Free music for migraines, sleep and stress

If you're lucky, when you have a migraine you can find a dark, quiet room to retreat into.

But even then it’s difficult to escape ‘feeling’ your pain when your eyes are shut and you experience skull crushing head pain. 

If you could take your mind away from the pain... somehow... would it help?

Researchers think so.

migrainemusic

In a study published in the journal of Pain called Emotional Valence Contributes To Music-Induced Analgesia, researchers found that "music induces emotions and modulates the experience of pain". [1]

They found that patients felt "less anxiety and anger after listening to pleasant music" and that listening to positive music induced corresponding emotional states in the participants. 

This isn't suggesting music is going to cure an acute migraine but this strategy is something that may be under utilised by many of us. Myself included.

Not all music is equal.

Both pleasant and unpleasant music was studied. 

Unpleasant music had no effect on pain. [1]

However, "pleasant music was found to reduce pain compared to both unpleasant music or silence". [1]

Come again?... Pleasant music was found to reduce pain. 

This study was a relatively small study with just 18 patients.

It is not what you call a robust clinical trial.

Music is actually the oldest known method for relieving pain. It's been used for thousands of years. [2] So it's strange to that there not widely known research about it. 

Several research studies have shown that music can reduce stress, depression and distress in those with acute and chronic pain. [2] 

For example a study by Gardner found that 90% of 5,000 patients undergoing dental surgery reported reduced pain whilst listening to music. [2]

A meta review of 51 music therapy studies for pain relief found that in over 3,500 patients "70% had a greater probability of reporting at least a 50% decrease in pain with music analgesia and a reduction in opioid medications."  [2] Analgesia simply refers to pain relief.

In other words, 7 out of 10 patients at least half their pain from music therapy according to this meta review. [2] 

Another research review looked at results of music therapy studies from major surgeries, cancer, hip and knee replacements and found that music had positive effects in reducing patient anxiety and pain in around half of the cases. [3]

Clearly there is a strong scientific basis for music therapy in pain relief especially given it's low cost and risks.

How to get the best therapeutic result from your music 

There are a few recommendations by several studies [2,3] that suggest how to maximise your therapeutic benefit.

Guidelines:

  1. Listen to slow and flowing music (60 to 80 beats per minute)
  2. Non lyrical
  3. Not too loud (max volume of 60 dB)
  4. Listen for at least 30 minutes
  5. Listen to something you find pleasant, calm and relaxing

Follow these guidelines and you may find be surprised by the results as I was.

It is like discovering a whole new world again that you had long forgotten. 

You can listen to this to music whilst working, reading, meditating or when trying to fall asleep.

If you're not sure where to find appropriate music, take a look below from some of my personal suggestions to get started, which are freely available.

The evidence of music for sleep, stress & anxiety

Sleep

A meta review of 5 seperate sleep studies found that listening to music can improve sleep quality. Only one study examined further into time to fall asleep, sleep duration, number of wakes during the night. This study found no evidence that listening to music improved these outcomes. [4]

None of the studies found any negative side effects caused by listening to music. [4]

Stress & Anxiety

Individuals with coronary heart disease (CHD) often experience severe stress which puts them at risk of complications including sudden death from a cardiac event. Without any studies available for migraine patients, this group of people is an illustrative group to review the impact of music therapy for stress and anxiety. 

A meta review of 26 trials on 1369 participants who had coronary heart disease found that listening to music may have a beneficial on anxiety in those with CHD, especially those with myocardial infraction.  [5]

Results were greatest when people who given a choice of which music to listen to. [5] This underscores the point that it's important you personally find the music relaxing, calming and pleasant. 

Results also showed that music may have beneficial effects on systolic blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, quality of sleep and pain in those with CHD. [5]

The potential benefits of music therapy are clear.

If you rarely listen to music besides the top 30 radio station then lets we can start from the beginning. Unfortunately, Rihanna is not going to be very helpful for our purposes, even though you may love her music.

If you already have a distinguished music collection of classical and modern composers you are well on your way. 

Chances are, you're somewhere in between.

Below are some suggestions to help you explore and discover your own preferences, style and music that fit your own personal "pleasant" criteria. 

1. Reiki Zen Meditation Music

Video stats: 2.6m views, 9.3k likes

This music from Reiki is perhaps the most played in my Youtube playlist at the moment. It's uplifting and positive. At the same time I find it helps me get into my "zone" faster when I'm writing or researching... actually I'm listening to it right now as I finish this sentance. 

I should mention, music is a very personal thing. If you don't find this pleasant don't worry, there are a few different options. But you may want to skip the next option which is quite similar. 

2. Study Music Alpha Waves

Video stats: 38m views, 140k likes

This recording is subtly different to the Reiki Zen recording above. This music claims to focus on alpha waves. It is more gentle but shares a similar style to the Reiki Zen video.

You may notice that some of these videos make some pretty bold claims around healing, focus, memory or concentration etc. I personally don't pay too much attention to them. The claims are not regulated or monitored by any medical agency. 

I should mention that my recommendation of any music is purely for their creative audio qualities, not for any health claims or video qualities. I personally do not watch the video whilst playing the music on Youtube. I simply stream the music whilst working, reading, meditating etc.

3. Healing and Relaxing Music For Meditation

Video stats: 13m views, 41k likes.

This is a beautiful composition of a gentle guitar and piano. It is relaxing and soothing music by Pablo Arellano who is a Mexican composer, director and writer, who has worked in the movie industry for more than 15 years.

You can tell from the quality that it has the polish and patience of a seasoned professional. 

I wouldn't call myself a typical fan of the guitar... but this is an exception. Give this recording 2 minutes in a special place and you won't regret it. One of my favorites.

4. Relaxing Music with Water Sounds

Video stats: 52m views, likes not available. 

Running water music is popular.

It has grown on me too. There are different types, ocean waves, river, rain, waterfall, rainforest and more.

This is a very tranquil trickle of water dancing to the gentle tones of a piano playing in the background.

It is nice combination which allows you to enjoy the music whilst you work, rest, recover, study, meditate, pamper, spa, massage, yoga or sleep.

5. Full Body Chakra Healing

Video stats: 5.9m views, 26k likes.

This audio features relaxing ambient music layered with specific binaural frequencies and isochronic tones to heal and balance each of the main 7 chakras. 

A chakra is a Sanskrit word which translates literally into wheel or disk. In ancient Indian medicine chakras are believed to be energy centres in the body where energy flows through. If these energy centres are blocked it can lead to illness.

This video includes binaural beats which are believed to be able to alter our brainwaves to create a more relaxed, calm and focused state.

Binaural beats

These deserve a seperate article for themselves, but to explain simply a binaural beat is the sound our own brain creates when it receives two slightly different sound frequencies in each ear.

The difference may only be 10Hz between the sound frequencies, but as our brain listens to the frequency, it produces its own 10Hz brainwave to resonate in tune with the beat. The brain essentially creates this third binaural beat. 

10Hz also happens to be the Alpha brain wave frequency which is found in monks who meditate deeply and experience an altered state of consciousness.

Research has linked binaural beats to lower levels of anxiety, calm, relaxation [5] amongst other benefits. Although it has not been extensively studied.

When listening to binaural music earphones are required to produce the desired effect. It will not work effectively using a speaker. 

5. Lucid Dreaming Sleep Track 

Video stats: 7.2m, 36k likes.

This recording is great to work or meditate with for the first 2 hours of the track which focuses between the Alpha to Theta brainwave range which is thought to promote calmness and relaxation.

After the first 2 hours it then transitions more into the Theta brainwave range which is present in dreaming, sleep and deep meditation. 

I personally don't use this music to sleep. It has chimes at certain intervals which might put off some people if you're trying to fall asleep, but the music itself is relaxing and calming.

6. Free Classical Music Ad Free

Musopen is a fantastic initiative to provide free public access to some of the greatest classical composers and music ever made. .

It's a 501(c)3 non-profit.

Unlike all the Youtube videos, when you tune into their radio, you won't hear any ads inbetween tracks.

As you can see, it has many of the greats and even those you may not have heard of.

If you are a classical fan this website is a must visit. Click the image to visit their page. 

Can music really help migraine, sleep and relaxation?

Music has been used in pain relief for thousands of years, before there was scientific evidence or protocols to prove it. 

Just how potent music therapy is for each person is likely to vary. 

It is likely to even vary on how pleasant you find the music you listen to. 

Whilst it is not likely to make your attack disappear, it may help control feelings of anxiety, your mood and improve your ability to manage the pain.

Certainly there is evidence that suggests that music therapy is real and its benefits can be significant. [1,2,5]

If you're ever been inside a day spa that plays relaxation music, you would have experienced the benefit of music therapy. 5 minutes inside and you're likely already starting to feel more relaxed before the treatment has even begun with the ambient music playing gently in the background. 

The good news is that you can utilise this therapy for free and it starts working within a few minutes. 

Do you use music? I'd love to hear your favourite tracks or composers in the comments below.


Sources

[1] Roy, Mathieu, Isabelle Peretz, and Pierre Rainville. "Emotional valence contributes to music-induced analgesia." Pain 134.1 (2008): 140-147.

[2] Dobek, Christine E., et al. "Music modulation of pain perception and pain-related activity in the brain, brain stem, and spinal cord: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study." The Journal of Pain 15.10 (2014): 1057-1068.

[3]Nilsson, Ulrica. "The anxiety-and pain-reducing effects of music interventions: a systematic review." AORN journal 87.4 (2008): 780-807.

[4] Jespersen KV, Koenig J, Jennum P, Vuust P. Music for insomnia in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD010459. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010459.pub2

[5] Padmanabhan, R., A. J. Hildreth, and D. Laws. "A prospective, randomised, controlled study examining binaural beat audio and pre‐operative anxiety in patients undergoing general anaesthesia for day case surgery." Anaesthesia60.9 (2005): 874-877.

[6] Grocke, D., and Wigram, T. (2007). Receptive methods in music therapy: Techniques and clinical applications for music therapy clinicians, educators, and students. London, England: Jessica Kingsley, 2007.