Free music for migraine, sleep or stress is something researchers have found to help but few utilize.
If you’re lucky, when you have a migraine you can find a dark, quiet room to retreat into.
But even then it’s difficult to escape ‘feeling’ your pain when your eyes are shut and you experience skull crushing head pain.
If you could take your mind away from the pain… somehow… would it help?
Researchers think so.
In a study published in the journal of Pain called Emotional Valence Contributes To Music-Induced Analgesia, researchers found that “music induces emotions and modulates the experience of pain”. 
They found that patients felt “less anxiety and anger after listening to pleasant music” and that listening to positive music induced corresponding emotional states in the participants.
This isn’t suggesting music is going to cure an acute migraine attack but this strategy is something that may be underutilised by many of us.
- 1 Not all music is equal.
- 2 How to get the best therapeutic result from your music
- 3 The evidence of music for sleep, stress & anxiety
- 4 Reiki Zen Meditation Music
- 5 Study Music Alpha Waves
- 6 Healing and Relaxing Music For Meditation
- 7 Relaxing Music with Water Sounds
- 8 Full Body Chakra Healing
- 9 Binaural beats
- 10 Lucid Dreaming Sleep Track
- 11 Free Classical Music Ad Free
- 12 Can music really help migraine, sleep, and relaxation?
Not all music is equal.
Both pleasant and unpleasant music was studied.
Unpleasant music had no effect on pain. 
However, “pleasant music was found to reduce pain compared to both unpleasant music or silence”. 
That is worth repeating… Pleasant music was found to reduce pain.
This study was a relatively small study with just 18 patients.
It is not what you would consider a robust clinical trial.
Music is actually the oldest known method for relieving pain. It’s been used for thousands of years.  So it’s strange to that there not widely known research about it.
Several research studies have shown that music can reduce stress, depression, and distress in those with acute and chronic pain. 
For example, a study by Gardner found that 90% of 5,000 patients undergoing dental surgery reported reduced pain whilst listening to music. 
A meta-review of 51 music therapy studies for pain relief found that in over 3,500 patients “70% had a greater probability of reporting at least a 50% decrease in pain with music analgesia and a reduction in opioid medications.”  Analgesia simply refers to pain relief.
In other words, 7 out of 10 patients at least half their pain from music therapy according to this meta-review. 
Another research review looked at results of music therapy studies from major surgeries, cancer, hip and knee replacements and found that music had positive effects in reducing patient anxiety and pain in around half of the cases. 
There is a strong scientific basis for music therapy in pain relief especially given its low cost and risks.
How to get the best therapeutic result from your music
There are a few recommendations by several studies [2,3] that suggest how to maximize your therapeutic benefit.
- Listen to slow and flowing music (60 to 80 beats per minute)
- Not too loud (max volume of 60 dB)
- Listen for at least 30 minutes
- Listen to something you find pleasant, calm and relaxing
Follow these guidelines and you may find be surprised by the results as I was.
It is like discovering a whole new world again that you had long forgotten.
You can listen to this music whilst working, reading, meditating or when trying to fall asleep.
If you’re not sure where to find appropriate music, take a look below some suggestions to get started, which are freely available.
The evidence of music for sleep, stress & anxiety
A meta-review of 5 separate sleep studies found that listening to music can improve sleep quality. Only one study examined further into time to fall asleep, sleep duration, number of wakes during the night. This study found no evidence that listening to music improved these outcomes. 
None of the studies found any negative side effects caused by listening to music. 
Stress & Anxiety
Individuals with coronary heart disease (CHD) often experience severe stress which puts them at risk of complications including sudden death from a cardiac event. Without any studies available for migraine patients, this group of people is an illustrative group to review the impact of music therapy for stress and anxiety.
A meta-review of 26 trials on 1369 participants who had coronary heart disease found that listening to music may have a beneficial on anxiety in those with CHD, especially those with myocardial infarction. 
Results were greatest when people who given a choice of which music to listen to.  This underscores the point that it’s important you personally find the music relaxing, calming and pleasant.
Results also showed that music may have beneficial effects on systolic blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, quality of sleep and pain in those with CHD. 
The potential benefits of music therapy are clear.
If you rarely listen to music besides the top 30 radio station then lets we can start from the beginning. Unfortunately, Rihanna is not going to be very helpful for our purposes, even though you may love her music.
If you already have a distinguished music collection of classical and modern composers you are well on your way.
Chances are, you’re somewhere in between.
Below are some suggestions to help you explore and discover your own preferences, style, and music that fit your own personal “pleasant” criteria.
Reiki Zen Meditation Music
Video stats: 2.6m views, 9.3k likes
This music from Reiki is perhaps the most played in my Youtube playlist at the moment. It’s uplifting and positive. At the same time, I find it helps me get into my “zone” faster when I’m writing or researching… actually I’m listening to it right now as I finish this sentence.
I should mention, music is a very personal thing. If you don’t find this please don’t worry, there are a few different options. But you may want to skip the next option which is quite similar.
Study Music Alpha Waves
Video stats: 38m views, 140k likes
This recording is subtly different from the Reiki Zen recording above. This music claims to focus on alpha waves. It is more gentle but shares a similar style to the Reiki Zen video.
You may notice that some of these videos make some pretty bold claims around healing, focus, memory or concentration etc. I personally don’t pay too much attention to them. The claims are not regulated or monitored by any medical agency.
I should mention that my recommendation for any music is purely for their creative audio qualities, not for any health claims or video qualities. I personally do not watch the video whilst playing the music on Youtube. I simply stream the music whilst working, reading, meditating etc.
Healing and Relaxing Music For Meditation
Video stats: 13m views, 41k likes.
This is a beautiful composition of a gentle guitar and piano. It is relaxing and soothing music by Pablo Arellano who is a Mexican composer, director, and writer, who has worked in the movie industry for more than 15 years.
You can tell from the quality that it has the polish and patience of a seasoned professional.
I wouldn’t call myself a typical fan of the guitar… but this is an exception. Give this recording 2 minutes in a special place and you won’t regret it. One of my favorites.
Relaxing Music with Water Sounds
Video stats: 52m views, likes not available.
Running water music is popular.
It has grown on me too. There are different types, ocean waves, river, rain, waterfall, rainforest and more.
This is a very tranquil trickle of water dancing to the gentle tones of a piano playing in the background.
It is a nice combination which allows you to enjoy the music whilst you work, rest, recover, study, meditate, pamper, spa, massage, yoga or sleep.
Full Body Chakra Healing
Video stats: 5.9m views, 26k likes.
This audio features relaxing ambient music layered with specific binaural frequencies and isochronic tones to heal and balance each of the main 7 chakras.
A chakra is a Sanskrit word which translates literally into wheel or disk. In ancient Indian medicine chakras are believed to be energy centers in the body where energy flows through. If these energy centers are blocked it can lead to illness.
This video includes binaural beats which are believed to be able to alter our brainwaves to create a more relaxed, calm and focused state.
These deserve a separate article for themselves, but to explain simply a binaural beat is the sound our own brain creates when it receives two slightly different sound frequencies in each ear.
The difference may only be 10Hz between the sound frequencies, but as our brain listens to the frequency, it produces its own 10Hz brainwave to resonate in tune with the beat. The brain essentially creates this third binaural beat.
10Hz also happens to be the Alpha brainwave frequency which is found in monks who meditate deeply and experience an altered state of consciousness.
Research has linked binaural beats to lower levels of anxiety, calm, relaxation  amongst other benefits. Although it has not been extensively studied.
When listening to binaural music earphones are required to produce the desired effect. It will not work effectively using a speaker.
Lucid Dreaming Sleep Track
Video stats: 7.2m, 36k likes.
This recording is great to work or meditate with for the first 2 hours of the track which focuses between the Alpha to Theta brainwave range which is thought to promote calmness and relaxation.
After the first 2 hours it then transitions more into the Theta brainwave range which is present in dreaming, sleep and deep meditation.
I personally don’t use this music to sleep. It has chimes at certain intervals which might put off some people if you’re trying to fall asleep, but the music itself is relaxing and calming.
Free Classical Music Ad Free
Musopen is a fantastic initiative to provide free public access to some of the greatest classical composers and music ever made.
It’s a 501(c)3 non-profit.
Unlike all the Youtube videos, when you tune into their radio, you won’t hear any ads in between tracks.
As you can see, it has many of the greats and even those you may not have heard of.
If you are a classical fan this website is a must visit. Click the image to visit their page.
Can music really help migraine, sleep, and relaxation?
Music has been used in pain relief for thousands of years before there was scientific evidence or protocols to prove it.
Just how potent music therapy is for each person is likely to vary.
It is likely to even vary on how pleasant you find the music you listen to.
Whilst it is not likely to make your attack disappear, it may help control feelings of anxiety, your mood and improve your ability to manage the pain.
Certainly there is evidence that suggests that music therapy is real and its benefits can be significant. [1,2,5]
If you’ve ever been inside a day spa that plays relaxation music, you would have experienced the benefit of music therapy. 5 minutes inside and you’re likely already starting to feel more relaxed before the treatment has even begun with the ambient music playing gently in the background.
The good news is that you can utilize this therapy for free and it starts working within a few minutes.
Do you use music? I’d love to hear your favorite tracks or composers in the comments below.
Get a list of 11 natural and proven treatments from medically published studies sent to you.
 Roy, Mathieu, Isabelle Peretz, and Pierre Rainville. “Emotional valence contributes to music-induced analgesia.” Pain 134.1 (2008): 140-147.
 Dobek, Christine E., et al. “Music modulation of pain perception and pain-related activity in the brain, brain stem, and spinal cord: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study.” The Journal of Pain 15.10 (2014): 1057-1068.
Nilsson, Ulrica. “The anxiety-and pain-reducing effects of music interventions: a systematic review.” AORN journal 87.4 (2008): 780-807.
 Jespersen KV, Koenig J, Jennum P, Vuust P. Music for insomnia in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD010459. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010459.pub2
 Padmanabhan, R., A. J. Hildreth, and D. Laws. “A prospective, randomised, controlled study examining binaural beat audio and pre‐operative anxiety in patients undergoing general anaesthesia for day case surgery.” Anaesthesia60.9 (2005): 874-877.
 Grocke, D., and Wigram, T. (2007). Receptive methods in music therapy: Techniques and clinical applications for music therapy clinicians, educators, and students. London, England: Jessica Kingsley, 2007.
Great work! Thank you for sharing the links.
My pleasure Karen 🙂
Thank you for putting all this together. Great job, as always. Anything that helps alleviate the pain of migraines is greatly appreciated.
I hope it helps Pamela.
Ive always loved Enya, Moya Brennan and David Foster and found all three to be relaxing. And Musopen is wonderful! Ive often tracked down sheet music for the viola and cello there
Ah great taste Jen! I grew up with Enya playing in the house. It brings back happy memories from childhood.
Musopen is amazing. More people need to know about it.
Thank you for your continuing help. As a chronic migraneur of 30 odd years I have always found music helpful. I’m very aware of the importance of what I see hear taste touch and smell in my home. As a psychologist listening to music i know is a distraction technique taking your focus away from pain and worrying thoughts etc. a time out! Well done.
I have to confess, I under-utilised this type of therapy until I came across this research.
What really stood out for me was how "positive music induced corresponding emotional states in the participants" and led to less pain.
I’ve been using music to calm pain. (Calm music in hospital is a must ).Also try Petrea Kings pain meditation it’s a different way off dealing with pain .Sometimes you may save your self from a migraine anything is worth trying. Thanks Carl.
I haven’t had music abort a migraine… but it can help improve anxiety and my mood which can often be affected by pre migraine symptoms or medication. Thank you for sharing Chrissy.
Carl, I just wanted to say Thank You, for such a wonderful list!
My pleasure Carol, I hope it helps a little.
music with water sounds and rain sounds work a little bit with me thanks
That’s great Tracy. Anything that helps me fall asleep is really helpful. If I can get to sleep I can often recover from the worst of an attack much quicker.
Many thankѕ fоr sharing this one.
A muѕt read article!
I’m glad you enjoyed it Ilias.
Great article. When I was younger, I was known for always having my headphones on and my walkman/discman, now iPod on. When I have to weave through people traffic on public transit or other crowds, my headphones are a must. Without them, the sound is definitely head pain inducing. Ditto for plane travel, and I always look for quietest spot, in a restaurant and anywhere else. I can find those spots because I learned about acoustics while studying sound therapy.
So here is the thing… "Your Music" the one that works for you, will be whatever your personal preference is… and that is the subjectivity of music and sound therapy. There is actually a lot of literature and studies on this, but you sort of have to know where and how to look. It’s not that clear. Check out http://www.healingatthespeedofsound.com/home.jsp
Hi Anny, thank you very much for your comment.
I completely agree. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for article and the links Carl. I listened to the guitar and piano one with last migraine and found it very comforting. Will be trying out the others. We sometimes also listen to Pandora online streaming, in particular the Ambience genre, but one of the benefits of the links you provided is the length of the one piece of music when one has a migraine.
Glad you enjoyed it Gill.
I also listen to these a lot when I’m writing and reading. I find many of these help keep me happy, focused and productive.
I like meditation it helps a lot to calm the body when having a headache
Besides Enya, my 2 favorite calming albums are
1. Paul.Winter: Prayer for the Wild Things
Ah yes, great choices. Thank you for sharing Erica.
Thank you so much! 1) zolmitriptan works very well for me-5 mg orally disintegrating tablet (cheapest form here in US). 2) will try these music suggestions! Pandora is an ad-free streaming music site categorized by genres. One can also make up a personal playlist.
My pleasure Holly.
Thanks for the tip about Pandora. I’ve also heard of Spotify which is ad-supported free. Or pay a small fee to remove the ads.
Try Max Corbacho on spotify. the best I’ve found to sleep, any of their albums. You can start with his Nocturnes album: minutes:https://open.spotify.com/album/4kVfMTCSWFHgxejaf0TzSs
Thank you for this informative article. Music Therapy is an evidence-based intervention provided by Board Certified therapists. In the US, we are now licensed in many states. There is a growing body of research & hopefully that will directly benefit Migraine soon.
I am 13 years old and have migraines. Not very often, but when they do come, they’re bad. The worst ones are where I throw up. Luckily, I have found out that eating soup when I have one helps. I can’t wait to try out these tricks.
I’m glad this helps. Take care of your brain as you grow up and it will take care of you. Get plenty of sleep, minimize processed food, stay well hydrated and develop skills to handle distress. Good luck!