Does Music Help Children Sleep Better During Naptime?

Desperate parents who have tried to lull little Sammy or Suzy to sleep during nap time may have driven for miles, taken a walk in the stroller, rocked the toddler and read stories to no avail. However, the trick to better naps may be as close as your cell phone or MP3 player.

Reasons Music Helps

Child experts agree that music can help babies and young children sleep. Dr. Trevor Holly Cates of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians says that music can help a child relax and prepare for sleep. Renowned pediatrician Dr. Sears says that music can help children stay asleep longer. Lullabies have helped soothe children back to sleep for centuries.


Children sleep better when they are familiar with the music. Dr. Sears says that sounds of waterfalls, oceans or medleys of lullabies can help remind babies of the sounds children heard while in the womb. Lisa Huisman Koops, an associate professor of music education at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, says that infants recognize music that they heard while in utero. She also says that it is important for children to grow up in a home where the family enjoys music and associates different kinds of music for different aspects of the day, such as lively music during the day and relaxing music during sleep times.


Listening to music can help a child more when it is built into his routine. Maureen Healy, an author and specialist in how to help highly sensitive children, in an article for Psychology Today, says that having a routine helps your child get into a relaxed state of mind 2. The Mayo Clinic recommends playing the same music when you want your child to sleep. This technique can help train your child to sleep when he hears this music. Add music to other parts of a child's routine, such as reading a book or taking a bath.

Types of Music

Different kinds of music may have different effects on children's sleep patterns. Dr. Sears recommends using white noise, such as a tape recording of a ticking clock, running water, a fan or air conditioner to calm your child during his naps. Pinky McKay, an author and international board certified lactation consultant says that white noise or music that incorporates the rhythm of the maternal heartbeat can have soothing effects on the child. Healy recommends playing calming music, like Tibetan Singing Bowl, which she says have been proven to calm a child's central nervous system.


Music may not help all children sleep. Different children may react differently to music when it is used as part of their nap time routine. Koops warns that music may become a "sleep crutch" for some children and that it may be disruptive when it goes off. Dr. Sears recommends using a continuous-play tape to deal with this problem.