Researchers found that listening to the song was as good as midazolam in relieving anxiety before regional anaesthesia.
It may come as little surprise that music affects us in ways that are hard to fathom. Anyone who has read British neurologist Oliver Sacks’ book, Musicophilia, will be familiar with the magic that happens in the relationship between music and our brains.
One fascinating place this plays out is with music medicine, a harmfree and inexpensive way to, among other things, significantly decrease preoperative anxiety. A new study just published in the BMJ investigated the use of music for soothing stress in patients before undergoing a preoperative peripheral nerve block. Usually the sedative midazolam is used to reduce anxiety before the procedurę.There were two groups in the study; participants in one group were given an injection of midazolam, the other were given a song to listen to. Using a validated measure of anxiety to score the patient’s anxiety level, they found that changes in the levels of preoperative anxiety were similar in both groups.
Which is all pretty fascinating on its own, but it was the song the patients were given to listen to that caught my eye. Or ear, as the case may be.
You may already know it, but if not, it sure could come in handy in a stressful situation. It’s a dreamy ambient thing called “Weightless,” created by the British band Marconi Union, in collaboration with sound therapists to produce a track intended to lower anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate.
And sooth it does. TIME Magazine called it the most relaxing song in the world. And in fact, a study conducted by Mindlab International found that listeners to Weightless had a 65 percent reduction in overall anxiety and a 35 percent reduction in their vital signs at rest..
Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, says that the song in comprised of a “sustaining rhythm that starts at 60 beats per minute and gradually slows to around 50.” She explains that our heartbeats will naturally slow down to match the song’s beats per minute. And at just over eight minutes long, she says the song’s length was intentional. “It takes about five minutes for this process, known as entrainment, to occur. And there is no repeating melody, which allows your brain to completely switch off because you are no longer trying to predict what is coming next.”
So just how relaxing is it? Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson from Mindlab said that many participants in the song study became notably drowsy, “I would advise against driving while listening to the song because it could be dangerous.”
You can listen to it here, just not while driving. Sweet dreams!