How Could One Song Help You Fall Asleep?

February 24th 2017

Thor Benson

If you're looking for a song to help you fall asleep at night, a new study claims that there is one track that might do the job better than any other.

A study of 40 women found that the song “Weightless” by the band Marconi Union reduced anxiety by 65 percent. It also claims listeners' heart rates and blood pressure fell significantly. Part of the reason that the song, which was created with help from the British Academy of Sound Therapy in 2011, and the study claims is relaxing, the study claims, is its lack of a repeating melody and how slowly it goes along.

How music calms you

"Neurons in the brain entrain, that is they fire in synchrony to the tempo of music," Dr. Daniel J. Levitin, a professor of psychology and music at McGill University and author of the new book Weaponized Lies, told ATTN:. "Some people find that relaxing. If you're listening to slow music and your brain activity slows down a bit, that can cause you to feel relaxed."

Bill Thompson, a professor of psychology at Macquarie University in Australia, told ATTN: that certain chemicals also get involved.

"Music has a number of 'design features' that interact with mood and arousal systems in the brain, these systems involve the release of neurochemicals such as dopamine and adrenaline, and activation of various areas of the brain," Thompson said. Dopamine is thought of as the happiness chemical, while adrenaline is an energizing chemical that can stress you out.

Different rhythms that your body and brain synchronize with will typically create different reactions. "In matching our bodily rhythm with the music we experience the mood and energy associated with that pace, a slow pace is associated with slower, calmer emotions (reduced anxiety); a fast pace is associated with higher energy," Thompson said.

Thompson claims through human evolution, the brain learned to respond to some sounds or rhythms as threatening and other as representing calm, which can impact how people interpret music. "Slow rhythms and smooth harmonies will be perceived as calm; rapid tempos and dissonance will be perceived as tense," Thompson said.

Another reason we find some music calming, he claims, is we often have emotional memories attached to certain songs.

Is it the same for everyone?

Levitin did have one problem with a study claiming a certain song will be relaxing to you, which is that he said music taste is so subjective that a song that might be relaxing for many will not be relaxing for some.


"I did a study once where we asked tens of thousands of people what music they listen to [in order] to relax and what music they listen to to pump themselves up, and one song showed up in both columns," Levitin said. "It was AC/DC's 'Back in Black.' It turned out that the person who used it to relax was spending his days listening to Swedish speed metal, so it was relaxing by contrast. It's quite individualistic."

Thompson agreed, saying that while some people might find something like death metal aggravating, others will find it empowering or energizing.