Binaural Beats, 60 bpm Music For Better Sleep

Research shows music helps bring down our heart rate, breathing and levels of stress hormones, easing us into the sleep mode

Simply put, a good night’s sleep is a bridge between a good day and a bad day. There are few things that can match the joy of waking up fresh after a good night’s sleep. The body rested, the brain fresh, eyes sparkling after eight hours of rest – you are your best version. But the challenge that the entire world is facing right now – poor or inadequate sleep. In India, every third adult suffers from insomnia. A similar number of adults in the US are also struggling to get the mandated eight hours of sleep at night. Where do all these sleepless nights lead us to? Lifestyle disorders such as type diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. Not getting enough sleep can lead to motor vehicle crashes and mistakes at work, which cause a lot of injuries and disabilities each year. AIIMS-Delhi research found that more than 20 per cent of all road accident victims in India suffer from sleep disorders and obstructive sleep apnoea.

What’s the solution, how do we sleep better? While there’s no one solution, listening to music has emerged as an effective science-backed tool to get a good night’s sleep in recent years. For instance, listening to music with a slow tempo, 60 BPM (beats per minute), and binaural beats have been found very effective in helping people find sleep.

Music Brings Down Levels of Stress Hormones

Getting ready for bed doesn’t only mean removing makeup, brushing your teeth and slipping into your pyjamas. Switching off physically and mentally is a complex biochemical process that requires lowering the heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure and reducing the levels of stress hormones. Listening to music has been shown to help us achieve these states and slip into a restful slumber. A meta-analysis of 10 different research studies involving a total of 557 participants came to the same conclusion, stating that music is effective at helping sufferers of both acute and chronic sleep disorders get better sleep. 

But what kind of music helps us sleep?

Tune Into Brain’s Rhythms

As it happens, there’s plenty of music in the human body! Just like the heart, the brain too has its own rhythms and some of them are best suited for sleep. Brain’s delta waves occur in deep dream-less sleep. Of all the brain waves, they have the greatest amplitude and slowest frequency, less than 4 Hz. These waves can be generated in the brain by listening to a certain kind of music and, therefore, help people sleep better!

Listening to ‘binaural beats’ at 3 Hz can entrain the brain to generate delta waves and is a foolproof recipe for you to fall asleep. Binaural beats are an auditory illusion created by the brain when you listen to two tones with slightly different frequencies at the same time. It can be used to entrain your mind to read a certain mental state.

Similarly, generating alpha waves in the brain by listening to music can also be beneficial to people struggling with sleep. Dr Vago says that alpha waves, which are around eight to 12 Hz, are what you would see in the brain of someone quietly relaxed, perhaps lying in the bed with their eyes closed. (Also, coincidentally, during meditation.)

You can easily download apps that offer sleep music and sleep stories at such sleep-enabling frequencies. In addition to music, learn to listen to your body to understand what works for you. Be mindful of how your body is reacting to a piece of music, does it excite you or calm you down? Tune in to your body’s rhythms to find resonance and rest.

Listen to Slow Tempo Music for Good Sleep

Sleep experts list two things that matter a lot when it comes to understanding what kind of music helps a person in falling asleep – individual preference and tempo.

A person’s individual choice of music is a vital factor in determining how the music will affect him/her. So, create a customised playlist that includes songs that have helped you fall asleep in the past or have helped you relax.

Tempo refers to the speed at which the music is played and is often measured in beats per minute (BPM). Sleep is highly personal and so are music preferences. Some people may experience relaxation – slower breathing and heartbeats – by listening to heavy metal or hard rock. “So, whether it's hard rock or heavy metal or Bach, find what makes you feel relaxed in your body and what helps you get out of your head,” says Dr David Vago, cognitive neuroscientist and Lead, Research, at RoundGlass.

Use Technology to Sleep Better

When it comes to sleep, technology is a double-edged sword. It can inhibit rest as well as enable it. If you have to use your hand-held device at bedtime, use it to sleep more soundly. There are plenty of wellbeing apps that offer curated sleep playlists and bedtime stories that will help you drift into a restful slumber.

Make them a part of your sleep hygiene to sleep better, optimize your wellbeing and lead a healthier and happier life.

About the Author

Prakriti Poddar is the Global Head, Mental Health and Wellbeing, RoundGlass, a Wholistic Wellbeing organization.


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