Insomnia affects many people and a wide range of approaches are taken to try to help with it. One of these involves listening to music and the relevant Cochrane Review was updated in August 2022. Here's lead author, Kira Vibe Jespersen from Aarhus University and The Royal Academy of Music Aarhus/Aalborg in Denmark to tell us about the importance of the review and what it found.
Mike: Hello, I'm Mike Clarke, podcast editor for the Cochrane Library. Insomnia affects many people and a wide range of approaches are taken to try to help with it. One of these involves listening to music and the relevant Cochrane Review was updated in August 2022. Here's lead author, Kira Vibe Jespersen from Aarhus University and The Royal Academy of Music Aarhus/Aalborg in Denmark to tell us about the importance of the review and what it found.
Kira: Worldwide, millions of people experience sleep problems. People can have difficulties getting to sleep, staying asleep or have poor quality sleep. Sleep is important for physical and mental health, and the consequences of poor sleep are costly, for both individuals and society. Therefore, it's important to find ways to alleviate insomnia symptoms and many people listen to music to improve their sleep.
With this in mind, we did this review to investigate whether listening to music is effective and we have found evidence to suggest that it has a beneficial effect on sleep quality, while the evidence on other outcomes is more limited.
We found 13 randomised trials including a total of just over 1000 participants. The studies compared the effect of listening to music to treatment as usual or no treatment, and examined the effect of listening to 25 to 50 minutes of pre-recorded music daily for a period of three days to three months.
Ten of the studies reported the effect of listening to music on sleep quality, and combining these results showed moderate quality evidence for a beneficial effect of the music. But the results did not show any difference between those who listened for one or two weeks compared to those who used the music for more than three weeks. Similarly, we did not see any differences in the effect between participants suffering from age-related insomnia, insomnia related to a chronic medical condition or pregnancy-related insomnia, or those who had been diagnosed with insomnia disorder.
Some of the studies also reported other sleep outcomes such as total sleep time, sleep-onset latency – that is how quickly a person falls asleep – and insomnia severity. However, because there were fewer studies reporting these outcomes, we are less sure about the results. Furthermore, there was a difference in the studies using subjective measures of sleep – such as standardised questionnaires – and the studies measuring sleep objectively with electrodes to record activity of the brain, eyes and muscles during sleep. A few studies measured depressive symptoms, anxiety and quality of life, and combining these results showed low or very low certainty evidence for a reduction of anxiety and improvement of quality of life with the music intervention. Importantly, none of the studies reported any adverse events.
In summary, our review shows that music probably facilitates an improvement in sleep quality compared to no treatment or treatment as usual. As such, music can be a safe and useful strategy to improve sleep quality for various people with insomnia symptoms.
Mike: Thanks Kira. If you would like to learn about these benefits and what was tested in the trials, you can find the full review online at Cochrane Library dot com with a simple search for 'music and insomnia'.