THE BLOG
03/10/2012 11:07 am ET Updated May 09, 2012

Can't Sleep? Stressed? Try Music!

Have you ever felt anxious or stressed or couldn't sleep? Not just mere mortals have the problem; even celebrities can't sleep. Maybe it's time to turn on some relaxing music and feel your body switch to relaxed. Since some have estimated that between 70 and 90 percent of primary care visits are attributed in part to stress, and 60 million Americans have difficulty sleeping, it's pretty exciting that music can improve sleep, stress symptoms such as high blood pressure and pain and more.

A recent study from Japan found that listening to your favorite tunes or enjoying humor can lower your blood pressure about as much as cutting down on salt in your diet or losing 10 pounds of weight. Japanese researcher Eri Eguchi followed people ages 40 to 74 that participated in twice-monthly hourlong sessions designed to provide either a person's favorite type of music, humorous storytelling (They were also encouraged to listen to music often at home) or no therapy at all. By the end of three months, the individuals listening to music or humor lowered their average systolic blood pressure (the top number) by five to six points. Those people who didn't listen to music or increase their laughter didn't see any change in their blood pressure.

This study and other ones like it doesn't mean that you can listen to music and not take blood pressure medication if your blood pressure is high. But lowering your blood pressure even five to six points might lower the amount of medication you require, and small reductions in blood pressure of this amount can lower your risk of death from heart disease or stroke by 5 to 15 percent.

A previous study from the University of Maryland by Dr. Michael Miller, who is director of preventative cardiology there, found that listening to upbeat music improved the ability of blood vessels to expand 26 percent as blood passed through them. This is the opposite of hardening of the arteries, also called atherosclerosis. Animal studies have shown that music, in this case listening to Mozart, changes calcium and dopamine levels in the brain. Other studies in humans showed that relaxing music (Pachelbel's Canon in D major) lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

We know that stress releases the adrenal stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) and over time, those raging hormones raise blood pressure, increase asthma and eczema and lead to depression and muscle pain. They also increase symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes. What a wonderful thing that listening to music can reduce stress, blood pressure, hot flashes and more.

The link between music and sleep is why I created a Relax: Instrumental Music CD. Listen below to one of the tracks made into a 3-minute music video of relaxing water scenes.
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For more by Mache Seibel, M.D., click here.

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