A study being presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress in Munich, Germany, found anxiety levels fell significantly after participants listened to yoga music and rose after pop music or no music.
They also felt significantly more positive after the yoga music than after the pop music.
The research, carried out in India, included 149 healthy people who participated in three sessions on separate nights.
The first was yoga (soothing or meditative) music before sleep at night, the second pop music with steady beats, and the third no music or silence before sleep.
At each session, heart rate variability was measured for five minutes before the music or silence started, for 10 minutes during the music/silence, and five minutes after it had stopped.
In addition, anxiety levels were assessed before and after each session using the Goldberg Anxiety Scale. The level of positive feeling was subjectively measured after each session using a visual analogue scale.
Study author Dr Naresh Sen, consultant cardiologist at HG SMS Hospital in Jaipur, said: “We use music therapy in our hospital and in this study we showed that yoga music has a beneficial impact on heart rate variability before sleeping.
“Science may have not always agreed, but Indians have long believed in the power of various therapies other than medicines as a mode of treatment for ailments.
“This is a small study, and more research is needed on the cardiovascular effects of music interventions offered by a trained music therapist.
“But listening to soothing music before bedtime is a cheap and easy-to-implement therapy that cannot cause harm.”
Previous research has shown that music can reduce anxiety in patients with heart disease. However, studies on the effects of music on the heart in patients and healthy individuals have produced inconsistent results, partly because they did not state what style of music was used.
Dr Sen said the body’s heart rate changes as a normal response to being in “fight or flight” or “rest and digest” mode.
These states are regulated by the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, respectively, and together comprise the autonomic nervous system.
High heart rate variability shows that the heart is able to adapt to these changes, while conversely, low heart rate variability indicates a less adaptive autonomic nervous system.
Dr Sen noted that holistic therapies such as music cannot replace evidence-based drugs and interventions, and should only be used as alongside them.