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Am Fam Physician. 2023;107(5):463-464

This clinical content conforms to AAFP criteria for CME.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial relationships.

Clinical Question

Does listening to music improve symptoms of insomnia or sleep problems in adults?

Evidence-Based Answer

For adults with sleep problems or insomnia, listening to music at bedtime may improve sleep quality, sleep-onset latency, sleep duration, and sleep efficiency; listening to music may improve anxiety and overall quality of life.1 (Strength of Recommendation: B, inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence.)

Practice Pointers

Although only approximately 10% of adults meet formal diagnostic criteria for insomnia, up to 37% of adults report that their sleep is too short, too light, or unsatisfactory; they have difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep; or they have nonrestorative sleep at least three nights per week.2 Many medications approved for the treatment of insomnia are poorly tolerated due to adverse effects.3

In an update of a previous Cochrane review, the authors sought to assess how listening to music affects sleep in adults with insomnia, specifically its effect on overall sleep quality, sleep-onset latency (i.e., the amount of time it takes to fall asleep), total sleep time, sleep interruptions (i.e., the amount of wake time after sleep onset), and sleep efficiency (i.e., the percentage of time spent asleep while in bed).1 The 13 trials (eight were new) included 1,007 participants 18 to 83 years of age. Four trials were from Taiwan, two from Iran, two from China, and one each from Singapore, Hungary, Denmark, Italy, and Austria. Two studies included participants with insomnia disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed., or the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, and the remaining studies recruited participants whose sleep problems were not as strictly defined.

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These are summaries of reviews from the Cochrane Library.

This series is coordinated by Corey D. Fogleman, MD, assistant medical editor.

A collection of Cochrane for Clinicians published in AFP is available at

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