Thursday, September 27, 2012

How Music Affects Us Even When We're Asleep or Not Conscious

This post will be a departure from the recent music and learning topic, mainly due to recent experiences... This past week, I worked with two hospice patients who were very declined, one of which was actively dying. When doing hospice music therapy (I also work with autistic, pediatric and geriatric clients) this scenario is common. Often families, or even staff, will say something like "they won't hear the music, they're asleep..." So because this is a common response, and possibly because we might experience a situation where we want to use music ourselves, e.g., when we're having surgery or when we want to use music to relax, I want to address this topic. As I always say "a beautiful thing about music is, if you benefit from it, it is something you can use 24/7 with no side effects."

To start out with look to my site and go to the bottom left of the home pg. In the Resource Center scroll down to the MT Research Sheet (you can print this off if you like). Here, numbers 1-6, 9  are areas of research that either directly or in-directly deal with relaxation and decreasing stress. Take note that the bottom paragraph mentions "preferred music." That is the key to music benefiting any of us. This means that when we want to purposefully use music - we should chose it. If we don't choose it, new music that we're experiencing has to “strike us” favorably. All of us have different positive associations to (different) music. I mention this because if we're going to benefit from music when we are asleep or not responsive preferred music is a must.

Much music therapy (MT) research is done where individuals choose their music then either during or after the listening (or playing) experience data is collected. For years research has been done studying individuals when they are sleeping, and (I think) more significantly, when they are having surgery. Again, in the Resource Center scroll down to the MT Research Sheet. Look at # 9 which says “Music has been clinically proven to: AID IN SURGERY SETTINGS BY: DECREASING THE AMOUNT OF ANESTHESIA NEEDED; DECREASING BLEEDING AND SPEEDING UP RECOVERY TIME.” The implication (and fact) here is the music can induce a relaxation response. When we are more relaxed our body does not expel the (toxic) anesthesia as quickly therefore rendering what is given more effective resulting in needing less – which speeds up recovery time. The decreased bleeding happens because our heart is literally beating slower when we are more relaxed. You get the picture. There is a lot of research on this subject - such as... and

Also, for years, researchers have concluded that 90% of our cognitive (brain) functioning is for sub-conscious activity such as breathing, heart beat, etc... So can we hear when we're asleep, under anesthesia or non-responsive? Maybe not consciously but very much so sub-consciously! Again, there is a lot of research about this such as: and

I see this all the time in my hospice MT work. Patients and family members become more relaxed and less stressed with (their favorite) music. That is why I never hesitate to provide preferred music to someone who is non-responsive. It most definitely (positively) affects their blood pressure, heart rate, brain wave activity, etc. i.e., induces a relaxation response as evidenced by the research cited. Also again, go to the resource center on my site and look for the MT Stress Management monograph to find information about entrainment. This indicates more specific considerations regarding the purposeful use of music for relaxation.

To summarize... because PREFERRD MUSIC has been clinically proven to induce a relaxation response... and because our sub-conscious perceives music (even when we're asleep or not conscious) thus affecting our physiology and emotions positively... we should not hesitate to use music for ourselves or loved ones, at least for relaxation and sleep, but more specifically for surgery and dental procedures and for when a loved one might be more critically ill and non-responsive.

And I am very excited to be putting the finishing touches on my second music album for my site. It's called “Lyrical Imagery.” A free download of a song from the album, “The Ocean,” and an explanation and rationale of this project it there for your review. It is specifically for relaxation and stress management.

My prescription this week??? Grab the free download and use it to relax with. But listen to it with NO DISTRACTIONS!!! Enjoy...

AND!!!! Please share with others, like us on Facebook  and follow us on Twitter ... Thanks, David P.