Music for sleep

Nearly everyone will have experienced difficulty initiating and/ or maintaining sleep at some point in his or her life. According to the Mental Health Foundation (2011) two thirds of UK adults experience regular sleep disruption and 1 in 10 have a recognised sleeping disorder, of which there are over 100 varieties.

Sleep disorders have many different causes, some temporary (a stressful life event, recovery from surgery) and others more pervasive (depression, effects of long-term medication)

Sleep disorders have numerous side effects for physical and mental health and wellbeing. Treating the impacts of these side effects costs the NHS over £50 million a year, whilst each poor-sleeping employee costs his or her employer an average of £1,900 in lost productivity. With referrals to sleep clinics on the increase there is an urgent need to investigate non-pharmaceutical sleep aids.

Music has highly significant potential as a sleep aid: it is low cost, portable, adaptable for individual tastes, and side effect free (at appropriate volume).

Collaboration with the University of Lincoln

The power of music to aid sleep is evidenced in the existence of ‘music for sleep’ CDs and radio stations. Despite their popularity, there is little evidence-based research on how sleep quantity or quality is impacted by music.

In particular, no study to date has combined music with sleep measures for long enough to be effective and most studies take place in hospitals not in peoples own beds. Our research aims to redress this situation.

Sleep survey

Our first project was a large-scale Internet survey on music and sleep, to determine how people use music when they encounter sleep difficulties in their day-to-day life. Our paper was published in the Open Access journal PLOS ONE and can be downloaded here:
The music that helps people sleep and the reasons they believe it works

We have published three collateral assets for the first element of our sleep project that show our findings in a variety of ways.

1 – Inforgraphic

2 – Project video

3 – Article in The Conversation

Using the results of this survey we will carry out an informed, long-term ‘music for sleep’ intervention study in peoples own homes using new sleep monitoring technologies.
Our research team combines different expertise to explore new pathways to impact for music and sleep research. We also aim to train postgraduate students in the UK in the use of sleep technologies and population surveys.


Dr Victoria Williamson
Dr Simon Durrant

Participate in Research

You can join in the music and sleep survey, a worldwide survey of music and sleep habit, which has currently been completed by around 1000 people.

Our aim is to gather as much information as we can about how people naturally choose to use music as part of their sleep routine so that the future interventions that we design are optimized for comfort, ease and success.

We are using the most secure Internet survey tool, Qualtrics. This tool guarantees anonymity and safe storage of data. It is used by 97 of the top 100 business schools and 1300 universities worldwide, as well as top companies such as Mastercard, Fedex, Nestle, Toyota, and ABC broadcasting.

Here is the music and sleep survey:

If you are interested to learn more about the research you can read a special blog on the project written by Dr Victoria Williamson: