Music Therapy for Addiction

Music Therapy for Addiction

by Steve Rees

Recently, I received an email from Wanda Blair, the main editor at The Grove Estate ( She made note of a recent article I published both in Masters of Health Magazine and my website:
She informed me that her team had just published a comprehensive article on “Music Therapy for Addiction: Emotional Balance, Recovery” and offered to share it with this publication. I refer you to her article here:
Her first paragraph starts out with, “Music therapy emerges as a powerful ally, providing a harmonious blend of emotional support and creative expression. It serves as a non-verbal avenue for individuals to navigate the complexities of addiction, offering a therapeutic space for emotional exploration and healing. This approach, integrating melody and rhythm, plays a pivotal role in enhancing traditional recovery methods, striking a chord in the journey towards emotional balance and recovery.” I will let you link to that article for further reading.
As she made me aware of the Grove Treatment Center and their use of music therapy successfully with their clients, I thought it might be a great idea to focus on some other sources highlighting the importance of using music therapy for treatment of addictive behaviors and substances.
A study published in PubMed: was performed to determine what percentage of treatment programs used music therapy as a viable treatment modality. They determined that approximately 15 % of all treatment programs were using some form of music therapy regularly and this is expected to grow as the effectiveness is demonstrated.
“The idea is to help patients tap into emotions and needs that may be difficult to express through more traditional forms of communication. Furthermore, music therapy also provides a way to motivate patients to receive treatment. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) states that music therapy is useful regardless of musical background, and examples of clinical music therapy include lyric analysis, relaxation training, songwriting, musical games, and improvising music based on emotions or other topics relevant to treatment. In these treatments, patients go beyond simply listening to music to engage emotions, motivations, and barriers to recovery through lyrics and melody.”
An article in American Music Therapy Association’s publication explained some of the science behind music therapy for treating addiction:
“Music Therapy is part of an integrated approach to treatment for addiction. Music therapy for substance abuse recovery is the use of music and therapeutic relationship to promote connection to self and motivation to change while learning to navigate life in sobriety. Active music-making, as well as music listening, has been shown to activate the dopaminergic pathways in a similar manner as many illicit substances. This response may reduce cravings and improve mood. Music listening also calms the parasympathetic nervous system which facilitates relaxation and decreases anxiety.”
There are some cautions, “for the use of music in addiction treatment which include the possibility of music serving as a trauma trigger or as a trigger for use and increased cravings. Therefore, it is helpful, when possible, to have a complete music history when working with individuals and to be aware of how these triggers or traumatic responses can present.”
Interestingly enough, I found a book titled, “Music Therapy and Addictions” by David Aldridge and Jorg Fachner. It is available in most book outlets. The introduction to the book states, “Recent studies show that music can reach the parts of the human brain that are linked to addiction and can function as an integral part of recovery. This research-based, practical book demonstrates how music and music therapy can be applied in a variety of treatment settings to bring about therapeutic change.”
American Addiction Centers has a website that is very informative. Music Therapy & Substance Abuse Treatment ( They indicate that music therapy is useful for many settings including:
· Enhancing the person’s emotional adjustment
· Improving physical health and mental wellbeing by relieving stress
· Developing communication skills
· Focusing on the development of particular aspects of cognitive functioning, such as attention or memory
· Trying to enhance the person’s social functioning by getting them involved with others with similar music interests.
” In substance use disorder treatment, clients may use music in a variety of ways. For example, they might use music to:
· Deal with cravings, to reduce the effects of stressful situations, and to deal with issues of remorse or regret regarding decisions the person has made in the past when they were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
· Cope with negative emotions, such as guilt, anxiety, depression, or anger.
· Develop coping strategies to deal with future situations that may arise.
· Explore inner feelings regarding motivation or self-esteem.
· Enhance current mood or to relieve boredom.”

The website goes on to list treatment centers throughout the USA that use music therapy as one of the modalities for the course of treatment.
I had a note sent to me from one of my YouTube listeners that shared with me his story. He said that he had been under addiction with drugs for years and had tried to stop but without success. Somehow, he found my music and started listening to it regularly for hours at a time. One day he noticed that he didn’t have the cravings anymore. He believed that listening to the calming harp music made all the difference for his successful return to normal life and he was profusely thankful.
As I continue to research the various ways that music plays such critical roles in our lives, I am always amazed. Something so simple, yet so powerful and useful for bringing us back to health and vitality. It’s no wonder that music has been a part of every culture since the beginning of time. Somehow, our mind, spirit, and body know that we need it as well as enjoy it and love it.
One of my friends, Angel Storm, PhD, who operates a coaching practice, recently interviewed my wife and me. She told us that she is using my music to work with people who are stuck in their thought processes when dealing with narcissistic behavior from people they are associated with. It seems that music helps them be able to rewire their reactions and approach their situations with much more clarity and objectivity.
I’m sure there are many more stories out there that would convince us that the use of music as therapy for addictive behavior is a reliable and viable modality. The wonderful thing about using music is that it really doesn’t cost much, and it is enjoyable. Even if you don’t have an addictive behavior, you still can’t go wrong listening to music! It has many known and unknown benefits.

Music for Life

Music for Life

There are many benefits we can realize from having music in our lives. Music helps us relax, and even fall asleep. Music helps us celebrate special occasions. A concert gives us a sense of elevation as we listen to the trained musicians performing classical pieces that have been handed down through time. Every culture is blessed with various genres of music that help express that culture’s uniqueness within the global community. Music helps us express our feelings. Music is what feelings sound like.

Another aspect of music is that it helps us understand how we can relate to each other in harmony. As we consider the complexity of a full orchestra with all of the various instruments and musicians that each contribute their part, we can have a sense of what type of cooperation we need to conduct life successfully within our communities.

We each have a different “instrument” to play. We each need to become skilled in “playing” our instruments. We need to follow the conductor’s leadership in bringing the whole collection together in a life performance that will be in harmony and timed well for the presentation of the piece that we have all come together to perform.

I was cruising through YouTube the other day and came across this video of a speech from Dr. Jordan Peterson.

Dr. Peterson was addressing the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship conference of approximately 1500 people from all over the world who had come together to discuss the possible solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. Problems of poverty, environment, health, economics, and others were discussed with many solutions being offered. Dr. Peterson was giving the closing speech, and his challenge went beyond the particular solutions that had been presented throughout the conference. I would recommend that you listen to the speech in its entirety.

Dr. Peterson laid out the path for maturing into responsible citizens of our families, communities, states, countries, and ultimately, the world. As children, we start by being very self-focused. Hopefully, we are guided out of that into a state of beginning to realize our connection with those around us. That “guiding” begins to help us learn to serve those around us. We begin to see the needs of those we are connected with and look for ways to meet those needs in service.

As we mature, those “others” become an ever-widening circle. Our gaze should become broader; more focused on others and less focused on ourselves. Like in an orchestra, we find more “different” others to be in harmony with and the fullness of the music we produce becomes richer and more complex.

Dr. Petrson indicated that most of the societal problems of today are a result of people being brought up with their eyes focused on themselves. They are worried about what they don’t have. They are taken up with their “identities” or what they look like or think they are supposed to look like. They are caught up in trying to keep up with the latest fashion trends or social fads, and become upset if they find themselves out of step with what is considered the “must haves,” or they begin to think there is something wrong with themselves if they are not experiencing the same phenomena as their peers.

His challenge was for parents to take on the task of training their children to learn to serve others; to take the focus off of themselves and become more involved in observing others’ needs. He also challenged those who were already responsible adults to commit to becoming more “other aware.” There is a great need for more of us to take on the task of realizing other people’s needs; to take on what he termed, “the weight of the world.”

He gave an illustration of the biblical Jacob’s ladder which connected this earth to that higher world of the heavenly existence. This is an existence that has no poverty, environmental trouble, disease, or social strains. He showed that as we become more aware of those around us and that circle enlarges, we climb higher up the ladder toward that better world.

Dr. Peters pointed out that this climb is predominantly spiritual. It is made by committing to developing our spiritual sense of responsibility toward the others that fall within our sphere of influence. It must be engaged by choice rather than accidentally happening and it takes work and energy.

The music metaphor is powerful to help us understand how we can successfully relate to each other.  If we can see ourselves as members of the larger “orchestra” and understand what our part to play is, following the directions of the conductor, that cohesiveness will produce the harmony and masterpiece that the world has been looking for.

Instead of looking for what other people need to do to help the world become a better place, Dr. Peterson challenged each one of us to take on the responsibility of what we can do personally. As we point at other people, more fingers are pointing back at ourselves than at others. The responsibility is ours, not someone else’s. The best program will be our responsibility to “take on the weight of the world.”

Dr. Peterson closed his remarks with an amazing statement. I believe that it sums up the true course and the only course that will make a difference.

“As a responsible citizen, bearing the weight of the world on our shoulders, we obliterate the need for tyrants and slaves alike.”

Think about it!

How Does Music Calm?

How Does Music Calm?

I received an email from a listener to my YouTube channel this morning that gave me a direction for this article. Over the years I have had many people comment on the calming effects of the harp music that I offer on my channel:    Calming Harp

This message was especially noteworthy as the contrast between “with the music” and “without the music” was so remarkable. It was also clear that there was no opportunity for conscious influence as the person was “not rousable.” The effects were purely physiological. I will share the email with you and then look at some research that helps explain this wonderful effect.

“Dear Steve,

I wrote on your YouTube channel under David Harp and Psalms (almost 3 hours of harp music) back in June regarding how this really blessed my family when my father was dying. Prior to your music playing, my father was barely conscious and not rousable but very agitated. It was very distressing for everyone to watch. Almost immediately when I started playing your music he settled right down and became relaxed. Whilst the music played, he relaxed and when it stopped, he became agitated again. It was such a blessing that I was able to play your music for him so that it was peaceful at the end. I thank YHWH (God) for your music during this difficult time.”

Under this music –

I will take some information from an article published in Medical News Today:

This article looks at the discipline of music therapy and the different ways it affects the mind and body of the listener. Music therapy is now being used in many different settings including mental health, Alzheimer’s units, senior care centers, nurseries, birthing centers – and many other applications.

In dealing with anxiety, the article states, “Many studies suggest that music therapy can reduce feelings of anxiety, including in people with cancer, those undergoing surgery, and individuals going into intensive care units. Some studies also suggest that music can reduce blood pressure and the heartbeat, which can have a direct impact on how stressed a person feels.

There is also evidence to suggest that those undergoing music therapy experience reduced anxiety immediately after the session, which indicates that music therapy could be a convenient way to reduce symptoms quickly.

Music affects the amount of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that the body releases, and reducing these hormones can help relieve symptoms of anxiety.”

It was also noted in the article that music therapy offers a non-verbal pathway to reach a person who may not be able to verbalize. The brain processes the sounds of the music without the need for verbal cues.

Quoting again, “The way that music affects the brain is very complex. All aspects of music — including pitch, tempo, and melody — are processed by different areas of the brain.

For instance, the cerebellum processes rhythm, the frontal lobes decode the emotional signals created by the music, and a small portion of the right temporal lobe helps understand pitch.

The reward center of the brain, called the nucleus accumbens, can even produce strong physical signs of pleasure, such as goosebumps when it hears powerful music.”

It is important to note that it does not necessarily require a Certified Music Therapist to achieve these benefits. If one is available, that is all the better. But many times, one is not available and that should not stop a family from using recorded music to realize some of these benefits. The family referred to in the email was using music that was available on the internet.

The key here is that there is a wonderful effect that music can offer in helping an agitated person to calm down. I even have people tell me frequently that they use it to calm their children down so they will go to sleep for a nap or keep them calmer during a road trip in the car.

Others tell me they use it for their pets. One person told me that as soon as the music started, their family dog went over by the speaker and laid down to go to sleep. Another testimony was of a woman who used my music while she milked her goats to keep them from kicking over the milk bucket.

Other articles I have written have shown that the rhythm of the music helps to “entrain” the heart into a slower pace and bring the blood pressure down. The slower pace helps the whole body and its functions to slow as well. My sister keeps a CD in her car that she calls her “go to CD” for whenever she feels herself ramping up with anxiety.

Next time you find yourself, or a family member or friend in need of slowing down, remember that music is a very effective way to slow down the rhythm and bring some sanity into an otherwise chaotic situation. Try it next time. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Music Benefits Animals Too

Music Benefits Animals Too

by Steve Rees, Ret. RN, Harpist

Music has had many beneficial effects on humans. Each day, I receive comments on my YouTube channel ( about how people have been helped by the calming effects of the harp music videos that I offer. I was a bit surprised one day when I received a comment from one of my listeners that their dog had been calmed by my harp music. They told me that the dog had been very hyperactive, and they didn’t know what to do. One of them had the idea of putting some of my music on the stereo to see what happened. They told me that their dog immediately went over to one of the speakers, laid down, and went to sleep. Awesome!
Another amazing report came sometime later from a friend that raised goats. She milked them to sell the milk and make various goat milk products. She told me that the goats were quite skittish and would often kick a half-filled bucket over wasting the milk that had already been collected. One day, she decided to play one of my CDs during the milking process. She reported that she hasn’t lost a bucket of milk since. She said that the goats just settled down and ate calmly during the milking process – Total transformation.
I have received several other testimonies along the way. So, I decided to do a little research to see if this phenomenon had been noticed or documented by anyone else or another source. That lead me to an online site, Animal Wellness Magazine. One article I will be quoting from was written by Susan Wagner, DVM on January 5, 2016,
One of the first things to remember about animals, especially dogs, is that their hearing range is quite different than a human range. Humans range from 20 Hertz to about 20,000 Hertz. A dog’s range is 40 to 65,000 Hertz. That means that a dog can hear high sounds that humans cannot hear. The sound is there but we cannot discern it because our ears cannot translate that fast of a vibration into a meaningful auditory signal to our brain, so it doesn’t register as sound to us.
But a dog’s ear can translate that high pitch of a sound into a usable auditory signal, therefore, identifying the sound. We can demonstrate that with the use of a dog whistle. When we blow on it, we don’t hear anything, but a dog does hear and comes running, or maybe begins to howl.
We also notice that animals are more sensitive to sound than humans. For instance, a dog starts to bark when a car enters the property well ahead of when the human hears the car coming. Also, we note that a dog may run for hiding when thunder is sounding off, or howl when an instrument is being played such as a trumpet. They hear differently.
But there are similarities with the effects of music on animals. Dr. Wagner went on to make these observations in her article. “The effects of music have been well documented in humans, and studies with domestic and other animals have revealed that music also has a powerful effect on them. For example, studies showed that country music can calm ponies while classical music helped cows produce more milk and improved the growth rate of chickens. A recent study on cats demonstrated that calming music increased the depth of anesthesia during surgery. Dolphins, meanwhile, have been known to swim in synchrony to Bach.”
She went on to note, “A study done in Ireland found that classical music is the preferred calming sound source in dog shelters. Research done by Through a Dog’s Ear took this a step further and applied the principles of resonance, entrainment, and the orienting response to classical music selections. It discovered that slow, psychoacoustically arranged single-instrument (piano) music had the most calming effects. Upwards of 70% of dogs in shelters and veterinary offices, and 85% of dogs in home environments, became noticeably calmer with this music. It was also found to reduce twice as many anxiety behaviors in fearful dogs as standard classical selections did. Many animal shelters are now benefiting from programs that provide calming music for their residents.”
As we understand the benefits of calming music for our animals and pets, it is important to also consider their level of sensitivity to sound. Since their hearing is more acute than our own, Dr. Wagner recommends that we take special care to analyze the sound sources in our home environment. Are there sound sources that might be acceptable for us but are upsetting for our pets? Have we gotten used to some sound sources that can be harmful to our animals?
With the knowledge of these studies, we can control the sound environment of our homes by reducing some of the more harmful sound sources and introducing some of the calming sources such as the music suggested above. I could put in a recommendation for the music of my calming harp too.
One more story comes from a friend of mine in Ohio that operates a pet spa. Owners drop off their pets to receive grooming and cleaning, then come by a few hours later to pick up their pets. She told me that she plays my harp music every day, softly in the background. One day an owner picked up their pet, and they asked her, “What are you doing to my pet? Every time I pick them up, they are so calm!”. She told them about the music, and they were amazed.
In the final analysis, if music has been demonstrated through multiple studies to benefit humans, it is reasonable to expect it to be beneficial for our family pets and animals as well? I could show you YouTube video after video of animals responding to music. It is natural, and it’s a part of life. Music benefits Life for animals too!

Healing From the Ear

Healing From the Ear

Healing from the Ear

by Steve Rees, Ret. RN, Harpist

A new acquaintance that found my Calming Harp music online, introduced me to a goldmine of information that helped me to understand why the music I produce has such amazing effects on people for health benefits, sleep apnea, easing tensions, and so much more. Until I was introduced to this research, I was mostly dependent on anecdotal accounts of the benefits of the Calming Harp music and the frequency work that I have identified over the past decade and more.
This article is a synopsis of an article: THE THERAPEUTIC EFFECT OF HIGH-FREQUENCY AUDITION
The full text is available at
© Bradford S. Weeks M. D. 1986:
To be clear, the frequency work was not my original discovery as I attribute much of the information to Dr. Leonard Horowitz and Dr. Joseph Puleo. However, even Leonard called me one time and told me that they knew the frequencies had to do with music, but they didn’t know what to do with it. He then told me, “But you know what to do with it musically.” That has been my contribution to this fascinating field of discovery; bringing specific frequencies into music and identifying types of music that bring the desired results.
But what does music have to do with the ear? What may seem like an obvious answer, is much more involved than I had ever understood. Yes, we must “hear” music to receive the benefits it offers, and the ear is what we hear with. I discovered that there are two kinds of hearing. There is active hearing, or listening, in which we are focused on what the music is doing. There is also passive hearing in which our ear apparatus is receiving the energy sound waves from the source, but we are not paying attention. Each has different effects.
The article begins by acknowledging that there are different schools of thought and research connected to the study of the ear and its mechanisms.
“Orthodox: It is commonly understood that the ear is divided into three parts – the external ear (meatus and canal), the middle ear (tympanic membrane, ossicles, middle ear muscles) and the inner ear (vestibule and cochlea).”
“Unorthodox: An appreciation of embryology suggests that there are, practically speaking, only two ears – an external and an internal ear. We know that the embryo originally consists of a series of five branchial arches [3]. The adult ear develops from the first two. More specifically, the first brachial arch will develop into the first two ossicles of the ear (the malleus with its muscle and the incus) and falls under the enervation of the trigeminal nerve (5th cranial nerve). The second brachial arch produces the third ossicle (stapes with its stapedius muscle) and is innervated by the facial nerve (7th cranial nerve). More can be made of the other organs which arise from these first two brachial arches (lower jaw with adductive muscles from the first and upper part of the larynx, the hyoid bone, and the anterior ventral segment of the digastric muscle with opposes the jaw adductors) …. My point here is that the ear is functionally understood as tripartite while comprising a polarity. This distinction becomes therapeutically significant in terms of high-frequency audition.”
This is just a look at the anatomical differences in understanding how the ear works and is structured. There are also other anatomical considerations as well. “The ear is now understood to be neurologically involved with the optic or 2nd cranial nerve, the oculomotor or 3rd cranial nerve, the trochlear or 4th cranial nerve, the abducens or 6th cranial nerve and the spinal-accessory or 11th cranial nerve which is responsible for posterior-lateral musculature of the neck.”
The writer went on to describe the anatomy of the nerves that run through the area of the ear in our bodies, likening it to a look at the roads that lead into and out of Rome. Everything leads everywhere else, and everything is interconnected. One cannot affect one nerve without involving at least one other and usually more. In other words, the ear is Grand Central Station for all communications and functions of the body. The longest nerve, the vagus, runs through the ear as well.
“What is the significance of vagal and acoustic interaction? Let us track this path throughout the body. The vagus wanders on contacting next to the postural back muscles via an anastomosis with the spino-accessory or 11th cranial nerve, then sensitizes that part of the larynx responsible for vocalization via the upper laryngeal nerve before delivering motor innervation via the recurrent laryngeal nerves. Subsequently, the vagus innervates the bronchi and heart before joining the opposing vagal nerve and diving through the diaphragm to innervate the entire viscera including the gastrointestinal tract from the esophagus to the anus (via anastomosis with sacral nerves 2, 3, and 4).”
Much of the unorthodox view stems from the research of Dr. Tomatis. Born in 1920, Dr. Tomatis earned his M.D. from the Faculte de Paris before specializing in oto-rhino-laryngology. En route to establishing the International Association of Audio-Psycho-Phonology. His research led him to develop therapies for a multitude of pathologies that were related to these cranial nerve-to-vagus nerve connections.
“As a clinician, Tomatis has achieved a reputation for successful and unorthodox therapies whose scope exceeded the scope of oto-rhino-laryngology. The list of maladies successfully treated via high-frequency auditive therapy includes Ear, Nose, and Throat disorders: (hearing and voice loss, stuttering, tinnitus, otitis media, scotomas); Neurological disorders: (toe walking from vestibular nuclei problems, drooling, strabismus); Psychiatric disorders: (depression, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity); and Learning disorders: (dyslexia, inability to concentrate); and a variety of balance/coordination problems related to the ear’s vestibular disorders. These therapeutic coups occur via retraining the ear muscles using another Tomatis invention, the electronic ear.” (References are given for all these case studies in the original article.)
A whole network of Tomatis clinics has been established worldwide and their website is:
Dr. Tomatis once said, “The ear builds, organizes, and nourishes the nervous system.” With that understanding, the various therapeutic modes offered are all based on these amazing connections between our process of hearing and listening and how they affect all the other conditions within our bodies and minds.
Dr. Tomatis also found that different frequencies had different effects on different organ systems and different levels of nerve connections to the spinal cord. Many therapies utilize different frequencies to address specific areas of pathology.
What I have found to be most interesting in all these research and therapy modalities is the underlying fact that our ear’s structure and anatomy are so designed that every part of our body is somehow connected to our ear. As we listen to the proper frequencies, our ears detect these frequencies and carry the benefits of those frequencies to the various parts of our bodies that are connected to the nerves that pass through the area of our ears. This, then, begins to explain how and why so many people are so positively affected by music either as a therapy modality or even as entertainment. It explains why so many people write to me and tell me their stories of how positively the music I present has affected their lives.
Another fascinating aspect of this article is the research into intrauterine sound production and reception with the fetus. “Dr. Tomatis asserts that the brain receives more stimuli via the ears than from any other organ. He considers skin to be differentiated ear rather than vice versa. In his two-volume work, ‘Towards a Human Listening,’ he builds an intriguing defense of this radical departure from orthodoxy which involves, for example, phylogenetic data suggesting, paradoxically, that the ear preceded the nervous system.”
“The most exciting theory of Tomatis, and the one which led me to consider the role of sacred music as therapy, is the concept of cortical charge. Experience tells us that some sounds put us to sleep (lullabies) and some keep us awake (traffic); some calm us down (surf on the beach) and some make us dance all night (rhythm). A hard-driving beat practically forces us to tap our feet. The screech of chalk on the blackboard makes us scream and contract in discomfort. We are constantly bathed by sound, and Tomatis has devoted his career to analyzing the effect which various components of sound exert on our physiology. The claim that music exerts a profound effect on us is beyond question. What remains is only to establish the correlations, perhaps psychosomatic, perhaps vagally innervated, of these sound components to our physiology.”
Dr. Tomatis said, “The ear is primarily an apparatus intended to provide a cortical charge in terms of electric potential. Sound is transformed into a nervous influx by the coliform cells of the cochlear-vestibular apparatus. The charge of energy obtained from the influx of nervous impulses reaches the cortex, which then distributes it throughout the body toning up the whole system and imparting greater dynamism to the human being.”
Therapeutically, “the aim will be to provoke, with sonic training made of high frequencies heard in a listening posture, this cortical charge to energize the individual. The effect of the training generally manifests themselves in the following ways to the greater subject: -greater motivation and competence in working -lower susceptibility to fatigue -awareness of dynamism -better possibilities of attention and concentration -better memorization.”
In summary, the benefits of music for improved health have much to do with the way we hear and the mechanisms and anatomy of the ear. The music and frequencies we select to listen to have much to do with affecting the whole nervous system which is the basic communication apparatus for every system of our bodies. If we choose wisely our health benefits. If we choose poorly, we suffer. In the end, the choice is ours!

How Music Affects Sleep

How Music Affects Sleep

by Steve Rees, Ret. RN, Harpist

Many of the comments on my YouTube channel describe how the calming music of the harp helps them sleep through the night. While this may seem to be a natural result of the music, I decided to do a little research to see if there might be some scientific studies that better explain how this happens.

One study set out to determine if it takes more or less time to fall asleep using music.  In the study, women with symptoms of insomnia, played a self-selected album when getting into bed for 10 consecutive nights. Before adding music to their evening routine, it took participants 27 to 69 minutes to fall asleep; after adding music it only took 6 to 13 minutes.

Johnson J. E. (2003). The use of music to promote sleep in older women. Journal of community health nursing, 20(1), 27–35.

Over the years, many people have commented on my YouTube channel.  Most of them tell me that they found the music to be very helpful in getting to sleep. Some have claimed to be plagued by insomnia before finding my harp music but were now sleeping through the night with no disturbance. Some also tell me that playing my harp music while trying to get their children to take a nap has been very successful at getting them quiet so they can actually fall asleep.

This should not be surprising. From time immemorial, the softly sung lullaby has been used to bring wide-eyed toddlers into a dreamy sleep state. No matter the culture, or the language, the lullaby has been employed countless times for the benefit of both mother and child. We probably don’t even need a “scientific study” to convince us of this fact because of its universal application and observation.

But scientific studies have been done and are being done, so let’s look at a few more.

In a study conducted by László Harmat 1, Johanna Takács, Róbert Bódizs, they used a three-group repeated measures design. Ninety-four students (aged between 19 and 28 years) with sleep complaints were studied in 2006. Participants listened for 45 minutes either to relaxing classical music (Group 1) or an audiobook (Group 2) at bedtime for 3 weeks. The control group (Group 3) received no intervention. Sleep quality was measured using the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index before the study and weekly during the intervention. Depressive symptoms in experimental group participants were measured using the Beck Depression Inventory.

At the end of the study, it was determined that group 1, listening to classical music, had a significant improvement in sleep as well as reduced depression. At the same time, the other 2 groups had little change.

Another paper reported on a meta-analysis conducted to evaluate the efficacy of music-assisted relaxation for sleep quality in adults and elders with sleep complaints, with or without a co-morbid medical condition. The results suggested that music-assisted relaxation can be used without intensive investment in training and materials and is therefore cheap, easily available. Also, it can be used by nurses to promote music-assisted relaxation to improve sleep quality.

In a previous article I wrote, one of the factors that music provides is a slow constant rhythmic beat that our heart tends to entrain to which is beneficial for sleeping. If you remember, entrainment is the phenomenon in which a strong dominant beat is gradually matched by surrounding devices or organisms. A Dutch clockmaker was the first to notice the feature as his clocks would gradually fall into the same rhythm, tic-tocking in unison. In the same way, our heart tends to slow (or speed, depending on the music chosen) to the rhythm of the music that is surrounding us. Obviously, a slowing heart rate will assist in relaxing, and help to bring us into a sleep state.

Another study I found very interesting was conducted in China by On Kei Angela Lee 1, Yuet Foon Loretta Chung, Moon Fai Chan, Wai Ming Chan. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of music on the anxiety of patients on mechanical ventilation, as assessed by objective parameters and a subjective validated anxiety scale. Mechanical ventilation, although sometimes lifesaving, is often associated with levels of anxiety requiring sedatives, which has inevitable implications on costs and complications.

“A total of 64 subjects were randomly assigned to undergo either 30 minutes of music intervention or a rest period. The subjects were asked to answer the Chinese State-Trait Anxiety Inventory scale before and after the study period. Physiological indices and resting behaviors were recorded before and after the study period in both groups. The subjects’ satisfaction with music was also obtained after music intervention.

Results: The findings indicate that patients on mechanical ventilation that listened to a single 30-minute session of music appeared to show greater relaxation as manifested by a decrease in physiological indices and an increase in comfortable resting behaviors.

Conclusion: Music can provide an effective method of reducing potentially harmful physiological responses arising from anxiety in mechanically ventilated patients.” 

While this study was not specifically designed to access sleep assistance, it is easy to infer that this reduction in anxiety would contribute to better sleep, even when a person is undergoing a radical medical intervention such as mechanical ventilation.

We will look at one more study by Jespersen KV, Pando-Naude V, Koenig J, Jennum P, Vuust P. Cochrane. It is a meta-analysis study designed to see if insomnia can be positively affected by music. “Insomnia is a common sleep disorder in modern society. It causes reduced quality of life and is associated with impairments in physical and mental health. Listening to music is widely used as a sleep aid, but it remains unclear if it can actually improve insomnia in adults.”

The study was designed to assess the effects of listening to music on insomnia in adults and to assess the influence of specific variables that may moderate the effect. The results suggested that music does indeed affect the amount and quality of sleep. The exact quantification is difficult to arrive at since there are so many variables involved. However, it is at least agreed, that music has a positive effect on sleep.

As I read through the different studies, a common theme emerged. First, music doesn’t cost anything to listen to on electrical devices, or at least the cost is low. Second, good music doesn’t have the harmful side effects that drugs do. Finally, music is available no matter where you are on the planet. Music is everywhere, in every culture, and in every language. From the sounds of nature, a quietly sung lullaby, to a professionally played harp or orchestra, there is no end to the possibilities of music that can bring a quiet, peaceful atmosphere that helps bring on sleep.