Impact of preferred sleep induction sounds with guided imagery on sleep initiation and sleep quality

Oct 20, 2023
World Sleep 2023


In recent years, there has been a growing interest in utilizing sleep induction sounds to facilitate ease of falling asleep and improve sleep quality. These auditory cues, often with guided imagery, are designed to cultivate a calming atmosphere for relaxation and sleep. While sleep induction sounds have gained popularity among the general public, their medical validation remains limited. Scientific studies examining the effectiveness of these techniques are relatively sparse and yield inconsistent results. Notably absent is an investigation into the potential benefits tied to individual preferences for sleep induction sounds. This study aims to address the following question: "Does the application of preferred sleep induction sounds, coupled with guided imagery, result in an improved ease of falling asleep and improved sleep quality for individuals?”

Materials and Methods:
We recruited 27 participants from a primary sleep-specialized clinic in Korea. The inclusion criteria encompassed individuals aged 19-45 years, reporting sleep onset difficulty, with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index’s sleep onset latency (SOL) > 30 minutes and Insomnia Severity Index > 8. We incorporated a collection of 12 sleep induction sounds for guided imagery, which were tailored to distinct sleep-inducing scenarios. Participants’ preferences for these sounds were determined by providing descriptive texts outlining the auditory cues during their initial visit, and participants indicated their most and least preferred sounds.
Participants were randomly allocated into three groups: Group 1 (preferred sound), Group 2 (non-preferred sound), and Group 3 (no sound). Three-day consecutive polysomnography (PSG) protocol was implemented for the study. Night 1 was excluded from analysis due to the potential first night effect in PSG. Night 2 served as an intervention-free baseline for comparison. On Night 3, Group 1 experienced PSG with preferred sleep induction sounds during the initial hour of the test. Conversely, Group 2 underwent PSG with non-preferred sleep induction sounds, while Group 3 underwent PSG in silence.

We observed a significant positive correlation between SOL and the amount of improvement facilitated by sleep induction sound (i.e., the difference in SOL between Night 3 and Night 2) for both Group 1 (p-value < 0.001) and Group 2 (p-value = 0.01). Conversely, no improvement was observed for participants in Group 3 (p-value = 0.639). In Group 1, participants exposed to their preferred auditory cues exhibited a notably higher deep sleep (N3) ratio on Night 3 compared to the baseline Night 2, with a p-value of 0.014. However, for participants in Group 2 and Group 3, no significant differences in deep sleep ratio were observed between Night 3 and Night 2.

Our study unveiled individuals with longer SOL experienced more pronounced improvements in sleep initiation through the application of sleep induction sounds, both in preferred and non-preferred conditions. More interestingly, participants exposed to individually tailored auditory cues exhibited a significant increase in deep sleep ratio exclusively within the preferred sound group. These findings indicate the favorable impact of sleep induction sounds with guided imagery on sleep initiation. Importantly, this underscores the potential of personalized auditory interventions to improve sleep quality.


J. Jung
K.S. Cha
J. Hong
S.h. Kim1
B. Yoo
S. Kim
D. Lee
J.-W. Kim


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