The impact of relaxing music on insomnia-related thoughts and behaviours

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The impact of relaxing music on insomnia-related thoughts and behaviours


Insomnia is a pervasive problem involving poor sleep quality and quantity. Previous research has suggested that music listening can help alleviate insomnia, but exactly how music helps sleep problems has not been determined. A greater understanding of these processes could help practitioners to design more effective music-based insomnia treatments. This randomised controlled trial was designed to assess the influences of nightly music listening on the sleep-related thoughts and behaviours described in Harvey's (2002) cognitive model of insomnia maintenance. University students, including a range of good and poor sleepers, were randomly assigned to a music listening group or a control group and were assessed before and after a two-week music listening intervention. Measures included a range of self-report scales, each assessing an element of Harvey's cognitive model. During the intervention, the music listening group was asked to listen to provided music for at least 20 minutes each night. The control group was asked to maintain their regular nightly routines. Results indicated that the music listening group significantly improved on most of the factors theorised to influence sleep quality, although their actual sleep quality did not significantly improve. The control group did not change significantly on any measures. The results of this study suggest that music listening can have positive impacts on a range of factors theorised to influence sleep quality. However, as the music was not shown to actually improve sleep quality, Harvey's cognitive model explanation of music's effect on sleep quality may require further investigation.


Keywords: Cognitive model of insomnia maintenance, music listening, music therapy, sleep quality


Oxtoby, J., Sacre, S., & Lurie-Beck, J. (2013). The impact of relaxing music on insomnia-related thoughts and behaviours. Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 24, 67-86.

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Date published: July 2013