Skip to Main Content


Music and sedatives

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2005 - Autumn


For decades, doctors and nurses in the operating room have turned to music to soothe the nerves of anxious patients. Several studies have found that patients who listen to music are less anxious before surgery and need less anesthesia.

But Zeev N. Kain, M.D., HS ’92, FW ’93, professor of anesthesiology, pediatrics and child psychiatry, wondered whether music did more than simply drown out the racket in the operating room. With colleagues at Yale and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, he designed a study in which patients who had received spinal anesthesia—but were awake—could control the dosage of a sedative. They listened through headphones to either music of their choice or white noise generated by a relaxation device. As reported in May in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, patients who listened to music used significantly less sedative.

“Doctors and patients should both note that music can be used to supplement sedation in the operating room,” Kain said.