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Alpha music for sleep: fact file

alpha music brain waves relaxation and sleep sensory calming
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Alpha music for sleep: fact file

alpha music brain waves relaxation and sleep sensory calming
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What is alpha music?

Alpha music is music designed to create a relaxed state of mind. It generally has a speed (tempo) of around 60 beats per minute (bpm). It uses musical features to encourage relaxation, for example, simple, repetitive melodies, and low levels of dynamic contrast. Alpha music may also feature white noise or nature sounds, such as flowing water, a heart beat, or the wind in trees. 

Alpha music works by encouraging the brain to enter the state characterised by alpha waves. These brain waves are associated with a relaxed but awake mental state. This relaxed state can make it easier to fall asleep. 

Alpha music can be used to support sleep, and is often used during yoga and meditation sessions. 

Brain waves

Brain waves are the minute electrical signals in the brain. They are what is being measured during an EEG (electroencephalogram). Different levels of electrical activity are recorded during different activities or mental states. 

Brain waves are categorised into five types, associated with 5 states.

Gamma waves

Gamma waves are found during the most focussed periods of mental activity. For example when you are using all of your concentration to solve a problem, or actively learning, processing and applying information. Gamma brain waves are the fastest brain wave length. They often occur with adrenaline release so there may be a sense of stress or excitement alongside this state.

Beta waves

Beta waves are associated with being awake, alert and concentrating. They can be found in students listening to or thinking about information, but less actively engaged than when gamma waves are present. 

Beta waves are sometimes divided into high and low beta waves, associated with focus levels. High beta waves would be concentrating on something, whilst low beta waves would be associated with mulling something over, perhaps whilst walking or cooking. You are thinking about something, but able to do other things at the same time.

Alpha waves are associated with relaxation  and an unfocused or meditative mental state. It is considered to be a restful but conscious state. 

Theta waves

Theta waves are associated with daydreaming or being in a light drowsy sleep.  They are the brain waves associated with REM sleep, in which the brain is active and dreaming often occurs.

Delta waves

Delta waves accompany deep restorative sleep, and the brain is less active than in REM sleep. 

Alpha waves and alpha music

Alpha waves are associated with a relaxed but awake state, that can help you easily fall asleep. If alpha music can help create this relaxed state then it can make falling asleep easier. 

Some studies have shown that toddlers played alpha music take less time to settle to sleep than those not played music. Parents may find using alpha music during bedtime can help to create a relaxing sleep environment. This can help babies, toddlers, children, and even parents get to sleep more easily. 

How alpha music helps sleep

hearing and calming . A child asleep wearing headphones alpha music can help sleep

Alpha music is not magical, any relaxing music can help you to enter an alpha state of relaxation. Features of alpha music can help encourage sleep.

Slow

Alpha music tends to be quite slow with a pace, or tempo, of around 60 bpm.  This is said to be around the heart rate of a sleeping adult.  As our body and mind relaxes, our heart rate lowers as we fall asleep. 

Heart-rate

Young babies are used to the sounds they heard inside the womb. This includes the constant heart beat in the background.  They can find the heart-rate-like beat of alpha music soothing. Alpha music could help recreate a little of the familiar comfort of the womb. 

Calm the mind

 For toddlers and older children, slow music can help little bodies and minds slow down, whilst giving them something to focus on.  Total quiet may help some people go to sleep.  However, it can give busy brains free reign to think over everything that’s going on in their learning-packed lives. That’s why kids often get chatty at bedtime.

Alpha music can be a helpful calming sensory sleep cue to build into sleep rituals for people of any age. It can provide just enough stimulation to allow the brain to calm down, without being too interesting.

Constancy and familiarity

Alpha music is rarely exciting. The pieces are often long and include simple, repetitive melodies. These quickly become familiar so we don’t get drawn in to becoming engrossed in listening to the music. It is the kind of music that you can allow to wash over you as you drift off. Most music has quieter bits and louder bits, as dynamic contrast can help to create more engaging music, but we don’t want alpha music to be engaging. It tends to be all at the same level of volume. 
 

Continuity

Alpha music tends to work best when it is left playing on a loop of one track, or a playlist that plays throughout the whole sleep duration. 
 
Babies, toddlers and young children are most likely to wake between sleep cycles at night. They have shorter sleep cycles than adults and spend more time in REM sleep states. These are easier to wake from than the deeper sleep in which adults spend more of their time. 
 
If the music is still playing as they begin to rouse then the familiar sound may be enough to lull them back to sleep.  This may mean less crying, and fewer wake ups for parents. It may help improve sleep all round!
 

Buffer noise

Having constant background noise, like alpha music or white noise can lessen the impact of other sounds. For example, the sound of parents getting ready for bed, flushing toilets, or a sudden noise on a TV programme. These noises can be enough to wake a little one from sleep, but alpha music or white noise can provide a buffer that reduces the disturbance. Or, if they are roused by a noise, the familiar relaxing sensory sleep cue can help them fall back into a restful sleep.   
 
Sensory sleep cues
Alpha music is a sensory sleep cue, that stimulates the auditory sense. Find out more about sensory sleep cues.

Try our calming sounds CDs

Sensory cues for sleep

dad smelling head of sleeping newborn baby

Alpha music can be a helpful calming sensory sleep cue to build into sleep rituals for people of any age. It can provide just enough stimulation to allow the brain to calm down, without being too interesting.

Sensory cues can help to create a relaxing sleep atmosphere by soothing the senses.  Alpha music, like white noise, can work by calming the auditory, or hearing, sense.  

Sleep cues are conditioned by being used consistently in sleep routines or rituals.  Through repetition we (or our children) begin to associate these cues with feeling sleepy. In time, simply using the cues can make us start to feel sleepy. 

The auditory sense is only one of eight senses. To create a relaxing sensory environment it can help to think about all the senses. Remember you aren’t trying to recreate a baby sensory session. You are aiming for soothing, not stimulation.

 
Our blog on sensory sleep cues will help you to create a calm bespoke bedtime that works for you and your little ones. 

 

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Baby sleep, Child sleep, Sleep science, Toddler sleep
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