Try an Adagio Rather Than a Sonata™

Youth may not be the only thing that's wasted on the young. Many recent studies have shown that as people age, they have increased difficulty getting a good night's sleep. A new study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing indicates that listening to soft music may help people with sleep disorders to fall asleep faster.

The study involved two groups of participants, between the ages of 60 and 83, who suffered from sleep disorders that manifested as depression, cognitive impairment, or medical/environmental problems that interfered with sleep. People who meditated or who used sleep medications or caffeine were excluded.

The study's lead author, Hui-Ling Lai of the Buddhist Tzu-Chi General Hospital and Tzu-Chi University in Taiwan, said, "The difference [between people who listened to 45 minutes of restful music and those who didn't] was significant." The group that listened to music showed up to 35% "improvement" over the people who did not listen to music before slumber. By improvement, the study meant physical changes, including lower heart and respiratory rates, that led to more restful sleep. Achieving these results without drugs may be especially beneficial, Hui-ling Lai said, for older patients, who may already be taking significant amounts of medication.

The study's music listeners were given six cassettes to choose from, one of Chinese folk music and five chosen from music proven effective at reducing postoperative pain in research by co-author Professor Marion Good (Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland). All of the choices were relatively slow-paced (60–80bpm).

"Music is pleasant and safe and the technique we used in our study is quick and easy to learn and it does not cause side effects," said Lai.

No news yet on whether tubes or solid-state designs were faster-acting.