Senior Editor and Researcher
Lullabies aren’t exclusively for babies. Listening to music when you go to bed or sleeping with the radio on can be an excellent way to improve relaxation, eliminate insomnia, and promote more restful sleep.
After all, it’s hard to deny that rhythms significantly impact how we feel.
When you’re getting ready for work in the morning, the right tune can wake you up and revitalize you.
If you’re heading to the gym or going for a run, a great playlist can get your heart pumping and push you to achieve incredible things.
It only makes sense that there would be radio for sleep, too.
According to studies, bedtime listening can help people with sleeping disorders to overcome their issues, by boosting better sleep quantity and quality.
You might not notice the benefits immediately – but eventually, the right tunes can get your mind and body into the right rhythm for a sensational slumber.
If you’ve been asking, “Is it okay to sleep with the radio on?” you’ve come to the right place.
Today, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of listening to music while you sleep and explore why radio is the best way to take your ambient sleeping pill.
Let’s get started.
Sleeping with the radio on…
How music helps us relax
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that music and sound have been crucial parts of many healing ceremonies for centuries.
Sleeping with the radio on gives your body and mind a rhythm to set itself by. It’s soothing and relaxing. And it takes your brain away from the troublesome stresses of the day.
According to a recent sleep music radio study in Hong Kong, researchers found that study participants listening to music about 30 minutes before bed each night could fall asleep faster.
Additionally, the same people slept more deeply and felt better when they woke up, too!
So, why does radio for sleep work?
Well, the research is still ongoing. However, it has something to do with the tempo of the sounds you listen to.
In the study above, all of the music that the participants listened to was set to a tempo of between 60 and 80 bpm (beats per minute).
That’s the same as your heart rate when you’re falling asleep.
Essentially, music tricks your body into entering a “relaxation” state by syncing your heart with peaceful sounds.
In some ways, sleeping with the radio on is like meditating. You mindfully use music to slow your heart rate, reduce your blood pressure, and even reduce anxiety.
No matter how you feel about leaving the radio playing while you snooze, it’s hard to ignore the way that the human brain is wired to respond to music. On a physiological level, your breathing and heart rate mirror the beat of a song.
In addition, listening to pleasant tunes assists in improving your serotonin levels, which makes you feel happier while you drift off.
Used correctly, sleep radio stations:
- Slow your breathing.
- Lower your heart rate.
- Quiet the nervous system.
- Ease muscle tension.
- Reduce anxiety and stress.
- Trigger the release of serotonin and oxytocin.
- Reduce cortisol (stress hormone).
Usually, music has a positive effect on the brain and the mind. However, it’s not always the best way to cure your insomnia problems. There are still scientists out there who are researching the question, “Is it okay to sleep with the radio on?”
Is it okay to sleep with the radio on?
Your brain on ambient sound
Most studies suggest that playing the radio when you sleep is a good idea.
There are some reports that suggest that sleeping with the radio on could be a useful alternative treatment for people who suffer from both insomnia and PTSD.
However, there are some contradictory studies out there, too. For instance, certain researchers suggest that using radio for sleep can cause an increase in your heart rate. Usually, it all depends on what kind of music you’re listening to and what sort of person you are.
One particularly common issue with using sleep radio is that you might need to rely on earbuds or headphones so that you don’t disrupt your partner. Unfortunately, most people can’t fall asleep comfortably with something sticking in their ears.
What’s more, there are dangers to going to sleep with earbuds in, such as:
- Necrosis of the skin: Death of body tissue caused by pressure on the ear canal.
- Wax build-up: When wax can’t escape from the ears, you can end up with hearing problems.
- Wire dangers: Wired headphones could get wrapped around your neck during the night.
- Safety: You may be unable to hear alarms and other signs of danger.
Most of the time, you won’t experience any possible side effects of sleeping with earbuds. However, you’ll be much safer if you can convince your partner to try radio for sleep, too.
That way, both of you can listen to a channel that you agree to on low volume and reduce your risk of discomfort and other issues.
One particularly good thing about sleeping with the radio on is that you can tune into a specific program that’s set to last for a particular period, and then simply allow your radio to turn itself off after an hour or two.
This means you’re not exposing your mind and brain to sleep radio all night – just when you need it most to tackle the initial challenges of going to sleep.
Some radios even have built-in timers so you can set your strategy according to your schedule or how long it takes you to drift off.
Why try radio for sleep?
Though some studies around sleeping with the radio on are a little contradictory, the overwhelming evidence seems to be that there’s no real harm in using sound to impact your sleep cycle.
While some people just won’t respond well to ambient noise playing while trying to fall asleep, many of us will be able to unlock feelings of relaxation and comfort.
Some studies show that music connects with the part of your brain responsible for storing and recalling memories. This means that as you listen to old songs you’re familiar with, you can remember positive experiences, encouraging better dreams.
For most people, as long as you’re choosing a song that makes you feel happy and relaxed, falling asleep to a pleasant tune can help you drift off faster and access a higher quality of rest.
It’s similar to when you’re young and your parents sing you lullabies or play simple tunes to help you fall asleep.
The key to success for most people will be making background noise and radio part of your nightly routine. Not only will tuning into a positive melody help to relax you, but having a routine will also boost your overall sleep hygiene.
You may find it easier to fall asleep effortlessly because you’ve begun to train your internal clock.
Remember, the circadian rhythm – the natural clock inside your mind that tells you when it’s time to sleep can either harm or improve your sleeping cycle.
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to sleeping with the radio on is that most research indicates it’s a good idea to go to sleep with a song that matches the tempo of 60 to 80 BPM.
But bear in mind this won’t always be the case. We all experience relaxation differently. If your spouse prefers Metallica’s greatest hits to music by Bach, you might struggle to find a radio station you can agree on.
Sleeping with the radio on is always more effective when tuning into songs that make you feel good. After all, the songs you enjoy produce the serotonin chemical in your brain, making it easier to drift off into sweet dreams.
For many people suffering from insomnia, sleep radio stations are particularly useful because they help them replace negative feelings of stress and anxiety with positive emotions.
What kind of music helps you sleep?
So, what is the best music to help you sleep?
If you decide that you’re going to start using the radio for sleep, should you be tuning into the latest chart toppers, listening to talk shows, or looking for something more classical?
As mentioned above, the answer to this question can differ depending on your personality. If you don’t like classical music, then it might not relax you as much as other people. You’ll need to take your personal preferences into account.
If we look at the studies into sleep radio, we find that many people find it easier to fall asleep when listening to talk radio shows. To some extent, this may be because we’re already used to the sound of consistent human chatter in our day-to-day lives.
Compared to music, talking can more easily blur into white noise – particularly if you’re listening to something you’re not 100% involved in.
If you do prefer music, the most obvious choice is something calm and slow. Classical music is a good choice for some, but even certain classical songs have a wide dynamic range (loud moments), which makes them less relaxing.
To help solve the problem of what kind of music you should listen to while you sleep, a New Zealand radio station host named John Watson launched the first channel in the area specifically devoted to insomniacs.
Rather than looking to engage and entertain his listeners like most Disc Jockeys, John prides himself on delivering a show that sends his audience to sleep.
People from around the world, including Russia, Taiwan, and Hungary, all tune into Watson’s Sleep radio station, so there’s a lot of evidence that it probably works. Importantly, Watson doesn’t source a lot of new music for his channel.
Typically, he sticks with ambient music that has no sudden changes in tempo, no guitar or harp, and absolutely no vocals.
Other studies have also been conducted to answer the question, “What kind of music helps you sleep?” A UK study from not so long ago challenged participants to solve puzzles while listening to music to see which tunes reduced their anxiety and calmed their heart rate.
According to the results, the applicants experienced a 65% reduction in stress when listening to the famous Marconi Union song “Weightless.” Other effective tunes included:
- Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy.
- Nocturne in E Flat Major by Frederic Chopin.
- Canzonetta Sul-aria by Mozart.
- The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel.
Sleeping with the radio on…
The world’s most relaxing song
For the best chances of sleeping with the radio on, some songs are simply more effective than others.
According to a meta-analysis of 10 sleep studies, while it’s true that music can help people doze off, getting the song right is crucial.
Interestingly, while many tunes fall into the recommended tempo range of about 60 bpm, the most effective song is Marconi Union’s “Weightless.” It seems as though this song was specifically designed for relaxation.
It doesn’t just use tempo to improve sleep for listeners, it also delivers better emotional experiences via its length, construction, and progression.
There’s a reason why “Weightless” appears on a lot of sleep music radio channels.
The song was produced alongside a team of sound therapists. The group was looking for a way to combine tones, rhythms, and tempos that would reduce the human heart rate and cut down your exposure to the stress chemical cortisol.
According to studies, the progression of the song (the speed it goes at) helps to relax and ease the mind.
It starts out at about 60 bpm and gets progressively slower to around 50 bpm. This helps drive you towards a calmer state, perfect for sleep.
It’s also a five-minute ballad, which is the length of time it takes for the average body to relax completely. There are no repeating melodies, and the mind is free to completely go blank, as it’s not anticipating what comes next.
Not only did the Weightless song improve relaxation rates in the study we mentioned above, but it also proved its ability to reduce physiological signs of tension by 35% too.
Experts recommend not listening to the song while driving, as it will make you drowsy within a matter of minutes!
Sleeping with radio on…
How to cure insomnia with radio for sleep
1 in 3 people currently has some kind of insomnia – even if it’s only mild, according to the Sleep Foundation. If you’re one of those people, listening to “Weightless” on repeat probably doesn’t appeal to you as the best strategy to solve your problems.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is create a strategy and a routine that works for you. A lot of people respond to music in different ways, and you might need to try some experimentation before you find something that works for you.
For better results sleeping with the radio on, you can try some of the following tips:
1. Use a radio with a sleep timer
You probably don’t want to leave your radio switched on and running all night long. First of all, you’ll probably end up with a higher electricity bill.
Additionally, if anything in the radio channel you’re listening to changes—such as a new program coming on—then that might disrupt your sleep, too.
An ideal option is a radio with a built-in sleep timer so you can automatically switch it off after an hour or so.
2. Avoid headphones
As mentioned above, sleeping with regular headphones or earbuds isn’t usually a comfortable experience.
Although some very expensive headphones are designed specifically for sleeping – it’s difficult to know whether they’ll work for you.
Your best option is to either listen to sleep music radio with your partner by tuning into a station together, or you could try a pillow speaker. Pillow speakers connect to the Bluetooth link or headphone socket in your radio so that you can direct the sound to your ears when sleeping.
Your partner might still be able to hear what you’re listening to but to a lesser extent.
3. Stick to something familiar
According to some research into sleep radio stations and music to help you snooze, unusual sounds are the most disruptive when trying to get a good night’s rest.
Think about how strange it is when you’re sleeping somewhere new and you hear the sound of traffic outside when you’re not used to it. If you’re used to sleeping in a quiet room, it might take a while to get used to any kind of noise.
However, sticking to music you feel comfortable with is a good way to reduce the disruption in your sleeping patterns.
4. Try classical music first
Unless you simply can’t abide by classical music, it’s probably a good idea to stick to this kind of tune when you begin using radio for sleep.
You can find plenty of playlists on Spotify and YouTube or track down a classical music station in your area.
Studies have frequently shown that classical music is better at helping people to sleep by guiding them through the various stages of rest that we encounter each night.
There are no disruptive lyrics in classical music, and the sounds used usually help to drive your mind away from stressful thoughts, too.
Sleeping with the radio on…
What is the best music to help you sleep?
Sleeping with the radio on isn’t an instant cure for insomnia for everyone.
Unfortunately, plenty of people out there won’t be able to abide by having sounds playing when they sleep.
The good news?
So many people are already sleeping with the radio on that researchers and scientists are working together to find ways to help insomniacs through sound.
Studies have shown that there appears to be a formula for creating music that relaxes the body and mind.
A company called AXA PPP Healthcare is working with an internationally renowned composer (named Eddie McGuire) to explore the possibility of creating a perfect sleep station with the help of AI.
The head of instrumental studies for the University of St Andrews, Bede Williams, chose McGuire to compose a lullaby called “Lyrical Lullaby.” The tune contains all the elements required to help children and adults alike fall asleep.
As well as descending patterns of notes, the company also used a carefully constructed tempo to have a sedative effect on the human mind.
It seems that for many people, sleeping with the radio on could be the ideal way to overcome the stress and headaches of insomnia.
Have you tried tuning in while you zone out yet?
If you desperately need help staying focused, here are our recommendations for the best music for studying!
Or, if you’re curious about the secret formula between a chart-topping song, here’s the science of song length and the myth behind the 3-minute length.
Radio Fidelity: For the love of radio.