What’s the best bedtime music for better baby sleep in 2024? Lullabies, classical music or white noise?

by | Nov 15, 2023 | Improving sleep, Newborn, Top tips

What is it about a lullaby that helps my baby to sleep?

Ever find yourself singing that lullaby to your baby with an amazing sense of peace and calm? Sensing the slow, repetitive nature of the song and how it can tie naturally in with gentle rocking and movement? It’s no wonder we question, can I use music for better baby sleep?

Song, the sense of presence and the gentle rocking or patting motion (and other repetitive movements) can certainly help calm and soothe fussy babies and help manage a – sometimes fraught – transition between day and night. Perfect for sleeping well.

For young babies, adding some soothing ‘music therapy’ into your bedtime routine is a win!

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Why do songs or lullabies help your baby get to sleep?

Well, there’s certainly a reason why nursery rhymes stick around! They’ve been tried and tested over many generations and have stood the test of time for a reason!

Typically they have quite rhythmic and predictable melodies that promote a sense of calm. Researchers at Harvard Music Lab found that lullabies helped calm and improve babies sleep. They found it can even lower heart rates and dilated pupils! Also, the music lab found this could even be in any unfamiliar language or melody!

Another study on music therapy with premature infants (in a NICU setting) showed playing music helped with their heart rate, respiratory rates and stress levels!

Calm and relaxed babies are well primed for good quality sleep.

Types of music for better baby sleep.

Many parents like to use the one or more of the following to create a nice peaceful and soothing sleep set up:

  1. Singing lullabies
  2. Lullabies playlists (streamed via apps like Spotify)
  3. Classical music
  4. Heart beat/womb noises
  5. White noise machines

Whether you choose to play lullabies or soft music on a device, are happy singing to your baby, or are using white noise – they can be all be integrated as an important part of baby’s bedtime routine and help them to fall asleep quicker. Let’s face it, any new parent will sing and take a quick win!

Remember, emotions transfer, so a calm, peaceful parent, singing soft and gentle lullabies to their baby will certainly help promote a sense of calm and relaxation for children. The very set up we need to relax into better sleep.

music for better baby sleep

Does Lullaby Music Help With Sleep?

Well, the music may not ‘send’ them to sleep, but certainly helps to create a nice environment in which they can switch off and they’ve essentially been prepped for baby sleep time!

The same music or background noise can also help to set the scene, soothe and provide an element of familiarity and therefore predictability.

As you probably know with your ‘adult’ bedtime routine, doing the same things every night help create a familiarity and knowing what comes next helps the body feel safe and secure.

Some Lullaby Music Examples for Baby Sleep

Wondering where to start with songs? Try these suggestions, lyrics included parents! 🙂

Twinkle, twinkle little star

“Twinkle twinkle little star.
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high.
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle twinkle little star.
How I wonder what you are.Twinkle twinkle little star.
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high.
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle twinkle little star.
How I wonder what you are.”

Rock a Bye baby

“Rock a bye baby, on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.Rock a bye baby, gently you swing,
Over the cradle, Mother will sing,
Sweet is the lullaby over your nest
That tenderly sings my baby to rest.From the high rooftops, down to the sea
No one’s as dear as baby to me
Wee little hands, eyes shiny and bright
Now sound asleep until morning lightRock a bye baby, on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.”

Hush little baby

“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s gonna buy you a mocking bird.

And if that mockingbird don’t sing, Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.

And if that diamond ring turns brass, Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass.

And if that looking glass gets broke, Mama’s gonna buy you a billy goat,

And if that billy goat doesn’t pull, Mama’s gonna buy you a cart and bull.

And if that cart and bull turn over, Mama’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover.

And if that dog named Rover won’t bark, Mama’s gonna buy you a horse and cart.

And if that horse and cart fall down, well you’ll still be the sweetest baby in town.

They all have rhythmic melodies and are easy for you to sing the lyrics on loop!”

What Are The Benefits Of Playing Music or Lullabies To Children Before Sleep?

We’ve obviously discussed the benefits related to helping your little one get the best sleep, but there are many others too. Research shows lullabies help to stimulate language development and the one to one time. Children listen intently to your voice and it can help strengthen the bond between parent and child.

As your child gets a little bigger, songs can help develop muscle control and coordination as you do the actions to the words too.

The music can also act as a ‘sleepy cue’ for your baby, by listening, it’s a strong signal about what’s coming next – no curve balls!

What’s best, music, lullabies or white noise?

As a sleep specialist, I’m a huge fan of white noise. It has consistency – which is pretty much my favourite thing ever! It acts as a constant in the room and can also help drown out other noises such as those in the household (doors slamming, noisy siblings) and those in the environment too (cars outside, birds tweeting, thunder storms).

It helps set the scene where your baby falls asleep in the same environment as that they will wake up in at night as it is exactly the same sound all night long. So, my preference would be having white noise during the night and for a nap. Parents singing lullabies will only ever be present at bedtime, not all night long.

Lullabies are great for scene setting though, so you voice calming and soothing a fussy baby, listening as part of the bedtime routine and then switching over to your white noise machine when you’re popping them down to fall asleep. It’s always going to be a good thing for kids sleep.

Classical music and songs have also been shown to have an amazing impact on the body. So that rendition of Brahms lullaby before bedtime is also worth fitting in.

Essentially, it’s all worthwhile, so add a little song, lullaby or noise that feels like it’s a good fit for your family. If it leads to improved sleep then all the better!

music for better baby sleep

A Few Tips to Remember When Using Music to Help Baby Sleep

Let’s discuss volume and how to protect baby’s ears. Especially with white noise machines, typically the volume can be a little louder than we’d expect. However I’d recommend downloading a decibel meter on your phone and place it in the cot where your child would be sleeping.

Thinking about a ‘safe’ volume, the AAP suggest we wouldn’t want the sound to exceed 50dB and you should also place the machine about 7ft away from your baby (based on recommendations after a study, by the American Academy of Pediatrics). 50-60 dB is about the same level as an adult conversation – it will sound louder on a white noise machine!

Many of my families worry about their babies or kids becoming reliant on white noise or music to send them to sleep and worry about travelling etc. It’s so easy to get portable sound machines now.

However ‘weaning’ your baby off white noise is easy. When they fall asleep easier, their overall sleep is better and everyone feels more rested, you can start to change things up. Simply just reduce the volume of the white noise by a couple of decibels every night until it sits in the background and then is off.

However many older children and even adults have white noise too!

music for better baby sleep

Q&A

Q. What’s the safe limit for white noise or other music?

A. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not exceeding 50dB and having the white noise machine 7ft or 200cm away from your baby’s cot. We’d like baby to hear and listen to the sounds, but not risk any damage to those little ears!

Q. Does lullaby music help a little one sleep?

A. It certainly helps promote a sense of calm and relaxation in babies, which in turn is a key set up for better baby sleep and less fussiness during the bedtime routine.

Q. Should I play lullabies on an iPad or screen?

A. Ideally no. The white and blue light emitted from devices can disrupt the production of melatonin that helps us sleep. Whilst you can get great nursery rhymes and lullabies with animated video, it’s best to save them for daytime.

Get in touch!

Whilst you’re here, why don’t you check out my post on how much sleep little one’s need? Or, if you’re struggling with anything to do with baby sleep, please reach out.

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Hi, I’m Gemma, your sleep consultant

I am a certified baby and child sleep specialist who works with families all over the world.

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