Tired parents will try pretty much anything to get their babies to sleep. Personally, I've tried everything from sound machines and black out curtains, to swaddling and sleep sacks, often falling back on the time-honored tradition of singing lullabies (and Bob Marley songs) to my babies to help them fall asleep. But what are the best songs to get your baby to sleep? Does the type of song, lyrics, or melody really make a difference, or will heavy metal work as well as some smooth jazz? Luckily for sleep-deprived parents, like yours truly, researchers have studied the impact of music on babies and sleep. Unfortunately, they don't seem to agree on the best type of music to send your baby to dreamland. Nothing, and I mean nothing, in parenting is easy, my friends.
According to a study published in the journal Sleep, when babies and toddlers had a set bedtime routine — including a bath, a massage, and hearing their mom and/or dad sing a lullaby — they fell asleep faster, slept better, and enjoyed a longer stretch of uninterrupted sleep than children who didn't. Not surprisingly, the moms in the lullaby group were more satisfied than their counterparts, whose babies didn't get as much sleep. If I had to guess it's probably because sleep is life but, hey, I'm no scientist.
Another study published in the journal Psychology of Music found that singing lullabies to children in hospitals lowered their heart rates, reduced anxiety, and patients reported lower levels of pain than what they experienced when someone was reading them stories or not interacting with them at all. The lullabies sung to children in the study included "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", "Hush Little Baby", "Five Little Ducks", "See Saw Marjorie Daw", and "Hush a Bye Baby." I totally need to learn more lullabies, apparently.
To determine if the type of music matters, researchers at Beth Israel Medical Center examined the effects of three types of music: a lullaby sung by the baby's parents, an instrument that creates womb sounds, and a drum that simulates a heartbeat on neonates in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The center's study, published in Pediatrics, found that all of the types of music slowed the babies' heart rates, but that a parent singing was the most effective. Singing also increased the amount of time babies stayed quietly alert, and womb sounds were the best at enhancing sleep.
The British Academy of Sound Therapy claims that they have found a science-based secret to sleep problems. According to their website, two songs they've produced — "Weightless" (by Marconi Union) and "Zero Point Lite" (by Silence & Air) — were created according to specific parameters for length, types of sounds, musical key, and structure to help listeners fall asleep fast. Their research was conducted with adults, and they don't make claims regarding baby sleep, but it might be worth a listen, especially if it can help your baby fall asleep. I am definitely going to give them a try.
So, if you're a sleep deprived parent feeling as though you're at the end of your proverbial rope, trying giving the aforementioned songs a try. Hey, a nice little melody can't hurt, right?