TAINAN, Taiwan — Lullabies are a great way to ease a restless baby to sleep. It turns out they may also help millions of older adults who struggle to get to bed each night. Researchers in Taiwan find listening to music can improve sleep quality among older people who toss and turn throughout the night.
Between 40 and 70 percent of older people struggle with sleep problems, studies show. These individuals frequently wake up in the middle of the night or rise prematurely in the morning.
Not getting enough shut-eye can not only lead to a poor quality of life but also lead to serious mental and physical health implications. This is because adequate rest gives the body and brain the time it needs to repair itself before starting a new day. Now, researchers at the National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taipei find enjoyable melodies may be the solution.
“Music intervention is an effective strategy and is easy to administer by a caregiver or healthcare worker,” study author Dr. Yen-Chi Chen says in a media release.
“Music therapy might be the first line of therapy to recommend in older adults with sleep disturbances, which would reduce the need for dependence on sedatives and sleeping medication.”
Soft beats put seniors right to sleep
While tradition wisdom says people need eight hours of sleep, studies show six to seven provide most with proper rest. In this study, researchers pulled together English and Chinese reports of randomized control sleep studies from five databases. Each analyzed the effects of music on the sleep quality of people over the age of 60.
“All studies were reviewed by two independent investigators,” researchers write in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. “This study aimed to conduct a systematic review and meta‐analysis of the effect of listening to music on sleep quality in older adults.”
The results show older adults who listen to music before bed enjoy a “significantly better” sleep than those who nod off in silence. In particular, those who listen to “sedative music” rather than rhythmic beats displayed the highest increase in sleep quality. Sedative tunes typically have a slow tempo, between 60 and 80 beats per minute, a soft volume, and smooth melody.
“Based on psychological theory, listening to sedative music can improve sleep by modulating sympathetic nervous system activity and the release of cortisol, thereby lowering levels of anxiety and stress responses,” Dr. Chen says in a statement to SWNS.
Researchers also find listening to music before bed for more than four weeks is especially effective.
“Music therapy is safe and easy to administer and can effectively improve sleep quality among older adults, particularly those listening to more sedative music for at least a four‐week duration,” the study authors conclude.
SWNS writer Tom Campbell contributed to this report.