Studies conducted by New York chief of newborn medicine, Dr J. Perlman discovered that gentle music therapy slows down the heart rate of prematurely delivered infants, helping them feed and sleep better. Other studies prove “live” music e.g. lullabies sung in person, influence the heart and respiratory functions of tiny infants.
Studies also reveal ‘sung’ lullabies can enhance parent-child bonding, decreasing parental stress associated with intensive care situations in hospital. In short, lullabies sung by music therapists induce relaxation, rest, comfort, and optimal growth and the development of a baby.
Many lullabies possess a peaceful hypnotic quality, though some are close to a lament. Some ninety years ago a poet named Federico García Lorca studied Spanish lullabies and noted the “depth of sadness” of many of them. His theory was that a large part of the function of the lullaby is to help a mother vocalise her worries and concerns. In other words they can also serve as therapy for the mother.
End of life studies reveal lullabies can have “restorative resounding” properties for hospice patients and their families. Lullabies typically soothe people through the awake/sleep transition, and similarly can soothe people through the life/death transition. So it appears based on solid research the simple lullaby form has real benefits for those stressful situations at the beginning and end of life. Perhaps we could all take them more seriously?
The world’s most famous lullaby was written by Johannes Brahms, just under 10 million people have listen to or ‘used’ this particular version. This translation of the words from the German original show it contains a mixture of light and dark.
“Good evening, good night/ With roses covered,
With cloves adorned/ Slip under the covers.
Tomorrow morning, if God wills,
you will wake once again.”