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Why students shouldn't listen to any music before bed

Why students shouldn’t listen to any music before bed

3 min read
  • Sleep

In the quest to enhance students’ learning experience, sleep has the potential to make a big difference. Many educators are aware of the main guidelines when it comes to students getting quality sleep: avoid screens and caffeine before bed, develop a consistent sleep routine, don’t nap too much during the day…

However, one lesser-known factor of good sleep is the impact of music. While it might seem harmless or even beneficial for students to listen to music before bed, recent research actually suggests otherwise.

Read on to learn about:

  • Why sleep is important for learning
  • What the research says about the cognitive impact of listening to music before bed
  • How to help your students get better sleep

Why is sleep important for learning?

Sleep is not merely a passive state of rest – it’s a dynamic process that plays a vital role in consolidating memory and enhancing learning. During sleep, our brains replay the day’s experiences, strengthening neural connections that form the basis of memory. Depriving students of quality sleep can therefore hinder their ability to retain information and grasp new concepts.

Adequate sleep significantly boosts students’ academic performance. Research indicates that well-rested students outperform their more tired peers by half a grade. By getting enough sleep, students can make the most of their school day, be more alert, absorb more information and subsequently enhance their academic success. You can learn more about the impact sleep has on learning in our blog, Why sleep quality, duration and consistency matter.

What does the research say about music and sleep?

When trying to get better sleep, many students often turn to music before bedtime, hoping to relax.

However, recent research suggests that this practice might not be as beneficial as once thought. A comprehensive study uncovered that listening to music frequently could lead to persistent night-time “earworms” – tunes that stick in your mind and refuse to leave, harming sleep quality. More interestingly, the study found that even instrumental music, often perceived as soothing, could increase these earworms and further disrupt sleep.

The study also shed light on what happens in our brains during these music-induced disruptions. It appears that the sleeping brain continues to process musical information, putting our minds at risk of “overworking”, leading to poorer sleep quality.

So, while music can have numerous benefits, its role as a sleep aid may not be one. The type of music students listen to and when, especially before bedtime, can significantly impact their sleep quality – and ultimately, their learning performance.

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How to help your students get better sleep

Teachers can play a pivotal role in guiding their students towards better sleep habits to improve their learning, by passing on findings like the ones above. Here are some strategies you can easily implement:

Educate students about the importance of sleep

Try incorporating lessons on the science of sleep and its impact on learning into your curriculum. You could use real-life examples and studies to make the topic engaging and relevant. Our complete guide to the link between sleep and learning can help provide some material for these.

Promote good sleep hygiene

Encourage your students to establish regular sleep schedules, maintain a conducive sleep environment and avoid stimulating activities like listening to music or using their mobile phone before bed.

Encourage mindful use of music

If students wish to use music as a relaxation tool, guide them towards mindful practices. Suggest listening to calm, non-lyrical music earlier in the evening rather than right before sleep to minimise the risk of earworms.

Final thoughts

It’s clear that sleep plays a crucial role in learning and cognitive performance. As a teacher, you can help equip your students with the best tools for learning, and sleep is undoubtedly a crucial aspect of this process – which music can impact negatively.

Educating your students about the science behind sleep, promoting good sleep habits and being mindful of how we use music can help enhance your students’ learning experience and overall well-being. By doing so, you can equip your students with a vital tool for academic success: a good night’s sleep.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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