April 2, 2023

Study Finds Listening to Music Near Bedtime Is Disruptive To Sleep

Baylor sleep scientist Michael Scullin discovers earworms continue during sleep, can cause restless nights.
Many individuals listen to music throughout their day and frequently near bedtime to unwind. Can that in fact cause your sleep to suffer? When sleep scientist Michael Scullin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, understood he was waking in the middle of the night with a tune stuck in his head, he saw an opportunity to study how music– and particularly stuck tunes– might affect sleep patterns.

Scullins current research study, released in Psychological Science, examined the relationship between music listening and sleep, focusing on a rarely-explored mechanism: involuntary musical imagery, or “earworms,” when a song or tune replays over and over in a persons mind. These frequently occur while awake, but Scullin found that they likewise can take place while trying to sleep.
” Our brains continue to process music even when none is playing, including obviously while we are asleep,” Scullin stated. The more you listen to music, the more most likely you are to catch an earworm that wont go away at bedtime. When that takes place, opportunities are your sleep is going to suffer.”
Michael Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor Universitys Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory. Credit: Matthew Minard, Baylor University
Individuals who experience earworms frequently in the evening– one or more times per week– are 6 times as most likely to have bad sleep quality compared to people who seldom experience earworms. Remarkably, the research study found that some crucial music is most likely to result in earworms and interrupt sleep quality than lyrical music.
The study involved a laboratory and a study experiment. The study involved 209 individuals who completed a series of surveys on sleep quality, music listening practices and earworm frequency, consisting of how frequently they experienced an earworm while trying to fall asleep, waking up in the middle of the night and immediately upon waking in the morning.
In the experimental study, 50 individuals were brought into Scullins Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory at Baylor, where the research study group attempted to cause earworms to identify how it impacted sleep quality. Polysomnography– an extensive test and the gold standard measurement for sleep– was utilized to tape the participants brain waves, heart rate, breathing and more while they slept.
We examined whether that impacted their nighttime sleep physiology. Individuals who captured an earworm had higher trouble falling asleep, more nighttime awakenings, and spent more time in light phases of sleep.”
Additionally, EEG readings– records of electrical activity in the brain– from the experimental study were quantitatively analyzed to take a look at physiological markers of sleep-dependent memory debt consolidation. Memory combination is the procedure by which momentary memories are spontaneously reactivated during sleep and changed into a more long-lasting type.
” We believed that individuals would have earworms at bedtime when they were attempting to drop off to sleep, but we certainly didnt understand that individuals would report regularly waking up from sleep with an earworm. However we saw that in both the survey and speculative study,” he stated.
Participants who had a sleep earworm revealed more sluggish oscillations during sleep, a marker of memory reactivation. The increase in sluggish oscillations was dominant over the area corresponding to the primary acoustic cortex which is linked in earworm processing when people are awake.
” Almost everybody believed music improves their sleep, however we found those who listened to more music slept worse,” Scullin stated. “What was truly surprising was that instrumental music led to worse sleep quality– crucial music causes about two times as many earworms.”
The study discovered that people with higher music listening routines experienced consistent earworms and a decrease in sleep quality. Rather, Scullin has objectively measured that the sleeping brain continues to process music for numerous hours, even after the music stops.
Knowing that earworms negatively impact sleep, Scullin recommends first attempting to moderate music listening or taking periodic breaks if troubled by earworms. Timing of music also is very important– attempt to avoid it before bed.
” If you frequently match listening to music while being in bed, then youll have that association where being in that context might trigger an earworm even when youre not listening to music, such as when youre attempting to fall asleep,” he stated.
Another method to eliminate an earworm is to engage in cognitive activity– completely focusing on a job, issue or activity assists to sidetrack your brain from earworms. A previous study by Scullin– partly funded by a National Institutes of Health grant and the Sleep Research Society Foundation– discovered that participants who took five minutes to jot down upcoming tasks prior to bed assisted “offload” those worrying ideas about the future and resulted in much faster sleep.
Referral: “Bedtime Music, Involuntary Musical Imagery, and Sleep” by Michael K. Scullin, Chenlu Gao and Paul Fillmore, 9 June 2021, Psychological Science.DOI: 10.1177/ 0956797621989724.
Co-authors for the study were Chenlu Gao, Ph.D. 21, post-doc scientist at Harvard Medical School, and Paul Fillmore, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication sciences and conditions at Baylor.

People who captured an earworm had higher difficulty falling asleep, more nighttime awakenings, and invested more time in light stages of sleep.”
The research study discovered that individuals with higher music listening habits experienced relentless earworms and a decline in sleep quality. These outcomes are contrary to the concept of music as a hypnotic that may assist sleep. Rather, Scullin has actually objectively determined that the sleeping brain continues to process music for a number of hours, even after the music stops.

When sleep researcher Michael Scullin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, recognized he was waking in the middle of the night with a song stuck in his head, he saw a chance to study how music– and particularly stuck tunes– might affect sleep patterns.