The research, published in the February 2005 edition of The Journal of Advanced Nursing, found that older people with sleep problems reported a 35 percent improvement after they started listening to 45 minutes of soft music before bedtime. Researchers Hui-Ling Lai, director of the Community Health Center at the Buddhist Tzu-Chi General Hospital, an assistant professor at Tzu Chi University in Taiwan and Case alumna, and Marion Good, professor of nursing at Case, studied the sleeping patterns of 60 people aged 60-83, randomly designating them in equal numbers into a music group and a control group. They discovered that the 30 who had listened to carefully selected music experienced physical changes that aided restful sleep. These included lower heart and respiratory rates.
"The difference between the music group and the control group was clinically significant," said Lai, lead author of the study. "The music group reported a 26 percent overall improvement in the first week and this figure continued to rise as they mastered the technique of relaxing to the sedative music."
Participants in the study were older adults with sleep difficulties who lived in central Taiwan. Those with certain medical conditions were excluded, as were people taking sleep medication, drinking high levels of caffeine or using existing relaxation techniques such as meditation.
The music group was able to choose from six tapes that featured soft, slow music. These included one tape of Chinese folk music and five that had been found effective for reducing postoperative pain in research conducted by Good.