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Bedtime music might not be a good idea

By Cara Murez
Health Day reporter

MONDAY, June 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) – That bedtime music that’s supposed to help you fall asleep may actually have the opposite effect, new research suggests.

It turns out that “earworms,” ​​those eye-catching pieces of a composition that can get stuck in a person’s head, can also intrude into a person’s dreams, affecting their ability to sag. fall asleep and sleep well.

“Our brains continue to process music even when none are playing, including apparently while we are sleeping,” said study author Michael Scullin, sleep researcher at Baylor University in Houston.

“Everyone knows that listening to music feels good. Teens and young adults regularly listen to music near bedtime. But sometimes you can have too much of the good stuff,” Scullin said. . “The more music you listen to, the more likely you are to catch an earworm that won’t go away by bedtime. When this happens, there’s a good chance your sleep will suffer. ”

The survey included 209 participants. They completed a series of questionnaires on the quality of sleep, music listening habits and the frequency of earworms. Questions include how often they have had an earworm while trying to fall asleep, upon waking up in the middle of the night, and upon waking up in the morning.


Next, 50 of the participants came to Scullin’s Sleep Cognition and Neuroscience Lab in Baylor, where the research team attempted to induce earworms to determine how it affected sleep quality. The researchers recorded the participants’ brain waves, heart rate, breathing and more while they slept.

The researchers also took EEG readings – recordings of electrical activity in the brain – to examine physiological markers of sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Memory consolidation is the process by which temporary memories are spontaneously reactivated during sleep and transformed into a longer-term form.

The researchers played three catchy songs, “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift, “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen and “Don’t Stop Believin ‘” by Journey, randomly assigning participants to listen to the original versions of these songs or instrumental versions of the songs.

Participants reported if and when they had an earworm. Next, the researchers analyzed whether this had an impact on their sleep. People who caught an earworm had more difficulty falling asleep, waking more at night, and spending more time in light stages of sleep.


The study found that people with higher music listening habits had persistent earworms and decreased sleep quality. These findings are contrary to the idea of ​​music as a hypnotic that could help sleep, according to the study.

The results were published on June 9 in the journal Psychological sciences.

“Almost everyone thought that music improves their sleep, but we found that those who listened to more music slept less well,” Scullin said in a press release from the Association for Psychological Science. “What was really surprising was that instrumental music caused a degradation in the quality of sleep – instrumental music caused about twice as many earworms.”

To prevent music from negatively impacting sleep, Scullin recommends first trying to moderate listening to music or taking occasional breaks if earworms are bothered. Avoid listening to music before bed.

Another way to get rid of an earworm is to engage in mental activity – fully focusing on a task, problem, or activity helps distract your brain from earworms. Near bedtime, rather than indulging in some strenuous activity or something that would disrupt your sleep, like watching TV or playing video games, Scullin suggests spending five to 10 minutes writing a checklist. things to do and put their thoughts on paper.


More information

The Kennedy Center has more on ear worms.

SOURCE: Association for Psychological Science, press release, June 9, 2021


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