Best music for falling asleep? Both lullabies and BTS, study suggests

Many people listen to music to help them relax and fall asleep. Generally, one might assume such tracks are often quieter and slower to usher in a good night’s rest

However, a recent study found that while this can be the case, some opt for louder, more popular songs – including "Dynamite" by the K-pop group BTS.

The study was conducted by researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark, who analyzed  more than 225,000 tracks from 985 playlists on Spotify that are associated with sleep – and compared them to music from a dataset representing music in general. 

The team wanted to see whether music chosen for the purpose of falling asleep shares any universal characteristics. Previous research on the characteristics of sleep music has been limited, according to the researchers. 

Sleep music tends to be quieter and slower than other music, according to the team’s analysis. It also frequently lacks lyrics and more often features acoustic instruments. Despite these trends, the researchers also found considerable diversity in sleep music and identified six distinct sub-categories.

Three of the sub-categories, including ambient music, aligned with the typical characteristics identified for sleep music. But music in the other three subcategories was louder and had a higher degree of energy, the researchers said.  These tracks included several popular songs, including "Dynamite" by BTS, and "lovely" by Billie Eilish and Khalid.

Despite their high energy, the study authors speculated that popular songs could potentially aid relaxation and sleep for some due to their familiarity. The team said more research is needed to explore this possibility and identify the various reasons people choose different music for falling asleep.

"The study can both inform the clinical use of music and advance our understanding of how music is used to regulate human behavior in everyday life," the study authors wrote.

The study was published on Jan. 18 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Tips for falling asleep fast

Sleep latency refers to the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and a healthy sleep latency period typically ranges from 15 to 20 minutes, according to the nonprofit Sleep Foundation

This comes after one has done their bedtime routine, such as showering, brushing teeth, and/or meditation, and simply means time spent trying to sleep once in bed.

"Taking less than 10 minutes to fall asleep may indicate that you are sleep-deprived," the Sleep Foundation states on its website. "On the other hand, taking too long to fall asleep is considered a symptom of insomnia and may be a marker of unhealthy sleep."

Various techniques to fall asleep faster often include reducing stressors at bedtime and creating a calming state – such as deep breathing and meditation.

The military method, a technique developed to help soldiers achieve sleep in two minutes, is among the many techniques the Sleep Foundation points to for falling asleep faster. This method includes:

  • Assuming a comfortable position and relaxing each part of the face. 
  • Allowing arms to rest at sides, dropping shoulders first.
  • Taking deep breaths to relax the chest.
  • Relaxing the lower half, working from the hips down through each part of the legs to the feet.
  • Visualizing a peaceful setting to put the mind at ease, such as beautiful countryside, a quiet lake, or a cozy room at home. Those who experience any intrusive thoughts should recognize them and try to move beyond these images. Visualization can be difficult, and those who struggle to come up with relaxing images can repeat a simple phrase, like "don’t think."

This story was reported from Cincinnati.