Music is often referred to as the only true "universal language"; a statement backed by both historical accounts and modern social observations. In a practical sense, music notation is an internationally understood symbolic code, which can communicate the same message to any reader on the planet without linguistic interpretation. On a broader level, music seems to possess an indiscriminate ability to evoke emotion, bridge cultural divides, and unite people of diversely different social, political and religious affiliations through a common sense of wonder and appreciation. Interestingly, though, the impact that music has on our lives might well extend beyond the realm of intellect and emotion; with many believing that music has the potential to affect our very physiology. Classical music, in particular, has gained increased recognition over the past couple of decades with studies now linking it to a number of health benefits including stress reduction, increased memory function and even treatment for chronic sleep disorders.
What Exactly Is "Music"?
In order to discover how music can potentially affect elements of our physiology, it's important to have a proper understanding of how our body receives and synthesizes different sounds. On an elemental level, sound is simply the structured vibration of particles through a medium such as air. Humans can discern and interpret these vibrations thanks to the complex physiological mechanisms that exist between our outer ear and brain. Our ability to absorb and make sense of different sounds is a highly involved process, yet despite our personal preferences and idiosyncrasies, the way in which most people's brains react to music is incredibly similar.
Daniel Abrams, a researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine, conducted a study in which participants who had no formal musical training were exposed to four pieces of music while undergoing a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imagining (fMRI) brain scan. He found that each piece of music activated almost identical regions in the participant's brains and concluded that structured music is more meaningful to the human brain than randomized sounds and background noises.
So how does this natural phenomenon influence elements of our well-being?
The Mozart Effect: Classical Learning
“The Mozart Effect“ is a theory first popularized by Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis in 1991, which links classical music to brain stimulus and improved neurological function. In 2004, The New Scientist backed up Dr Tomatis' work when it discovered evidence on a molecular basis that listening to Mozart can stimulate memory and learning. University research conducted in France found that students who listened to a one-hour lecture with classical music playing in the background scored substantially higher in their quiz than a similar group of students who attended the same lecture with no background music. The researchers speculated that classical music was able to place all of the students in a state of heightened emotion, thus making them more receptive to the data provided within the lecture.
Similarly, the University of Southern California also examined research on the relationship between classical music and enhanced learning productivity and found that having classical music playing in the background while studying allowed students to absorb information more efficiently.
The Stress Less Solution
Classical music has also been shown to reduce stress levels in some circumstances. A study conducted at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan discovered that pregnant women who listened to classical music showed signs of reduced stress and depression throughout their pregnancies. During the study, 236 women were split into two groups and one group was provided with CD's containing classical music and other calming sounds. The researchers measured stress levels on the Perceived Stress Scale and depression levels on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale in order to ascertain the different outcomes between the two groups. Professor Chung-Hey Chen, who led the study concluded that the group of women who regularly listened to suitable music throughout their pregnancy showed significant reductions in stress, anxiety and depression indicators after just two weeks of engaging in this self-administered music therapy.
A Cheap & Healthy Alternative To Sleeping Pills
Insomnia and other sleep disorders can be a severe drain on quality of life for many people. Interestingly, recent studies have found that some forms of classical music prove to be incredibly effective in alleviating the effects of these ailments.
A research team led by Chun-Fang Wang of Pingjin Hospital in Tianjin found that music could be used to improve sleep quality in various population demographics across many different age brackets and cultural backgrounds. The researchers identified ten scholarly articles detailing research into the relationship between music and sleep from countries all over the world and found that despite the variety of differences between the participants in each study, the results were incredibly similar. Most of the studies had used traditional classical music from different regions around the world and concluded that music therapy considerably improved the quality of sleep for people with both acute and chronic sleep disorders.
Hot Tip: If you'd like to experience on the effects that classical music have your own mental and physical state, here is a list that we've compiled of the five most calming and tranquil classical compositions based on their tempo and instrumentation.
- Johann Pachelbel - Canon In D
- Erik Satie - Trois Gymnopédies
- Johann Strauss II - The Blue Danube
- Frédéric Chopin - Raindrops
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Trio in G Major
Yoga For Sleep
If you’re needing some guiding inspiration to help you get to sleep, then try this beautiful evening yoga routine that will naturally have you feeling calm and peaceful before slipping into a restorative sleep. Follow along to the evening yoga routine here!