CONTEXT: Music therapy is known to have healing and relaxing effects. Although these effects appear to be mediated by release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones, the specific neurohormonal systems involved have not been fully investigated. OBJECTIVE: To assess the effects of a music therapy intervention on concentrations of melatonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin, and prolactin in the blood of a group of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. DESIGN: Blood samples were obtained before initiating the therapy, immediately at the end of 4 weeks of music therapy sessions, and at 6 weeks follow-up after cessation of the sessions. SETTING: Miami Veterans Administration Medical Center, Miami, Fla. PATIENTS: 20 male inpatients with Alzheimer’s disease. INTERVENTION: 30- to 40-minute morning sessions of music therapy 5 times per week for 4 weeks. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Changes in melatonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin, and prolactin following music therapy. RESULTS: Melatonin concentration in serum increased significantly after music therapy and was found to increase further at 6 weeks follow-up. A significant increase was found between baseline values and data recorded after the music therapy sessions as well as at 6 weeks follow-up. [emphasis added] Norepinephrine and epinephrine levels increased significantly after 4 weeks of music therapy, but returned to pretherapy levels at 6 weeks follow-up. Serum concentration of prolactin and platelet serotonin levels remained unchanged after 4 weeks of music therapy and at 6 weeks follow-up. CONCLUSION: Increased levels of melatonin following music therapy may have contributed to patients’ relaxed and calm mood [emphasis added].
Although this focused on music therapy and Alzheimers’ patients, in fact, we have seen in studies I posted earlier that listening to classical music improves sleep and relaxation. The real benefit of this study is in suggesting that melatonin may be involved in the relaxation process, and that the benefits continue long after the music therapy is discontinued. In other words, the right music will have benefits, weeks after you stop listening. So if your New Year’s resolution is to get more and better sleep, listening to classical music may help!