From the moment they’re born, babies are constantly bombarded by all the different sights, sounds, smells, and sensations around them. This information overload can make it difficult for them to unwind or fall asleep at night.
Luckily, playing relaxing baby sleep music can be just the solution for these restless nights.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of playing music to put your baby to sleep, what genres to play, and other kinds of noises that may help you baby sleep longer (and better) at night!
The Benefits of Music for Baby Sleep
Developing a Routine
Playing the same songs every night, just before your baby goes to sleep, can help them associate those particular songs with sleepy time.
In essence, these songs become a sleep trigger, offering them a sense of both comfort and security before they doze off. Keeping the song (or your voice, if you want to sing them a lullaby) at a low volume and their room dimly lit may also prove to be effective sleep signals.
It’s best to play simple songs or baby lullaby sleep music that has slower, softer tempos, as opposed to more complex genres – like heavy metal, rock, or rap.
Much of the research regarding babies, sleep, and music has found that harmonic melodies with a gentle beat work best in lulling your little one to sleep.
Because music plays an integral part of many games, activities, and even sleep routines your baby participates in, it can aid in their mental and physical development. Furthermore, it may strengthen their bond with you, the parent.
Music encourages them to have fun and enjoy themselves. When babies are having fun, they are more receptive to learning about how the world operates around them. This is primarily because music can activate certain neural pathways in your baby’s brain.
In fact, multiple studies have found that playing music for your baby can boost their creativity, memory retention, spatial intelligence, understanding of mathematical concepts, language development, and emotional intelligence. If you can give them a leg up, why wouldn’t you?
A study in Hungary found that three- to four-year-olds who were given lessons on music and singing had higher grades in creativity, as compared to those who did not receive any musical training.
Researchers have found that babies as young as three months old use music to help them remember things they have learned.
Spatial intelligence is how you perceive yourself and other objects in relation to the space around you. Basically, it is an understanding of how close or far certain objects are to you, as well as their relation to other items in that space.
One study in California found that kindergarteners who were given piano lessons had a 34 percent better success rate in completing a jigsaw puzzle afterwards, as compared to children who had taken computer lessons instead.
Yet another study found that first graders who were given intensive musical training were considerably better at mathematics than their peers who were only given a standard musical education.
Researchers believe that this is due to the musical students’ more enhanced memory retention skills.
There is a very close connection between music and a baby’s linguistic development. They both require the ability to differentiate between similar auditory nuances and sounds – such as the letter “B” and the letter “D”, for instance.
Playing music with lyrics can help your baby learn to decode these new sounds and sharpen their auditory memory as well, both of which are crucial for language comprehension and development.
There is no doubt that music can stir strong emotions in us, regardless of age. Letting your baby listen to particularly expressive genres, like classical music, can hone their sensitivity to others’ moods and emotions. Additionally, it can help them to develop an understanding of their own emotions as evoked by the music in the process.
Exposing your baby to classical music (Mozart specifically) long before they are born has frequently been hailed as a method of making your baby smarter. In fact, recent studies have shown that fetuses exposed to about 70 hours of classical music during the last few weeks of pregnancy have more advanced motor skills and better linguistic and intellectual development, as compared to babies who were not exposed to any musical stimulus.
Babies are born with 100 billion loosely-connected nerve cells in their brains, and researchers believe that music has the ability to facilitate better intercellular connections in the brain. This often leads to the development of better memory retention and language skills.
This phenomenon is more commonly referred to as “the Mozart Effect”. The Mozart Effect, a term first coined by French researcher Dr Alfred A. Tomatis, is the idea that listening to classical music can increase spatial-temporal reasoning abilities and IQ.
Unfortunately, this theory is quite controversial due to limited evidence and conflicting results. Another study conducted by researchers at the Appalachian State University was unable to duplicate the results of the original study from which these claims were founded. Specifically, the babies exposed to classical music did not show any significant improvement on test performance when compared to their non-musical peers.
They found that, at most, this effect lasted only 15 minutes. They published their findings in the July 1999 issue of Psychological Science, but, by that time, the media and politicians had already hyped up the original study to the point of near distortion.
Many news stations claimed that listening to classical music could alleviate physical and mental health problems while others latched onto the idea that classical music could make babies smarter.
The lead researcher of the original U.C. Irvine study became so alarmed by this hype that he explicitly stated in a Forbes article: the idea of classical music curing health problems and making babies smarter simply had no basis in reality. However, he does believe that listening to a Mozart sonata can help you tackle mathematical problems.
How Music Helps Us
Of course, not all the discourse surrounding this theory is entirely false. Music has been proven to prime our brains for certain kinds of thinking.
Our spatial intelligence specifically benefits from listening to classical music. Many studies have shown that adults are able to perform certain spatial tasks – such as putting together a jigsaw puzzle – far more quickly after listening to this genre. This is because the pathways used for spatial reasoning are similar to the pathways we use to interpret classical music. As such, when you listen to classical music, your spatial pathways will also activate and make it easier for you to, say, complete a puzzle quickly.
Unfortunately, this effect only lasts a short time. These improved skills will eventually fade after an hour or so, once you stop listening to classical music.
How Music Can Help Your Baby
While companies like Baby Genius continue to push their classical music CDs towards parents who believe in the Mozart Effect, it is important to remember: music alone cannot help your child grow. It can soothe and calm them before it is time to sleep, of course, but you should not leave your baby to listen to music and call it a day.
Psychologist Christopher Chabris found that doing so can actually be a detriment to your baby’s overall development. Playing classical music is not a substitute nor a shortcut for being a loving, attentive parent.
The best way to ensure your child becomes intelligent is to play and talk with them, in addition to encouraging their exposure to soft music. It is multiple types of interactions, rather than a singular option, that can help your baby learn better.
When your child becomes a little older, psychologist Frances Rauscher suggests teaching your child how to play an instrument rather than passively listening to music.
A 1997 UCLA study that found that, among 25,000 students, those who had musical instruction had higher test scores on the SATs and on reading proficiency exams, as compared to those with no instruction in music.
What Are Lullabies?
A lullaby, also known as a cradle song, is a simplistic, soothing song played for (or sung to) children to help them sleep at night. In some societies, lullabies are used to pass down certain cultural ideals or traditions, while others may even act as proverbial warnings against danger.
Singing your child a lullaby can also help them develop better communication skills, emotional intelligence, longer attention spans, and can even encourage them to calm down and behave.
The repetitive, slow rhythms and tempos that most lullabies follow can mimic your baby’s own heartbeat, which can be a source of great comfort in an otherwise overwhelming world. Lullabies are also much easier on their little ears than other types of noises, helping their heartbeats to slow and their breathing to become calmer and deeper.
Music vs. White Noise for Baby Sleep
Benefits of White Noise
White noise is basically any soothing noise that blocks out other background sounds which occur naturally in your baby’s environment, such as noisy traffic or loud older siblings. Some parents may grow tired of playing the same songs over and over again, and can instead opt to play white noise to help their baby fall asleep.
Some white noise machines are specifically designed for infants. These can be equipped with both instrumental lullabies and a heartbeat setting to mimic the mother’s own heartbeat. The latter has been proven to be especially comforting to newborns
A 1990 study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood Trusted Source found that white noise was just as effective in making babies fall asleep as music. Out of the 40 newborns studied, about 80 percent fell asleep just five minutes after being exposed to white noise.
Downfalls of White Noise
Unfortunately, not all babies will enjoy white noise machines, and using one the wrong way can even pose certain risks to your baby’s health.
Back in 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (or AAP for short) tested 14 different white noise machines designed for babies. Shockingly, all the machines exceeded the recommended noise limit for infants! Not only can this lead to increased hearing problems, but issues with later language and speech development as well.
The AAP advises parents to keep any white noise machines you have at least seven feet away from your baby’s crib at all times. You should also keep the volume of this machine below the maximum setting to avoid any possible hearing loss issues.
Overly cautious parents may want to skip out on using a white noise machine altogether and just stick to playing music for their babies. Other than the fact that some babies may fall asleep faster with these machines, white noise does not provide any benefits whatsoever.
It is worth noting that every baby is different when it comes to what helps them sleep at night. Some babies will thrive with white noise machines (when used safely, of course), while others will prefer the more varied tones of baby sleep music.
Where to Find Baby Sleep Music
Spotify is easily one of the best places to find the right music for any mood. There are dozens and dozens of playlists centered around aiding baby sleep. Here is just one of the great baby sleep music playlists available on Spotify.
You can also find several playlists of baby sleep music on YouTube as well.
If you have an account on either of these websites, you can create your own customized baby sleep music playlists for your child. Introduce your baby to your favorite soft songs or fill it with lullabies your own parents sang to you when you were small.
Playing baby sleep music is a great way to set up a comforting routine for you and your child to sleep better and longer at night.
While it may not be the miraculous key to raising IQ levels that you hoped it was, listening to music can still provide your baby with many great benefits in the long run.