Science of baby sleep
Best music for baby sleep
By Cradlewise Staff
Science of baby sleep
Best music for baby sleep
By Cradlewise Staff
While so many aspects of parenting seem to change and evolve every day, some are still the same as a millennia ago — and one is the lullabies that parents sing to their babies.
Every culture has its own lullabies, and music has always been part of how parents bond with their children. Every night all around the world, parents soothe their babies to sleep with music.
Let’s dive into understanding the relationship between music and baby’s sleep, the benefits of music for baby sleep, and tips on the best types of music to help your baby sleep soundly.
What’s the relationship between baby sleep and music?
Your baby understands music way more than you think.
Research has shown that music can synchronize with the body’s natural rhythms, including heart rate, breathing, and brainwaves.
When these rhythms are in sync, the body can relax and enter a deeper sleep state. Playing music can positively affect your baby’s sleep by calming them, reducing their stress levels, and promoting deeper rest.
What kind of music helps babies sleep?
Can babies differentiate classical and pop music? Do they have a sense of rhythm and melody? Would they react differently to Mozart than Madonna?
Turns out, yes. Certain types of music, such as classical and instrumental music, are more effective at promoting relaxation and sleep than other types of music, such as rock or pop music.
A study published in Infant Behavior and Development, titled ‘Infants’ perception of consonance and dissonance in music,’ found that babies are biologically prepared to treat consonance as perceptually more pleasing than dissonance.
In music, consonance and dissonance refer to the relationship between two or more sounds. Consonance is a pleasant and stable sound that sounds “agreeable” and “harmonious” to the ear. Dissonance is a sound that is considered unstable and creates a sense of tension or conflict.
In the experiment, 4-month-old infants were exposed to consonant and dissonant versions of two melodies.
The results showed that for the consonant versions, babies looked significantly longer at the source of sound and were less active than the dissonant versions. During the dissonant version, babies fretted and turned away from the music source more frequently.
Do lullabies work for babies?
While today we have sound machines and carefully curated Spotify playlists to help our babies fall asleep, for most of human history, babies’ bedtime music was their mothers’ lullaby.
Did you know?
The first known lullaby that we have discovered is 4,000 years old and was inscribed on clay tablets by the Sumerians.
Lullabies all over the world have melodic and rhythmic similarities.
According to Sally Goddard Blythe, author of The Genius of Natural Childhood: Secrets of Thriving Children and director of The Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology, “Lullabies are usually in triple meter or 6/8 time which has a characteristic swinging or rocking motion.”
The gently rocking meter of 6/8 time mimics the motion that babies experience when they’re in the womb and helps them fall asleep faster.
Here are some popular songs that follow the 6/8 time that you might know of:
- Nothing Else Matters by Metallica
- Hickory Dickory Dock
- Can’t Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley
- We Are The Champions by Queen
- Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley
How does music affect a baby’s sleep?
Playing gentle, soothing music can help to calm babies and promote sleep.
Music can reduce stress hormones like cortisol and release feel-good hormones like oxytocin. One study found that music therapy “stabilized the respiratory rates and oxygen saturations in sleeping, preterm infants.”
Music can also serve as a cue for your baby that it’s time to sleep. Remember—the neurons that fire together wire together.
When you consistently play the same soothing songs or lullabies before bedtime, your baby will begin to associate that music with sleep and fall asleep easily.
When choosing music for your baby, slow, gentle tunes with a calming melody are best. Avoid songs with sudden changes in tempo or loud, jarring sounds that may startle your baby awake.
“ Introduce your young baby to music by playing soothing music quietly in their room. Classical music has been found to stimulate the brain, especially music by Mozart, Vivaldi, and music from the Baroque period.
Does music affect a baby’s cognitive development?
Research suggests that listening to music can positively impact a baby’s brain development, including language acquisition, cognitive processing, and emotional regulation.
Studies have found that music enhances high-level cognitive brain networks in premature infants.
According to Dr. Kimberly Langdon, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist with 19 years of clinical experience, “any intervention that improves deep sleep would improve cognitive function. Again, this would need to be studied by subjecting infants to cognitive tests before adding music to their sleep and then after adding music.”
When your baby listens to music, different brain areas light up and become active:
- In your baby’s auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes sound, listening to different rhythms and pitches primes the baby’s brain for a better understanding of language and words.
Scientists have discovered that babies who were exposed to music showed better pattern recognition and predicted rhythm patterns. Both of these skills are necessary for speaking a new language.
- In your baby’s prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in attention, decision-making, and other higher-order cognitive processes, listening to music changes the brain regions responsible for processing both music and speech, according to research.
- In your baby’s hippocampus, responsible for memory formation and spatial navigation, a study found that infants who listened to music created greater activation than listening to speech, suggesting that music may support the development of spatial learning and memory.
- In your baby’s limbic system, the part of the brain involved in emotional processing and regulation, research shows that infants who listened to happy music showed greater activation in their limbic systems than those who listened to sad music, suggesting that music can influence infants’ emotional responses.
What are the benefits of music for baby sleep?
According to Dr. Langdon, one benefit of music for baby sleep that many parents might not know about is that when babies sleep to calming music, they are less fussy the next day.
Here are some other benefits of playing music for your baby:
- Soothes and comforts: Music has a calming effect on babies, which can help soothe and comfort them when they are trying to fall asleep. Soft, gentle music can create a peaceful environment that encourages relaxation and sleep.
- Regulates breathing and heart rate: Listening to slow and rhythmic music can help regulate a baby’s breathing and heart rate, which can lead to deeper and more restful sleep.
- Blocks out background noise: Playing soft music can help block out background noise that might disturb a baby’s sleep. This can be especially helpful if there are loud noises in the environment, such as traffic or other people in the house.
- Establishes a bedtime routine: Using music as part of a bedtime routine can help signal to a baby that it is time to go to sleep. This can be a helpful way to establish a consistent sleep routine, which can improve overall sleep quality.
- Enhances cognitive development: Research suggests that listening to music can enhance cognitive development in babies, including language development, memory, and spatial reasoning skills. This can lead to improved learning and problem-solving abilities as they grow older.
- Encourages bonding and attachment: Listening to music with a baby can be a bonding experience for parents and caregivers. Sharing musical experiences can help foster a sense of attachment and closeness, which can benefit a baby’s social and emotional development.
The best types of music for helping baby sleep
As a parent (and especially considering all the benefits of music for your baby), it’s natural to wonder what are the best types of music and sounds babies tend to find most soothing and are most conducive to sleep.
Since all babies are unique, their musical preferences might also vary. Dr. Langdon suggests individual trial and error or considering soothing sounds like birds tweeting or ocean waves to find the right music for your baby.
Here are some of the tried and tested types of music that help babies sleep.
- Classical music: Several studies have shown that classical music can have a calming effect on babies and help them sleep.
- Nature sounds: The sounds of nature, such as gentle rainfall, ocean waves, or a babbling brook, can have a relaxing effect on babies.
- White noise: White noise is a type of sound created by combining all sound frequencies at equal levels. The sound of white noise can be soothing and help block out other noises that may disrupt a baby’s sleep.
- Instrumental music: Instrumental music, such as soft piano or guitar, can have a calming effect on babies.
- Womb sounds: Womb sounds, such as a heartbeat or whooshing sound, can be comforting to babies because it mimics the sounds they heard in the womb.
A study found that playing mother’s heartbeat sounds and white noise for premature infants in NICU can effectively reduce the baby’s heart rate, stabilize their mood, promote their sleep, increase the amount of milk consumption during hospitalization, increase the rate of weight gain, and promote their physical development.
Popular playlists for baby sleep music
We’ve put together some of the most popular Spotify playlists for baby sleep music for your little one:
- Mozart for Babies
- Baby Sleep Music
- Baby Sleep Music: The Ultimate Playlist💤Lullabies for Babies To Go To Sleep
- Sweet Lullabies
- Sleep, Baby Sleep
- Lullabies for Sleeping 2023😴
- Lullaby Baby
- Music’s ability to heal. 2021. Scientific American. “How Music Can Literally Heal the Heart.”
- Music and how it helps release oxytocin. 2020. Frontiers. “Links Between the Neurobiology of Oxytocin and Human Musicality.”
- Music Therapy for babies. 2021. PubMed. “Music Therapy Is Effective during Sleep in Preterm Infants.”
- Music and cognition in babies. 2019. PNAS. “Music in premature infants enhances high-level cognitive brain networks.”
- Music improves baby’s speech. 2016. University of Washington. “Music improves baby brain responses to music and speech.”
- The affect of the mother’s heartbeat and white noise on the baby’s sleep. 2021. Annals of Palliative Medicine. “Effect of the sound of the mother’s heartbeat combined with white noise on heart rate, weight, and sleep in premature infants: a retrospective comparative cohort study.”