Listen up: Playing some favorite music near bedtime might seem like a good way to wind down — but it can actually be disruptive to your sleep.
That’s the upshot of recent findings by a Baylor University researcher, who delved into the topic after waking in the middle of the night with a song stuck in his head. It turns out that “earworms” — the phenomena of having a tune lodged in one’s head — isn’t just a daytime issue.
The researcher and his colleagues say that’s because the brain continues to process music even after the song ends. And that includes while we’re sleeping or trying to sleep. There’s also an element of chance: The more music that is listened to around bedtime, the more likely it is to “stick” in the brain.
So just how disruptive is a nighttime earworm? The researchers found that one or more earworms a week makes someone six times more likely to have poor sleep quality compared with someone who doesn’t get them. They also made a counterintuitive discovery: Some instrumental music can lead to earworms and poor sleep more than lyrical music.
To establish their findings, the sleep and music habits of more than 200 people were evaluated with surveys and studies that measure sleep quality. Electrical activity in the brain was measured to determine how memories are spontaneously reactivated during sleep.
Study participants were assigned to listen to either lyrical or instrumental versions of three songs: Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.’ ”
As the Journey song says, Don’t stop believin’. Hold on to that feelin’. Just do all that well before bedtime.