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A relaxing soak in the tub isn’t the only kind of bath that can have health benefits.

Waves of soothing, echoing sound from traditional wind and percussion instruments, also known as a “sound bath,” may help with stress, fatigue, and depression symptoms, according to one study.

Since stress is associated with other conditions like diabetes and heart disease, engaging in sound baths might be a good preventive strategy to reduce the risk of chronic conditions, too.

Research into this subject is limited, but there have been studies that indicate a sound bath may improve your mood and release tension in your body, among other things.

Sound baths aren’t a replacement for proven treatments, but they can be considered a low-risk complement to any other methods you’ve been exploring with your doctor.

Let’s take a look at what we know (and don’t know) about sound baths.

People claim that sound baths can trigger a phenomenon called “sound healing.” Sound healing has been a home remedy favored by many cultures for thousands of years.

Typically, a sound bath will involve lying in a reclining position after taking part in yoga or meditation exercises.

Next, a provider trained in sound bath musical techniques will use one or several instruments to create soothing, overlapping vibrations.

These vibrations theoretically lead you deeper into a state of contemplation or relaxation, shutting off your body’s fight-or-flight reflex.

At the end of a session, your provider will guide you back to a feeling of awareness before concluding the sound bath and wishing you well on your journey.

Sound bath instruments

Instruments that make deep, resonating vibrations are popular instruments used for sound baths. These include:

  • crystal bowls
  • Tibetan singing bowls
  • bells
  • gongs
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Are there proven benefits to sound baths?

Of the scientific research that’s been done on sound baths, some studies have found that they can have a positive effect on mental health and physical pain.

More research is needed, but here are some of the findings that have been written about so far.

Mental health benefits

Sound baths may help treat mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

One 2016 study of 62 adults gauged their feelings before a sound bath, and again after a meditation session that included a sound bath. The researchers found that tension, anxiety, and negative moods decreased significantly after the therapy.

A 2018 study with 60 participants asked 30 of them to listen to the music of Tibetan singing bowls before getting surgery and gave the other 30 headphones with no music.

The analysis found that heart rate and other vitals that indicate anxiety improved in those who were given the headphones with music.

In a 2020 research review that analyzed four studies, improvements in distressed mood, tension, anger, and confusion were seen in study participants after a sound bath with Tibetan singing bowls.

Physical pain reduction

Participants in the previously mentioned 2016 study were also asked whether they were in pain, and to rank their pain on a scale from 1 to 5 if they did feel pain.

Before a sound bath, these study participants tended to rank their pain higher than they did afterward. More research is needed to confirm whether this trend in pain reduction would reach clinical significance, though.

In the 2020 review, physical symptoms such as blood pressure and heart rate also saw improvement. The review concluded, however, that more research is needed to definitively say sound bath has these effects on most people.

A sound bath isn’t the same thing as music therapy.

A sound bath typically accompanies a yogic or guided meditation. The instruments used almost always produce deep, overlapping vibrations. A provider trained in sound bath techniques plays the music.

A sound bath is typically a way of managing anxiety, soothing the nervous system, and blocking all the ideas and thoughts out of your consciousness as you connect with your body.

Music therapy is a type of therapy that incorporates music. The treatment is administered by a trained music therapist rather than a mental health professional.

This type of treatment can involve practicing the instrument, listening to a variety of types of music, and using the act of music as a way to process complicated, difficult emotions.

A sound bath is a meditative practice that’s safe for most people to try.

There isn’t a lot of evidence to suggest that negative side effects are a possibility of this practice.

A sound bath can be easier than other meditative practices because it doesn’t require a lot of discipline or patience to learn how to do it — all you have to do is listen.

Keep in mind that sound baths aren’t a replacement for medication or therapy with a licensed mental health provider when treating anxiety or depression.

But since relaxation is the main byproduct of this practice, it could be worth a try as a complementary add-on to your treatment.