Brainwaves Sleep

Three Ways music and sound can help you sleep

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While there are many ways that sound and frequency can affect the mind and body, let’s take a look at three ways sound and music can help you sleep, specifically. Sound Therapy was one of the first things that helped me find a place of peace, in a time of deep anxiety. When I listened to these healing sounds my mind became quiet, negative thoughts lessened, my breathing became deeper and my muscles relaxed.

After that experience, sound therapy became something that helped me sleep nightly, and I also began creating tracks for myself and others. As we continue we will explore at least three ways music and sound can help you sleep.

Before we begin, I hope you will also enjoy this track with Tibetan Singing Bowls, that is may be helpful for relaxing into a deep sleep.

 (visit for extended play sleep tracks) 

As a professional musician, I was also curious, how does sound used as therapy work? Here are three ways that sound therapy can help you sleep, and drift into a deep state of relaxation.

1. First way music and sound can help you sleep: Brainwave Entrainment  

Our brainwave states are measure in “Hertz”, just like sound waves. Hertz, are a measurement of frequency, or cycles. We have four basic brainwave states. They are: Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta. Each of these states also have a frequency band, similar to the EQ on a home stereo. Beta is our most common waking state usually when we are in “problem solving mode”.  Alpha and Theta are more meditative or light sleeping states. Delta is a deep sleep state, or a very deep meditation.

In the cycle of the typical day we cycle thru all of these brainwave states. At night we are in deep dreamless sleep and Delta mode. Theta mode is typically associated with dreaming, or a deep meditative state. Alpha mode is a twilight mode, experienced as we are going to sleep or on first waking up. Beta is our fully awake state.

Typically, in times of anxiety or insomnia, a person can find it hard quiet the mind and release from Beta Mode, and into the more relaxed modes. One of the ideas behind Sound Therapy is that as we listen to the repetitive, and hypnotic oscillations of the sounds, our brainwaves tend to move towards the frequency range of those entraining oscillations. This can help the mind begin to move out of Beta, and towards Alpha and Theta and a more relaxed mental space.

2. Second way music and sound can help you sleep: Quieting the Left Brain, Right Brain Activation

In a time of deep anxiety, I found that I couldn’t even listen to classical music. Previously, classical music and classical guitar was always my “go to” for rest and relaxation. In this state my mind was too sensitive and I found that the music still stressed me out. However, I learned an important lesson here. What is music? It is simply “ordered sound”. The “order” of music consists of harmony, or chords, rhythm, melodies and other compositional elements. Although there are only 12 notes in western music, however these 12 notes are ordered determine whether the style (Classical, Jazz etc) Also, we instinctively make a judgement as to whether we “like” the music or not. Much of this process occurs beyond the realm of our conscious mind and employs the left brain.

Our left brain, is a sort of “pattern recognition software”. Our left brain recognizes patterns, structure, cause and effect. This is typically the mode that is most valued and therefore used the most in daily life. This mode however, is also closely tied to the “survival instinct” and thus also our stress responses. 

In my time of anxiety, I found the my nervous system and mind was too sensitive to even listen to classical music. I found that my “musician” part of my brain, was (subconsciously) following the patterns of the music. Later, I tried “sound healing” music with Tibetan Singing Bowls. Because there is no structured, rhythm, melody etc.. I found that it helped my mind to release from this “left brain”, and find a space of deep relaxation away from the critical mind.

3. Third way music and sound can help you sleep: Melatonin Release 

Music and Sound Therapy can also help to release melatonin. Studies have shown that music therapy helps to release melatonin in patients with Alzheimers. Melatonin is the hormone produced by the pineal gland, that helps to regulate our circadian rhythms and cycles of sleeping and waking. Melatonin, also signals our mind to begin moving from Beta, and towards Alpha and Theta states.

Anecdotally, I have also found that in my years of conducting sound baths and sound meditations, that within thirty minutes or so, there are often participants that are drifting into sleep.

So, brainwave entrainment, right brain activation, and melatonin release all help to shift our physiological state towards rest, and a quiet mind. 

Tools and strategies for getting to sleep:

Eat Tryptophan containing foods

The pineal gland produces melatonin, which helps us drift into sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is also a precursor to the neurotransmitter chemical, Serotonin. The pineal gland make Melatonin from Serotonin so it essential to have the proper levels of serotonin. Serotonin levels also typically drop in times of stress, so this can be a vicious cycle. One way to quickly boost serotonin levels is to eat foods high in tryptophan. 

Foods high in tryptophan include: Plain yogurt, Pumpkin seeds, Chick Peas and many more.

No digital devices before bed (blue light can keep you awake)

The light we take in can also signal the pineal gland and throw off our circadian rhythm. Looking at the blue light of the computer at night can throw off these natural rhythms. Try this “flux” plug in, which changes the tint of your computer screen with the setting of the sun. I have been using it for years! Get Flux here:


Make a List

Get it out of your head! Make a list of the things that are on your mind. Journal out your thoughts around any tasks or  emotional issues. Write out a “to do” list for the next day or later in the week. The point here is to get these thoughts out of the mind, and onto paper. That way the can be “let go” of knowing you can come back to this list later when you need it. This can lessen this obsessive, style of looping thoughts.

Focus on your belly  

This is a tip from a Buddhist Monk. Focusing our awareness on different parts of the body, can also help us shift our states of being and brainwaves. This monk suggested to me that focusing on the belly could help with drifting into sleep. He also suggested putting a small book on the belly (or anything that can help bring your awareness to the sensations there). Give it a try!

Long term Plan

Learn to Meditate – Long term meditators have been shown to have higher serum levels of melatonin. Also, meditation is a way of detoxing mentally and removing traumas from the mind. The more we detox, or clean our internal “hard drive” (the mind). The less intrusive thoughts tend to arise when trying to sleep.

Gut Health – Much of our essential brain chemicals are made in the gut. This includes serotonin, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This means that it can help with achieving a more “quiet” mind. Melatonin, is also made from Serotonin. Gut Health is also key in setting circadian rhythms and producing the neurotransmitters that can help with sleep.

So, I hope these three ways that music and sound can help you sleep will be great allies in you journey towards deeper rest and rejuvenation.

Additional articles:

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