to be available all the time.
Understanding Baby Sleep Music
Music Can Become a Crutch
Music can help a baby fall asleep, but if the child becomes dependent on it, they don’t have a lot of options when they are trying to fall asleep away from home.
Robust Sleepers Are Sound Sleepers
It’s possible to train a baby to sleep under a variety of conditions, with typical ambient noise and with very few sleep crutches.
Sleep Rituals Can Incorporate Music
Sleep rituals help signal to a baby that bedtime is here. Lowered lights and music can help ease this tradition.
Elevator Music Preferred
Dynamic music arouses the senses by design. If parents incorporate music into the sleep ritual, soft lullabies, soothing classical music, or ‘spa music’ are better choices.
White Noise Blocks Sound Better
If the ambient noise is too distracting to a baby, parents can block it out with a sound machine. One that runs continuously is a better option than one that runs on a timer.
Inappropriate sleep onset associations are also known as sleep crutches or sleep props.
They are stimuli or conditions that babies cannot replicate themselves, and so when they awake in the night, they lack the tools to help them relax and fall back asleep.
So instead of teaching a baby to be a complete sleeper, able to sleep under a variety of conditions with typical ambient noise and with very few sleep crutches.
That doesn’t mean the music has no place at bedtime. Bedtime rituals are still important, and they can incorporate music.
Some parents use music and lowered lights, for example, to mark the transition from family after-dinner time to routine bedtime time. However, the wrong choice of music can stimulate a baby to wakefulness, making bedtime harder instead of easier.
We’d recommend soft music with few or no changes in volume and tempo since any change might trigger an awakening.
Some kind of soft lullabies, or classical music, or ‘spa-type music would be just fine as part of the bedtime routine or ritual and then, ideally, turned off.”
If the ambient noise of a house is too much for a baby to cope with, parents may need to mask or block it. In that case, music may seem like a good option, but a white noise machine may be a more helpful fit.
If music is being used to block sound, I think a sound machine is probably a better choice since the sound provided by this machine is so consistent.
A sound machine that clicks off after a set period of time may also trigger an awakening, and if the baby is dependent on it to fall asleep, it may become another sleep crutch that keeps them awake in the middle of the night.
So if a white noise machine is necessary, it should run continuously.
Little ones sometimes like to have some sort of distracting sound or music on while they fall asleep. Know, though, that this can become a habit.
The possible issue with it is if she wakes during the night and cannot get back to sleep because the music is off (since she is so used to having it one when she falls asleep at bedtime).
One thing you can do is have the music on but with a low volume so that they can barely hear it. Check out our article about what bedding to use to give your baby the perfect night’s sleep.
You might also consider having music but not every night, to make sure she is able to fall asleep on her own without music. This will take practice, but over time she will get the hang of it.