Listening to ‘earworm’ songs before bed is disruptive to sleep, study finds

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Many people take heed to music earlier than bedtime to wind down, however a brand new research suggests this will significantly compromise our nightly relaxation. 

Consultants in Texas have discovered those that take heed to extra music earlier than mattress have persistent ‘earworms’ – catchy songs that loop within the thoughts – in addition to poorer sleep. 

Earworms generally have an effect on folks whereas they’re awake, however the research discovered that additionally they can occur whereas making an attempt to sleep. 

Individuals who expertise earworms usually at night time – a number of occasions per week – are six occasions as prone to have poor sleep high quality in comparison with individuals who hardly ever expertise earworms, the research reveals. 

The outcomes contradict the concept music is a hypnotic and may assist sleep – the truth is, the sleeping mind continues to course of music for a number of hours after the music stops.

The research used three very catchy songs – ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift, ‘Name Me Possibly’ by Carly Rae Jepsen and ‘Do not Cease Believin’ by Journey. 

The research suggests you would be finest suggested to keep away from listening to music earlier than mattress, particularly when you’re already bothered by ‘earworms’ – catchy songs that loop within the thoughts time and again


Earworms are when a track or tune replays time and again in an individual’s thoughts.

It may possibly typically be the primary hook of the track, such because the refrain. 

Earworms can stem from each lyrical and instrumental music.

Analysis exhibits that they detrimentally influence sleep high quality.  

It was led by Michael Scullin, an affiliate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor College, who himself had beforehand woken up the midnight with a track caught in his head. 

‘Virtually everybody thought music improves their sleep, however we discovered those that listened to extra music slept worse,’ he stated. 

‘Our brains proceed to course of music even when none is taking part in, together with apparently whereas we’re asleep. 

‘Everybody is aware of that music listening feels good. Adolescents and younger adults routinely take heed to music close to bedtime. 

‘However generally you possibly can have an excessive amount of of factor. The extra you take heed to music, the extra probably you’re to catch an earworm that will not go away at bedtime. 

‘When that occurs, chances are high your sleep goes to undergo.’ 

Surprisingly, the research discovered that some instrumental music is extra prone to result in earworms and disrupt sleep high quality than lyrical music. 

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This contradicts faculties of thought that instrumental music is extra soothing for aiding relaxation, or that lyrical music typically options extra outstanding hooks that loop in our brains.  

‘What was actually shocking was that instrumental music led to worse sleep high quality – instrumental music results in about twice as many earworms,’ Professor Scullin stated. 

The study used three catchy songs - 'Shake It Off' by Taylor Swift (pictured) 'Call Me Maybe' by Carly Rae Jepsen and 'Don't Stop Believin' by Journey

The research used three catchy songs – ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift (pictured) ‘Name Me Possibly’ by Carly Rae Jepsen and ‘Do not Cease Believin’ by Journey


Professor Scullin advises folks to reasonable their music listening or take occasional breaks if bothered by earworms – and attempt to keep away from it simply earlier than mattress.   

‘When you generally pair listening to music whereas being in mattress, then you definitely’ll have that affiliation the place being in that context may set off an earworm even once you’re not listening to music, comparable to once you’re making an attempt to go to sleep,’ he stated.

One other solution to eliminate an earworm is to have interaction in cognitive exercise – totally specializing in a activity, drawback or exercise helps to distract your mind from earworms. 

Close to bedtime, relatively than participating in a demanding exercise or one thing that might disrupt your sleep, like watching TV or taking part in video video games, possibly spend 5 to 10 minutes writing out a to-do checklist and placing ideas to paper. 

A earlier research discovered that members who took 5 minutes to put in writing down upcoming duties earlier than mattress helped ‘offload’ these worrying ideas in regards to the future and led to sooner sleep. 

Professor Scullin advises folks to reasonable their music listening or take occasional breaks if bothered by earworms – and attempt to keep away from it simply earlier than mattress.   

‘When you generally pair listening to music whereas being in mattress, then you definitely’ll have that affiliation the place being in that context may set off an earworm even once you’re not listening to music, comparable to once you’re making an attempt to go to sleep,’ he stated. 

The research, printed within the journal Psychological Science, concerned a survey and a laboratory experiment. 

The survey concerned 209 members who accomplished a sequence of surveys on sleep high quality, music listening habits and earworm frequency, together with how typically they skilled an earworm whereas making an attempt to go to sleep, waking up in the midst of the night time and instantly upon waking within the morning.

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Within the experimental research, 50 members have been introduced into Scullin’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory at Baylor College, the place the analysis staff tried to induce earworms to find out the way it affected sleep high quality. 

Members have been fitted with polysomnography gear – which measures mind waves, respiration, muscle rigidity, actions, coronary heart exercise and extra – whereas they slept.  

However earlier than bedtime, they have been performed the three annoyingly catchy songs – ‘Shake It Off,’ ‘Name Me Possibly’ and ‘Do not Cease Believin’. 

‘We randomly assigned members to take heed to the unique variations of these songs or the de-lyricised instrumental variations of the songs,’ Professor Scullin stated.

‘Members responded whether or not and once they skilled an earworm. Then we analysed whether or not that impacted their nighttime sleep physiology. 

‘Individuals who caught an earworm had better problem falling asleep, extra nighttime awakenings, and spent extra time in mild levels of sleep.’ 

The experimental research additionally used electroencephalography (EEG), a technique of recording electrical exercise of the mind that entails electrodes positioned alongside the scalp.  

The EEG readings have been quantitatively analysed to look at physiological markers of sleep-dependent reminiscence consolidation. 

Reminiscence consolidation is the method by which short-term reminiscences are remodeled right into a extra long-term kind. 

Members who had a sleep earworm confirmed extra sluggish oscillations throughout sleep, a marker of reminiscence reactivation – the place a reminiscence is introduced from an inactive to an energetic state.  

The rise in sluggish oscillations was dominant over the area comparable to the first auditory cortex, which is implicated in earworm processing when persons are awake.          

‘We thought that individuals would have earworms at bedtime once they have been making an attempt to go to sleep, however we definitely did not know that individuals would report usually waking up from sleep with an earworm,’ Professor Scullin stated.

‘However we noticed that in each the survey and experimental research.’ 


Pictured, different steps of the night sleep cycle. Most dreaming occurs during REM sleep (marked in red) although some can also occur in non-REM sleep

Pictured, totally different steps of the night time sleep cycle. Most dreaming happens throughout REM sleep (marked in crimson) though some may also happen in non-REM sleep

Sleep is usually separated in 4 levels. The primary three of those are often called ‘non speedy eye motion’ or NREM sleep.

The final stage is named speedy eye motion or REM sleep. 

A typical night time’s sleep goes backwards and forwards between the levels. 

Stage 1: Within the first 5 minutes or so after dropping off we’re not deeply asleep. 

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We’re nonetheless conscious of our environment however our muscle groups begin to calm down, the center beat slows down and brainwave patterns, often called theta waves, turn out to be irregular however speedy.  

Though we’re asleep throughout Stage 1, we could get up from it feeling like we did not sleep in any respect.  

After round 5 minutes our our bodies transfer into stage two.

Stage 2: That is when we now have drifted into sleep, and if woke up would know you we been asleep. Waking up continues to be pretty straightforward.

This stage is recognized by brief bursts {of electrical} exercise within the mind often called spindles, and bigger waves often called Ok-complexes, which point out that the mind continues to be conscious of what’s going on round it earlier than turning off to a sub-conscious stage.  

Heartbeat and respiratory is sluggish, and muscle groups calm down even additional. 

Our physique temperature drops and eye actions cease. 

Mind wave exercise slows however is marked by temporary bursts {of electrical} exercise. 

Stage 3: Stage 3 non-REM sleep is the interval of deep sleep that we have to really feel refreshed within the morning. 

It happens in longer durations throughout the first half of the night time. 

Our heartbeat and respiratory sluggish to their lowest ranges throughout sleep and mind waves turn out to be even slower.

Our muscle groups are relaxed and it folks could discover it tough to awaken us. 

The physique repairs muscle groups and tissues, stimulates development and improvement, boosts immune operate, and builds up vitality for the subsequent day. 

Hypnagogia – the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep – is related to NREM levels one to a few.

Psychological phenomena throughout hypnagogia embody lucid thought, lucid dreaming, hallucinations and sleep paralysis. 

REM sleep:  REM sleep first happens about 90 minutes after falling asleep. 

Our eyes transfer quickly back and forth behind closed eyelids. 

Combined frequency mind wave exercise turns into nearer to that seen in wakefulness. 

Our respiratory turns into sooner and irregular, and coronary heart charge and blood stress improve to close waking ranges. 

Most dreaming happens throughout REM sleep, though some may also happen in non-REM sleep. 

Arm and leg muscle groups turn out to be briefly paralysed, which prevents us from performing out our goals. 

As we age, we spend much less of our time in REM sleep. 

Reminiscence consolidation almost definitely requires each non-REM and REM sleep.  

Supply: US Nationwide Institutes of Well being