Can music help you drift off?
Appreciation of music is something most of us share. The sound of a particular instrument or a verse from a song can transport us back into a memory, remind us of a special moment. Even as children, many of us fell asleep to the calming melody of a lullaby.
As the most universal medium in the world, music has many promising neurological and physiological effects. Interestingly, recent research suggests that music is most impactful in aiding sleep and relaxation. Especially for those who struggle with falling or staying asleep, which is often associated with stress and anxiety. When we look at our health and well-being from a holistic point of view, we can very easily draw it all back to sleep. It’s a well-known fact that insufficient sleep in both quality and quantity can be the core of many health-related issues. And so, in our continuous pursuit to understand the true benefits of a good night’s rest, we embarked on understanding the impact of music on sleep.
We’ve had the opportunity to meet with the multi-award-winning violinist, Elly Suh, who shared with us the impact music has had on her life. When we sit down to talk, there’s a particular element of calmness to Elly. She begins every sentence with a deep, deliberate breath. Almost like she’s about to perform for us, but instead of the violin, she uses her voice. Like a Savoir craftsman, for Elly, perfecting the art of craftsmanship is the essence of her being. She takes hours and sometimes even years to learn each note, each movement, and each sound. The dedication and precision of which deliver a truly extraordinary result.
What’s most striking about Elly is that when she performs, she does so with what seems like remarkable ease. The beautiful, swift movements of her hands as she graces the bow against the strings. To us, listeners, they feel so effortless. And perhaps that’s precisely why classical music has such a magical and relaxing effect on its listeners.
There’s a lot of precision and craftsmanship involved when playing the violin because we’re moulding the sound. (…) In the end, the ultimate goal is that no one sees or hears how difficult it is, but that what they hear is an effect or something that stirs their emotions.
The science of sleep, and music
In a recent study led by Deutsches Ärzteblatt, a German magazine, the team performed a test on 120 individuals. 60 of those were randomly assigned to listen to various compositions by Mozart, Strauss, or ABBA for 25 minutes. The remaining 60 were left to relax in complete silence. After 25 minutes tests on blood pressure and cortisol levels were performed. For those who were listening to Mozart, their blood pressure was the lowest, as were their cortisol levels. Similar results were shown in those who listened to Strauss, however, those who listened to ABBA or no music at all showed no significant changes in their results.
Cortisol is a hormone responsible for our body’s response to stress. When its levels increase, we feel the effects of stress more. This very often leads to difficulty in relaxing and having a hard time falling asleep. Music naturally relaxes our mind and body, and when our muscles are relaxed enough, the body slows down cortisol production and eventually stops.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot more power to music than lowering our stress levels. Another study also found that a chemical called dopamine was released when participants listened to the music they enjoyed. Dopamine is a hormone responsible for the feeling of joy, excitement and happiness. When that feeling is sparked, our stress levels naturally decrease, allowing our mind and body to ease.
Although most people experienced an increase in dopamine when listening to their favourite song, classical music remains the most dominant genre. Specifically, songs by some of the most recognised artists, like Mozart, Debussy and Strauss. At Savoir, we always favour natural methods. It’s in our DNA to seek answers in nature, and so it was only natural that we arrived here. Discovering the impact of music on sleep.
To introduce music to your bedtime routine, start by creating a calm ambience in your bedroom. Set aside 45 minutes before bed, dim your lights, and allow yourself to get comfortable with no distractions. Playing the music out loud, instead of in your headphones will further build on the calming ambience. When choosing your playlist, it’s important to include pieces that remain between 60-100 beats per minute. This is because this tempo mimics our resting heart rate.
A handful of Niccolò Paganini’s caprices sit within the preferred beats-per-minute speed, like the Caprice No.4 Do menor and Caprice No.5 in A Minor, Op.1. Chopin’s Waltz in A Minor, No.11 and Bach’s Concerto in D Minor, BMV 974: II are also two great pieces worth considering adding to your playlist.
Listen to our curated playlist titled ‘A Perfect Sunday Morning’ and allow the pieces selected by Elly Suh and her husband, Florian Leonhard, a violin maker, to inspire your very-own relaxing playlist.