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Do children who sleep with soft music on all night or the light on have disturbed sleep patterns?

by Brad
(Tucson,AZ, USA)

My wife and I were discussing our 4 year old daughter's sleeping patterns. It seems she wakes up several times during the night, only to let us know that the "music has turned off". A friend mentioned that it might be the music that is keeping her from entering deep sleep. I tried to search "reputable" sites on the web but could not find any research that suggested music played all night long affects REM sleep.

On another note, her normal room light is left on all night. I have heard that this can cause problems too. Many sites suggested that there is more brain activity due to the bright light which may affect deep sleep.

Please let me know if there is any research that supports the idea of deep sleep being affected with having music playing all night long or the lights left on all night long.

Kevin: Hey Brad, thanks for writing in. I'm not aware myself of anything in the literature dealing with music causing problems, although I haven't ever sought it out. Intuition tells me that it wouldn't cause any problems inherently--there are many people who use background music to help them get to sleep. However, something that's important to remember is that sleep is a learned behavior. Powerful habits form from our sleep routine, sometimes in the shape of dependencies. If your daughter is very used to music being
on while she's asleep, perhaps if her mind subconsciously notices that it is off when she is transitioning into a period of light sleep that is enough to wake her briefly. An interesting thing to note may be whether she wakes up as many times when the music plays throughout the night. What do you think?

Light on the other hand is a different story, and is known to have an affect on the biological clock if bright enough. Even through the eyelids the brain essentially takes signals of how light or dark it is outside to help determine when it should release sleep-inducing hormones. Sleeping with a bright enough light on could have an effect on this timing mechanism for your daughter.

It is in this vein that bright light is sometimes used as treatment for circadian rhythm shifts. For instance, Jamie Zeitzer, our new assistant professor at Stanford Sleep and Dreams, is currently in the preliminary stages of an experiment hoping to help high school students with early start times more sleep. The idea is to use bright light just before the student wakes up to get the brain in wake-up mode while shifting the biological clock backwards so the student is more easily able to fall asleep at 10 or 11 pm, rather than, say, midnight or 1.

Anyone have any other insights or specific research they could point Brad to?


Comments for Do children who sleep with soft music on all night or the light on have disturbed sleep patterns?

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Nov 24, 2012
Soft music all night long NEW
by: Anonymous

I am concerned about my grandson who, though sleeps all night without making a sound until he wakes up at 8.30 every day, he has a very soft baby music on all night. My.
concern is that the brain might no rest fully or cartain developments may not happening as it should. Would this affect him later on in life? He is only 20 months old.

Sep 30, 2018
Bring up your child naturally NEW
by: Anonymous

I believe children should sleep naturally. They should enjoy the silence of the night. Not to have a music played all night long.

Sep 30, 2018
Bring up your child naturally NEW
by: Anonymous

I believe children should sleep naturally. They should enjoy the silence of the night. Not to have a music played all night long.

Nov 20, 2018
Music is beneficial NEW
by: Anonymous

There is a great, easy read article using research to show that light music while a young child sleeps is actually beneficial. Good news for concerned parents :)
See here.

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