Is there anything music can’t do? First, we told you how music is scientifically proven to make sex better. Then we told you how it can help you better perform CPR. Now, we’re telling you that once you’re done having sex and/or bringing someone back from the dead, you can switch to a different playlist—one with a slightly slower tempo—to help you fall asleep.
According to The Guardian, in 2016, psychologist Laszlo Harmat conducted an experiment on 94 students with sleeping problems. One group of students were given audio books, another group was given classical music and a third group was given nothing. “After three weeks, 30 of the 35 students in the music-listening group were transformed into good sleepers,” reported The Guardian. “Listening to audiobooks helped far fewer people: only nine out of 30 became good sleepers.” In addition, students who were given classical music to listen also reported having decreased levels of depressive symptoms.
Later that same year, under the supervision of sound therapists at the British Academy of Sound Therapy, British band Marconi Union composed an eight-minute song that was scientifically crafted to knock you out. “‘Weightless’ includes a heartbeat-like rhythm, calming melodies and the incorporation of gentle chimes,” reported Self. “When all those lovely elements come together, they provide a world-class experience in relaxation.” According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International, the song was the top sleep song on a 10-track playlist designed to put you to sleep, a list that included soporific heavyweights like Mozart, Adele, Coldplay and Enya, reported Inc.
In 2015, a year before “Weightless” was released, composer Max Richter released a concept album of his own around the neuroscience of sleep. Described by Richter as an “eight-hour lullaby,” the album—according to Pitchfork—is one of the longest single pieces in the history of classical music. In fact, since its release, Richter has performed the album live in eight-hour performances that go as far as to provide the audience with beds to sleep on as they listen. “Richter’s Sleep performance took place from midnight to 8 a.m. on September 27,” reported Pitchfork.
Now, you may be asking yourself, what is it, exactly, about music—and specifically slow music—that helps a person sleep? According to Daniel Levitin, a prominent psychologist who studies the neuroscience of music at McGill University in Montreal, it all has to do with tempo. “Our neurons tend to synchronize with the tempo of the music we listen to,” says Levitin. “Slow music can cause our neural firing rates to predispose us to relax and sleep. That’s provided that the music doesn’t do something else to upset or arouse us with dissonance or lyrics that pull us out of our reverie.”
But BPM (beats per minute) isn’t the only factor that affects your ability to fall asleep more quickly. Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, explained to The Telegraph that, not only does the rhythm of “Weightless” help lull you to sleep by synchronizing with your heart rate (starting at 60 beats per minute and gradually slowing to around 50), but the length of the song figures in as well. “It is important that the song is eight minutes long because it takes about five minutes for this process, known as entrainment [the capacity of the brain to naturally become in sync with the rhythm of an external stimuli], to occur,” Cooper told The Telegraph.
To that end, considering the fact that Americans spent nearly $41 billion on sleep remedies in 2016, Levitin believes music might make for a healthier and cheaper substitute. “The promise here is that music is arguably less expensive than drugs, and it’s easier on the body and it doesn’t have side effects,” Levitin told CNN.
Oh, what dreams may come.