Thirty minutes of music therapy offered at bedtime appears to help older adults with insomnia get a good night’s sleep, a new study has found.

Up to 70% of older adults have sleep problems, and more than 40% have insomnia, waking up often during the night or too early in the morning, according to the investigators, from the National Cheng Kung University Hospital in Taiwan. Short nighttime sleep may also impact the health of seniors in dramatic ways. It has been linked to depression, memory problems, dementia, falls and accidents.

In a meta-analysis of five randomized controlled trials, the researchers found that adults aged 60 or more years sleep better when they listen to music for 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.

A subgroup of participants who listened to sedative music experienced significantly better sleep quality than those who did not listen to music, the authors reported. More sleep improvement also was seen among the calming-music group than among those who listened to rhythm‐centered music, and if bedtime listening was repeated for longer than four weeks. 

Calming music may slow heart rate and breathing as well as lower blood pressure, the authors theorized. This, in turn, may help reduce stress and anxiety, they concluded.

Full findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.