Healthcare practitioners are increasingly paying close attention to sleep and its impact on health and wellness. It is no secret that a lack of sleep increases your risk of becoming unwell, both physically and mentally. Music therapy is a very promising approach when it comes to dealing with complex issues surrounding sleep.

Sleep disorders, whether it be that you sleep too much, too little or experience disrupted sleep, has to be tackled at the fundamental level. Perhaps your sleep is less than ideal because you are feeling anxious, stressed, depressed or you aren’t taking care of your general wellbeing such as your diet or levels of activity because of the aforementioned reasons. 

Neurologically, even as the body is seemingly resting, the mind is quite active during sleep. The mind unconsciously processes thoughts previously dismissed or, put aside as afterthoughts that occurred throughout the active, wakeful experience of the day.

Typically, aspects related to the application of music and its use as a therapeutic tool have been seen in ancient to current times as a stimulant or sedative in bringing about alertness or sleep potential. You would typically use activating rhythms and strong beats to infuse an energetic state while exercising etc., this is because such beats cue our minds to states of wakefulness and alertness. Accounts of music’s capacity to activate our minds have been historically recorded throughout humankinds’ use of music. For instance, marching bands typically preceded wars in ground battle times, and currently, they precede events that seek to mark a prowess of strength, such as warming up for football games. 

Consequently, there is sense in the idea that low energy music can bring about the opposite effect. Repetition and predictability of rhythm, especially when combined with melody and harmony, can provide a sedative effect. Slow repetitive rhythms so often can imbue feelings of safety and familiarity that can prepare and induce the brain’s sleep response. For instance, there are lullabies that are still sung to this day in various different cultures that parents might use to get their infants to sleep.

The most basic essential music elements; melody, harmony, rhythm, meter and timbre are first analysed then integrated to create a piece of music that aids sleep. This is unlike simply listening to a generic soft gentle instrumental which might not always have the needed components to get you to sleep. Musicians seeking to encourage sleep responses using music would likely include decisions related to content and genre within these combined elements. 

There are more active ways of dealing with sleep issues using music therapy. Since the number one cause of sleep abnormality is stress/anxiety, music therapists have the ability to holistically address what is worrying you. Music therapy can be effective in helping you to learn to recognise feelings and behaviours associated with stress and to express these emotions in positive, appropriate ways. Stress and stress-related disorders can be terribly disruptive to normal functioning. The music therapy session can heighten your awareness of the emotional toll stress is taking on his or her life. If stress-related feelings and emotions are not identified and dealt with, they may simply exacerbate the situation. For the individual who has so successfully internalised these feelings, musical experience, being both personal and internal, may provide an important cathartic release 

The potential for successful use of music in therapeutic and clinical settings may present a viable, low-cost option, particularly appealing in our culture of pharmacologic addiction, as it is free from many of the well-known harmful side effects. Music therapy and its broad-scope approach to dealing with sleep issues seems like something worth trying if all else is failing.