Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bedtime Music: Help or Hindrance?

As I was putting my little angel down to sleep last night, I thought about how strict we have been in keeping all music stimuli absent from the bedtime routine after lights are out. Some people might think that is strange coming from a music therapist!  But I think we have some sound reasoning to support this practice.  

I would like to know what you think and your different experiences.  

Music is not totally restricted from the bedtime routine, but we feel it does have its appropriate place.  We will usually sing one or two songs after brushing teeth, stories and prayer, but we limit the number of songs.  You can support me on this one - if you give a toddler an inch, they will take a mile!  We could be singing all night!

Our little one in particular is very attuned to music.  Most nights, she will sing herself to sleep, and that is perfectly okay.  But if we add any more music stimuli into the situation, she would never be able to stop!  When she chooses to sing to herself, then it is her own way to self-soothe and fall asleep.  

So, in my mind it, basically comes down to two issues:  

1. Don't introduce external sleep "crutches" into a baby's or toddler's routine (unless you have extenuating circumstances, i. e., your own sanity!)  
2. Don't stimulate a child with music when they are supposed to be falling asleep.

You might be thinking, "But Daniel, music can help people to relax!"  And you would be correct!  But, in my opinion, the relaxation needs to take place well before the child is in bed.  For example, find a time during reading stories or right before the bedtime routines start to listen to some soothing music and sing some songs.  This can be great bonding time with your little one and is an appropriate time to use music as a cue to relax as well as helping regulate and slow physiological parameters.

I think many people will have issues with my advice, but as with anything, every situation is different.  Children vary greatly and there might be children out there that can benefit from soft music playing as they go to sleep.  

Music might be used effectively as a masking agent.  Maybe there are loud noises outside or in the home that  need to be covered?  We also know that with some disabilities, such as ADD, music might help to focus the attention on a soothing stimulus or engage part of the mind in a way that lessens the pressure or anxiety caused by other variations and un-regulated environmental stimuli.

There is probably much more that can be said about this topic.  What do you think?  If you do/did use music to help a baby or toddler go to sleep, do you shut it off later or have it on a timer?  What kind of music has proven to be the best?

There is a lot of music out there that purports to be good for helping babies sleep.  But is this music best used in the birth to 3 month-old time when babies are often fussy and suffering colic?  Is it a good idea to then fade the music and help them develop their own self-soothing techniques?  

So many questions!  I hope you will join the discussion and share your thoughts on this issue.       


  1. I absolutely agree! In addition to the points you shared, think of what it would be like if your child goes to college and is unable to sleep without recorded music. His or her roommate may not appreciate that habit!

  2. It sure would be interesting to find out how many times that happens! Your point also makes me think about all the people that go to sleep with the TV on in their room. Is this just a holdover from going to sleep with music on as a kid? Thanks for sharing!


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