Lullabies have been used across cultures for centuries to sooth babies and help them fall asleep. If you experience trouble sleeping, it could be something for you to explore - there’s no reason they can’t work for adults as well as children.
While there may be various reasons as to why lullabies work biologically, there are other behaviours we do along with a lullaby at bedtime. These can also help to explain why lullabies are an effective aid in getting us, children in particular, to sleep. AXA PPP healthcare physiologist George Hucker explains how various factors around lullabies help with falling asleep.
One of the most important factors related to better sleep is establishing a routine. Doing the same thing each night helps signal to the body and brain that shortly it should be expecting sleep. Singing a lullaby before bed each night can therefore become part of that routine, helping the body prepare for sleep.
Like athletes who might listen to certain music to pump them up before competitions, a lullaby can be a soothing and relaxing part of preparation for sleep. By listening to a lullaby that we connect the emotions of calm and relaxation with, we are helping to create a positive sleep environment.
Finally, another reason as to why lullabies work might be biological and to do with our hormones. Much like when we have a hug with someone close to us, hormones can be released that make us feel good. Having someone sing a lullaby or listening to a lullaby can also release hormones that make us feel good. Much like the connected emotion elements of a lullaby, the release of feel good hormones is positive for sleep.
Lullabies can be beneficial due to often being part of a wider ‘bedtime routine’ as well as through the positive environment and calmed sense of being they create. But how easy is it to create one that has the desired effects of being soothing enough to help us get to sleep?
By examining the components of popular lullabies, could we create the ultimate song or piece of music that will help us to feel calm and drift into restful sleep? We’ve produced two lullabies for anyone to enjoy; one being composed and played by humans and the other created by an Artificial Intelligence machine to see if a machine can create a lullaby better than people themselves. Which one works best for you?
Sit back, relax and hopefully we can help you to sleep.
Here are audio only versions of the same tracks if you prefer without the visuals: