Why Listening to Music is Invaluable Shift Work Sleep Advice

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I used to think listening to slow, meditative type music before bed was a waste of time. And probably so do the 50–70 million American adults reported to have sleep difficulties.

It wasn’t until I started having issues sleeping after a busy shift both during the day and at night, I realized the power of a snoozy tune.

Women look out the window holding black headphones

Music has been used for hundreds of years for healing properties and overcoming illness like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and insomnia through allowing engagement for those individuals who, ‘struggle with the stigma associated with seeking professional help’ (1).

So throughout this post, I want to open your eyes to the power of music and sounds before bed to help you sleep, process the day and prepare for another shift.

Sleep Music Facts to Help Shift Workers Sleep

Can sleep music really help insomniacs and those who simply have a tough time sleeping get adequate shut-eye?

Here are 11 sleep music facts to show you the power of music

1. Music has a direct impact on your mind and body

Music not only helps you lift more at the gym and sleep better at night, but it even makes housework enjoyable.


Our bodies have something called an autonomic nervous system which helps us adjust and adapt to changes in our environment. It’s made up of the stuff we don’t even think about like breathing, sweating and digestion…

If we break that down a little more, one of the two arms under the autonomic nervous system is the parasympathetic nervous system. This area is responsible for helping us relax, recover and rest and guess what?

Music directly affects this spot!

With soft, slow, relaxing music, our heart rate starts to mimic the rhythm of the music. This lowers our stress hormone cortisol, decreases our pulse and also our blood pressure.

Sleep music can also help release Dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone during times of stress, helping to put us into a relaxed state.

2. Sleep music is an effective, low-cost sleeping aid which has been proven by science to enhance sleep

3. Music can improve both depression and sleep in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

4. Sleep music provides an incredible distraction from the world around you and from those thoughts and sounds you’d normally be distracted by

5. If you’re a night shift worker, music can help mask unusual and annoying daytime sounds like the lawnmowers, the neighbours dog, traffic and your housemate rudely unpacking the dishwasher

6. When stress and anxiety are preventing you from falling asleep, music is an excellent tool to pivot the mind to a calmer state.

7. Sleep music that is between 60 to 80 beats per minute are best – think classical, relaxed tunes..

8. It is recommended that music without words is more effective. Why? Words can induce thoughts and emotions linked to a particular event which is preventing you from relaxing

9. Music therapy has been recommended to form part of the nursing care for patients suffering cancer to lower the effect of anxiety and depression during treatment.

10. Music relaxation has also proven beneficial to those living with schizophrenia and suffering from insomnia.

11. Not everyone has the same response to sleep music, or music in general

That’s what makes it so special and unique. The same playlist or song which helps relex and support sleep for one person may not work too well for the next.

Related: The Ultimate Night Shift Playlist To Power Through Any Job

Man wearing headphones staring out at sunrise | Why Listening to Music is Invaluable Shift Work Sleep Advice

What is Insomnia?

Excuse the introduction if you’re well and truly aware of what insomnia is…

Insomnia is one of the most common issues facing adults today and it can have a huge impact on everything in your life. Your job, relationships, mood and energy levels... everything.

It is defined as a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep.

Some research studies say that chronic insomnia is when the person has difficulty sleeping at least three nights per week for more than three months.

As a result of this sleep deprivation, you’ll commonly see sufferers showing signs of fatigue, low energy, decreased performance and difficulty concentrating.

It can be caused by a range of things which are different for everyone. But some common themes are; stress, your sleeping environment and other health issues.

For insomniacs, much like night shift workers,  your body becomes confused when it’s light and dark, stuffing up our bodies internal clock.

We often talk about insomnia around Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) and what we can actively do to prevent being diagnosed, particularly when working the night shift.

I, fortunately, don’t suffer from insomnia, but I know plenty of nurses who do and it’s debilitating. Such a frustrating, relentless condition with no simple, umbrella answer to suit everyone.

There are sleep aids like the hugely popular LUNA Sleep AidOpens in a new tab., Genius Sleep AIDOpens in a new tab. and even sleep help books like Sleep SmarterOpens in a new tab. (pictured below) which may be beneficial for some people.

Smart Sleeper Book Amazon | theothershift.com
See on Amazon

But for those who have tried these and nothing seems to work, sleep music could be what you’re missing.

Insomnia and Sleep Music

According to a combination of research studies involving 1339 patients, it was concluded that ‘music intervention seemed to offer clear advantages for adults with primary insomnia‘.

Music has proven to shorten the time in which it takes those who suffer from insomnia to fall asleep. Plus, also improving sleep quality and duration.

However, another study concluded that yes, music helps improve a sufferer of insomnia’s quality of life, but it was hard to say if it had any effect on the severity level of insomnia.

If you suffer from insomnia or another related sleeping disorder, research proves it might be worth a shot if you have been a little suspect up until this point…

What kind of sleep music should I choose to help put me to sleep fast… even on night shift?

Before you reach for your favorite CD or stream the latest heavy rock band, think again.

Faster-paced music, probably what’s on your favorite radio station right now, can increase your heart rate, promote physical stamina and endurance and triggers particular hormones which boost alertness like dopamine and adrenaline.

Sleep music is the total opposite – slow, very relaxing and generally without words.

In the studies we looked at, most used words like; calming, relaxing or soothing to describe music that worked in the sleep department.

Sleep.org recommends songs which are between 60 to 80 BPM – basically pretty slow. If you’re not sure of the beat count use songbpm.com and it will work it out for you.

If you’re into classical music or simply want to try it, sticking to tracks with mainly guitar, piano, violin or the flute will do you wonders.

According to the Sleep Foundation, ‘older adults who listen to 45 minutes of relaxing music before bed fall asleep faster, sleep longer, wake up less during the night, and rate the nights as more restful than when they don’t listen to music’.

They also concluded similar results and great improvement in sleep quality for younger people who listened to music before bed.

Sleep Music Guided Meditation for Suffers of Insomnia

It’s easy for people to say, ‘just relax‘…’take your mind off what’s bothering you’… ‘just let it all go.’

But how?

If just laying in a dark room listening to music or sounds without words doesn’t work for you, maybe you need a teacher? Somebody to actually tell you what you should be focusing on.

Here are a couple of top selling, popular programs involving guided meditation we found on Amazon you’ll want to try:

Sleep Music Guided Meditation for Sufferers of Insomnia – YouTube

These are a couple of delightful videos I wanted to share.

Once you get over the soft, soulful voices from the man in the first clip, women in the second and just ‘get into it’, this really does work.

You can focus on what’s being said rather than trying to do it yourself. 

Enjoy finding which one suits your mood in order to take you away from life for a minute.

Here are the 8 best playlists for those suffering from insomnia (or simply can’t sleep!) on Spotify:

Spotify playlists are my go-to. I use it every day as there is always a song or playlist for every mood and situation I’m in. Showering, gym, road trips and even sleep…

You name it – they’ve created a playlist! 

Their sleep playlists are exceptional. I use Spotify premium which is about $10 per month. Due to the amount of music I listen to, it’s totally worth it because you don’t need to deal with the repetitive, annoying ads. 

Here are my favorite sleep music playlists you’ll find on Spotify by simply searching for ‘Sleep’ once you have created a profile.

  1. Sleep 
  2. Sleepify
  3. Songs for Sleeping 
  4. Deep Sleep 
  5. With lyrics – evening acoustic or
  6. Contemporary Classical Playlist
  7. Atmospheric calm
  8. Ocean Escapes

Here are the 5 best sleep music songs on YouTube 

If you would prefer YouTube over Spotify or another streaming service, here are five very popular sleep music songs to drive you off to sleep. 

Even if a song goes for only a few minutes, simply pop it on repeat and enjoy. 

Also, make sure you save the videos to a folder on YouTube so you don’t have to search for them every time.

1. Marconi Union – Weightless

This is allegedly the “most relaxing song ever created,” I sure hope that’s true for you.

2. Sleep music rain, rain and more rain 

Three blissful hours of rain. No thunder, no music, no tin roof. Just rain. This video has been viewed over 30 million times and is an incredibly popular method to fall asleep.

This ‘song’ sort of makes me need to pee so not the perfect clip for me… I hope you have better luck!

3. “Claude Debussy” – Clair De Lune

Timeless and utterly beautiful. 

4. Airstream – Electra

This beautifully relaxing tune obtained the Harvard University title honors for the #2 of the best relaxing song.  


5. For a bit more of a classical feel, I’m throwing Mozart into the mix.

This song is absolutely gorgeous and puts me into somewhat of a trance, but not sleep per se. I am taken away from all distractions and stress in my life to be transported to another place.

Turn off the lights, headphones in or blast it through your speaker and enjoy.  


Other Sleeping Music Tools to Try

This is a 24/7 radio station from New Zealand which streams music to help people sleep – in any time zone or hour of the day. How perfect for us shift workers!?

Sleepio is a digital sleep-improvement program featuring cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

Bedtime stories for grown-ups. Take your mind off life for a while and listen to a story which goes for 40-45 minutes.

The man running this podcast is honest, brilliant and has been in the shoes of those having trouble sleeping.

This brilliant watch tracks not only your fitness but also your sleep. You can set things like reminders to sleep and to move if you’ve been sitting for too long.

The technology is very reliable and can help you work out which sleep music or guided meditation is right for you depending on how much you move during your sleep.

Opens in a new tab.Buy it now on Amazon 

Music, Sleep and Insomnia Are the Perfect Trio

We hope you found your favorite relaxing and quite sleep music playlist or songs to help you get those zzz’s and relax after even the busiest of shifts.

While sleep music can be incredibly effective for insomnia suffers, it can greatly benefit those shift workers battling day time traffic, the neighbor’s dog and even noisy housemates.

If you’re interested in rain sleep music or guided meditation, sleep music is easily found on YouTube or through Amazon and can help you fall to sleep tonight.

Some people like complete silence to sleep and others like a white noise machine – while an entirely different group like to listen to music. And you could be one of them.

Do you suffer from insomnia? Has relaxing sleep music been a game-changer for you?


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Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

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