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For those of you running to ask someone to check your ears for worms, slow down and read on.  An earworm sometimes referred to by its other name, the brain worm is actually quite common and is not actually a living creature.

The earworm is actually a phrase used to describe a song or catchy jingle that repeats in your brain that you can’t stop thinking about.

We have all had this happen to us before and it’s quite common, while most of us may have never heard of earworms, brain worms, stuck song syndrome, or even sticky music.

The scientific name for the phenomenon is actually Involuntary Music Imagery or INMI.

What is INMI?

An earworm is the spontaneous repetition of a piece of music, referred to in today’s terms as having a song stuck in one’s head or stuck song syndrome. (Wonderopolis, 2021)

This is often just a frustrating few minutes that you can’t seem to drive the catchy tune out of your brain, but for others it can be even worse and last for hours.

How do earworms affect our sleep?

A recent study from Baylor University found that the relationship between music listening and sleep with the involuntary musical imagery, or “earworms,” when a song plays in a person’s mind can affect their sleep patterns.  (Murphy, 2021)

This has happened to me on occasion and why I researched and wrote this article.  I am fascinated with everything about sleep and always looking for ways to improve my sleep.

One study found individuals who frequently listen to music reported persistent nighttime earworms, which were associated with worse sleep quality.  

 The second study assigned random instrumental only or lyrical versions of popular songs right before bedtime. 

This study revealed that instrumental music increased the incidence of earworms at nighttime and quality of sleep suffered as well. (Scullin, Gao, & Fillmore, 2021)

Dr Scullin also concludes from the above study that our brains continue to process music while we are sleeping.

If you are experiencing nighttime earworms from listening to music before bedtime it may be time to change your bedtime routine to something less frustrating.

Earworms Sleeping Tips:

I have been prone to earworms and also plagued with repetitive thoughts and nighttime can be especially hard for me as my thoughts are racing as I try to relax and get to sleep.

Sometimes it’s just a repetitive thought or me second guessing a decision that did not turn out the way that I wanted and also at times a song that got stuck in my head during the day that didn’t stop playing in my head.

Now I don’t listen to music before bedtime so my earworms were a result from listening to music during the day or sometimes just a thought that reminded of the song lyrics.

Either way the result often drives me crazy as I can’t stop these repetitive thoughts or songs.  One thing I have found that has been a gift from heaven is a pink noise machine.

At least for me this pink noise solid base sound and reminds me of standing at the bottom of a waterfall.  For me the constant base sound makes it almost impossible for me to concentrate on anything else, resulting in a sound sleep.

Another benefit from this pink noise machine is its ability to mask other sounds out that would have normally woke me up at night, as we live in a neighborhood full of noises.

Stress and Sleep:

As I described above there are times that stress and anxiety contributes to my issues and causes my minds to race with thoughts which create earworms.

For those of you who suffer from this as well you are not alone.  If you have tried the noise machine and still looking for additional help then consider the use of a weighted blanket.

These blankets have been known to help with stress and anxiety and certainly worth a try.

Other Earworm tips

If you are trying to get an earworm removed during the day then please try these helpful tips that I have had some success with in killing the dreaded earworm.

There are many suggested preventions techniques as well as cures for earworms while their effectiveness varies from person to person they are worth a try if you have a song stuck in your head.

In the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology a study shows by interfering with articulatory motor programming by chewing gum reduces both the number of voluntary and the number of involuntary—unwanted—musical thoughts. (Beaman, 2014)

Another theory states that listening to the whole song that is stuck in your head will get rid of the fragment that is repeating in your mind.  I have tried this one personally and had no luck, but please give it a try and see if it works for you.

There is also the concept of the “cure song”, which simply is playing another song to distract your mind with another song.  I have had limited success with this approach but again it’s worth trying if you have an earworm.

Some say just having a conversation with another person will kill the earworm.  I have found this effective only to remember that the song in my head stopped.  By having that thought I triggered the song to replay and again was stuck in my head.

Another suggestion is try working on a puzzle that makes you think, like a Sudoku, word find, crossword or anything that takes more concentration.

As you can see most of these techniques involve getting your mind off the song and focused on something else as the human minds has trouble multi-tasking thus killing the earworm.

History of Earworms:

As we know from above the earworm is a portion of a song or tune that continually runs through a person’s mind, to the point of irritation and sometimes lack of sleep.

The term earworm came into use in English in the early 1980s from the German term ohrwürmer, which means earworm. (Garmmarist, 2014)

Personally I think stuck song syndrome is a much better description of what is actually happening and should be used to describe this agonizing issue.

Other Sleeping Tips:

Quality sleep shouldn't be difficult to achieve and sometimes it's necessary to look at your sleep equipment which includes bedding, pillows, blankets, & mattresses.

I always recommend getting a quality pillow as that can have a huge impact on your quality of sleep, check out these article on best pillows.

If you really want to take a peak at the best luxury pillows then follow this link.


Works Cited

Beaman, P. (2014, December 17). Want to block earworms from conscious awareness? Retrieved June 30, 2021, from The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: 

Garmmarist. (2014). Earworm. Retrieved July 1, 2021, from Grammarist: 

Murphy, J. (2021, June 21). Study: Listening to Music Near Bedtime Disruptive to Sleep. Retrieved June 29, 2021, from Pharmacy Times: 

Scullin, M. K., Gao, C., & Fillmore, P. (2021, June 9). Bedtime Music, Involuntary Musical Imagery, and Sleep. Retrieved June 2021, 2021, from Sage Journals: 

Wonderopolis. (2021). What is an Earworm? Retrieved June 29, 2021, from Wonderopolis:

Robert Frontier

Robert Frontier

Getting quality sleep is important to people of all ages and is just one of many areas of our health we need to be maintaining. When I was younger, I didn’t understand that my health was my greatest asset and took it for granted. I have spent the last twenty years of my life in the pursuit of a healthier life style. I am a parent, grandparent, author, and entrepreneur. My desire is for you and your family to get the best possible sleep and that starts with quality sleep products. Welcome to VJ Pillow.

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