Jake Warren & Andy Gbormittah, known as the music duo Silence & Air, have created a new song specifically designed to help you sleep. Here, they explain how…
What is Zero Point and how does it help people sleep?
Zero Point is a piece of music specifically designed to help people fall asleep. We typically go through several sleep cycles during the night, and Zero Point guides the listener through these stages, by focusing the brain away from usual sleep disruptors: wandering thoughts, anxious feelings, negative emotions, and into a place of calm, relaxation and finally, sleep.
Zero Point is a unique combination of music and science. Previous research has shown that listening to music is not only a pleasurable experience, but actually excites the auditory cortex – which is the part of the brain responsible for processing sound – in a very unique way.
Physically, our brains have developed to pay close attention to the sound around us. Sound affects us in a fundamental way. Our heart rate, our breathing, our brainwaves and the chemical composition of our brains are all influenced by music. Certain sounds are attributed to the release of cortisol, which naturally prepares our body to respond to danger. Other sounds cause the release of dopamine which gives us a sense of relaxation. Zero Point incorporates these to create a deep sense of comfort, security and familiarity.
Zero Point also contains a number of psychoacoustic elements. For example, the sound of bird song gives a feeling of safety and reassurance. This is evolutionary. Over time, we have learned that when birds are singing, there’s a far less chance of imminent danger. Another psychological component is the sound of lapping waves, which have a very similar frequency to the breathing of a sleeping human. We hear this, and our brains automatically make the connection to us being in a restful state.
There are some music cognition elements in there, too. The perfect fifth is a musical interval that is typically known for its consonance (which the human ear perceives as being harmonious and pleasing). The evolving soundscape of Zero Point contains a series of perfect fifths designed to reinforce this feeling.
Another important cognition-based factor is the subtle inclusion of white noise. As humans have a very small amount of bandwidth for processing auditory input, it’s very easy to be distracted by unwanted sounds like traffic. White noise helps to mitigate this problem. A phenomenon known as auditory masking helps to limit interference from the outside world, and keep our attention on the music.
Together, these physiological, psychoacoustic and cognitive foundations come together to form a beautiful piece of music that helps us go from wake to sleep.
Why did you team up to create this. Have you personally suffered with sleep problems?
Having both suffered from sleep problems, depression and anxiety; we know all too well the power that music can have on mood and overall health. We initially set out to create something that we could use to help us and quickly realised that we had the opportunity to help tackle a widespread problem.
We credit this to the early iterations of Silence & Air, originally partnering up to write music for global brands – such as Versace, Lexus, Swatch and Toyota. The world of advertising is a notoriously demanding one. We regularly battled with tight deadlines, last minute revisions, adjusting to different time zones and the general high pressure nature of the industry. After a year of pitching on scores of ads and spending thousands of hours in our recording studio, we felt our stress levels rising and quality of life start to decline.
Zero Point was born out of a desire to help ourselves through this scenario, and after the initial positive response, we believe we are uniquely placed to help drive music as more than just a form of entertainment.
Our vision for Silence & Air is to create positive change through music, and have a passion to use our skills to help improve the mental health of people who find themselves in similar situations.
What research founded the idea?
We were intrigued by a study carried out in 2006, where there was an investigation into the effects of music on sleep quality in young participants with poor sleep. Results showed that relaxing classical music was an effective intervention in reducing sleeping problems. We saw this and asked ourselves if anything could be created from scratch that was even more effective.
We teamed up with the sound therapist behind Weightless, which won the Time Magazine Invention of the Year award and has been dubbed ‘the most relaxing song ever’, after testing by Mind Lab. Our decision to make something specifically designed for sleep came when we discovered that almost all of the music we could find was made to be relaxing, but not designed for the purpose of aiding sleep.
A key focus of ours throughout the production process was to make it a beautiful piece of music to listen to, rather than just a collection of sounds with scientific foundations. We want everybody who uses Zero Point to enjoy it as a piece of music, so we consciously integrated the science without making it sound clinical. It’s different from typical relaxation tracks in the sense that it was designed from the ground up to elicit very specific physiological, psychological and cognitive responses.
What makes the song effective?
Zero Point’s effectiveness comes from the power of the scientific elements combined together in the form of a musical journey.
How can readers find out more?