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Your Fave Catchy Songs Could Be the Reason for Poor Sleep

a young Asian woman lying in bed, eyes closed, listening to music on white headphones

Picture this: you climb into bed after a long day of working in your cramped at-home office hoping to unwind with some music. You hit shuffle on your Spotify and zone out to the tunes of your favourite artists. Just as you’re about to doze off, the last song you heard begins to play endlessly in your head, even after you’ve put away your phone. Now, you can’t sleep — or, if you can, you’re still not getting proper shut-eye. So, what gives?

According to new research published in Psychological Science, so-called “earworms” can sometimes interrupt our dreams and negatively impact our quality of sleep. Who knew?

You might also like: How to use lucid dreaming to heal.

The study revealed that people who experience earworms at least once a week are six times more likely to have poor sleep quality compared to those who rarely experience this quirky phenomenon. The in-depth survey involved both a standard study and an actual laboratory component, so the verdict sounds pretty legit.

The more you listen to music, the more likely you are to catch an earworm that won’t go away at bedtime.

See also: 11 sleep myths you probably think are true.

“Our brains continue to process music even when none is playing, including apparently while we are asleep,” Michael Scullin, lead author of the study, said. “But sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. The more you listen to music, the more likely you are to catch an earworm that won’t go away at bedtime. When that happens, chances are your sleep is going to suffer.”

In total, the survey brought in 209 participants who were asked to fill out a series of questionnaires that touched on topics such as music listening habits, overall sleep quality and earworm frequency. For the lab component, 50 participants underwent an attempt by the researchers to induce earworms to see how it affected their sleep patterns. (Think: Taylor Swift or Katy Perry.) A test recorded their brain waves, breathing and heart rates while they slept.

Related: This is how I fought insomnia and won.


In the end, it was discovered that individuals with high music listening habits before bed experienced “sleep earworms” and suffered a decline in sleep quality. Interestingly, the study also revealed that some instrumental music is more likely to carve a path into your brain and disrupt sleep more than songs with lyrics.

The solution? If you find you’re not feeling well-rested in the morning and you happen to listen to music before bed, consider reducing how often you indulge this habit each week or cut it out entirely. It will help you gauge whether or not the reason behind your poor sleep habits had more to do with Justin Bieber than anything else.

You might also like: Wellness educator Chivon John’s 5 tips for falling asleep in under an hour.

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