How to relax, according to science

If you want to relax and feel calm, the scientific tip is to listen to the music of Giuseppe Verdi, which is more likely to lower blood pressure than pop, rock or jazz.

According to new research, slow music with a 10-second repetitive cycle has a noticeable calming effect on listeners because it matches the body’s natural 10-second waves of blood-pressure control.

The music of Verdi, along with the slow parts of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and the arias in Puccini’s opera Turandot, are among the most calming pieces of music because they happen to be rich in 10-second cycles that match perfectly the control rhythm of the cardiovascular system, said Professor Peter Sleight of Oxford University.

Blood pressure measurements are sent to the brain after every heartbeat, but because the brain sends control messages back to the heart along two separate nerves operating at different speeds, they arrive out of phase with one another and only come back into phase once every 10 seconds, he explained.

Music with a 10-second rhythm is therefore likely to have a calming influence because it exploits this natural cycle, Professor Sleight said. He will describe the study on Tuesday at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference in Manchester.

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