Most of us attempt to unwind before bed by flipping through our phones or streaming TV, even though studies have shown that this is one of the worst things you can possibly do for your sleep cycle. Some of us try to de-stress by having a glass of wine, even though by now we all know that while alcohol may help you doze off, it also increases the likelihood of waking up in the middle of the night.
A healthy sleep routine, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s “clean sleeping” trend, advocates setting a cut-off time on all electronics at least an hour before bed, and taking a bubble bath, doing light yoga, reading a book, or meditating to help your body and brain relax instead.
But if all of that sounds like too much work, especially after a long day, a new study presented last weekend at the European Society of Cardiology Congress says that there’s something even easier that you can do to reduce anxiety as you slumber: listening to yoga music.
Dr. Naresh Sen, a Consultant Cardiologist at HG SMS Hospital, Jaipur, India, and his colleagues asked 149 participants with an average age of 26 to take part in three sleep sessions on separate nights. On one of those nights, they listened to yoga music before going to bed. On another, they listened to pop with steady beats. And on another night, they slept in silence.
Researchers measured the heart rate of participants during each session, assessed their anxiety levels before and after each session, and evaluated their levels of positive feelings following each session.The results found that the anxiety levels of the participants increased when no music played at all, spiked during the pop music, and fell significantly while listening to yoga music. The soothing sounds of yoga also led to a small increase in positive feeling, as well as an increase in heart-rate variability—which refers to the heart’s ability to adapt to going from “fight or flight” mode to “rest and digest” mode.
The fact that listening to pop before bed may adversely affect your sleep cycle shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since previous studies have found that listening to Latin beats during a workout can energize you into exercising harder, which is the opposite of what you want when falling asleep. The more unexpected finding is that, while sleeping in total darkness has been proven to help you get a good night of shut-eye, sleeping in total silence isn’t as beneficial as drifting off to meditative music.
“Science may have not always agreed, but Indians have long believed in the power of various therapies other than medicines as a mode of treatment for ailments,” Sen said. “This is a small study, and more research is needed on the cardiovascular effects of music interventions offered by a trained music therapist. But listening to soothing music before bedtime is a cheap and easy to implement therapy that cannot cause harm.”
For more new research on how to use sleep to boost your heart health, see why Science Says This Is Officially the Length of a Perfect Night of Sleep.
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