Participants in the experimental study were monitored during sleep to determine if ear worms had an impact on the physiology of nighttime sleep. Credit: Robert Rogers / Baylor University

Most people listen to music all day and often close to bed to finish. But can this really cause your sleep to suffer? When sleep researcher Michael Scullin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, realized he was waking up in the middle of the night with a song stuck in his head, he saw an opportunity to study how music , and particularly stuck songs: they can affect sleep patterns.

Recent study by Scullin, published in Psychological sciences, investigated the relationship between and sleep, focusing on a rarely explored mechanism: involuntary musical images, or “ear worms,” when a song or melody is played over and over in a person’s mind. They usually happen awake, but Scullin found that they can also happen while trying to sleep.

“Our brains continue to be processed even when no one is touching, even seemingly while we sleep, “Scullin said.” Everyone knows that listening to music feels good. Teenagers and young people routinely listen to music near bedtime. But sometimes, you can have too many good things. The more you listen to music, the more likely you are to catch a worm that won’t go away at bedtime. When that happens, your sleep is likely to suffer. “

People who experience worms regularly at night (one or more times a week) are six times more likely to have poor sleep quality compared to people who rarely experience worms. Surprisingly, the study found that some instrumental music is likely to lead to worms and affect the quality of sleep than lyrical music.

The study included a survey and a laboratory experiment. The survey included 209 participants who completed a series of surveys on sleep quality, music listening habits, and the frequency of worms, including how often they experienced a worm while trying to fall asleep, wake up. wakes up in the middle of the night and immediately after waking up in the morning. .

In the experimental study, 50 participants were introduced to Scullin’s sleep neuroscience and cognition lab in Baylor, where the research team tried to induce worms to determine how they affected sleep quality. Polysomnography, a complete test and the standard gold measure for sleep, was used to record brain waves, heart rate, breathing, and more from participants while they slept.

“Before we went to bed, we played three popular, catchy songs: Taylor Swift’s“ Shake It Off, ”Carly Rae Jepsen’s“ Call Me Maybe, ”and Journey’s“ Don’t Stop Believin, ”Scullin said. “We randomly assigned participants to listen to the original versions of these songs or the derailed instrumental versions of the songs. Participants responded if and when they experienced an ear worm. We then analyzed whether this affected their physiology of nighttime sleep. People who caught a worm in their ears had more difficulty falling asleep, waking up at night more, and spending more time in light stages of sleep. “

In addition, EEG (electrical activity records in the brain) readings from the experimental study were quantitatively analyzed to examine the physiological markers of sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Memory consolidation is the process by which temporary memories are reactivated spontaneously during sleep and transformed into a longer-term form.

“We thought people would have worms at bedtime when they tried to fall asleep, but we certainly didn’t know that people would report that they would wake up periodically from sleep with a worm in their ears. But we saw it so much in survey as in the experimental study, ”he said.

Participants who had a sleep worm showed slower oscillations during sleep, a marker of memory reactivation. The increase in slow oscillations was dominant in the region corresponding to the which is involved in worm processing when people are awake.

“Almost everyone thought music improves sleep, but we found that those who listened to more music slept worse,” Scullin said. “What really surprised me was that instrumental music leads to worse sleep quality; instrumental music carries about twice as many ear worms.”

The study found that people with older music listening habits experienced persistent worms and a decrease in sleep quality. These results are contrary to the idea of ​​music as hypnotic which can help you sleep. Healthcare organizations often recommend listening to quiet music before bed, recommendations that arise largely from self-reported studies. Instead, Scullin has objectively measured that the sleeping brain continues to process music for several hours, even after the music stops.

Knowing that worms negatively affect sleep, Scullin recommends trying to moderate listening to music or taking occasional breaks if it bothers them. The timing of the music is also important – try to avoid it before going to bed.

“If you normally stop listening to music while in bed, you will have this association in which being in this context can cause an ear worm even when you are not listening to music, such as when you try to fall asleep,” he said.

Another way to get rid of an ear worm is to engage in a cognitive activity: Focusing completely on a task, problem, or activity helps distract the brain from ear worms. Close to bedtime, rather than engaging in a demanding activity or something that disturbs your sleep, such as watching TV or playing video games, Scullin suggests taking five to ten minutes to write a to-do list and put the ideas on paper. A previous study by Scullin, partially funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and the Sleep Research Society Foundation, found that participants who took five minutes to write the next tasks before bedtime helped “download “those worrying thoughts about the future and led to a faster speed. .

Music improves the sleep quality of adults

More information:
Michael K. Scullin et al, Sleep music, involuntary musical images and sleep, Psychological sciences (2021). DOI: 10.1177 / 0956797621989724

Provided by
Baylor University

Citation: Listening to music near bedtime disrupts sleep, study findings (2021, June 10) retrieved June 10, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news /2021-06-music-bedtime-disruptive.html

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