A study suggests that some of the world’s best relaxing songs could be as good as a sedative in calming the nerves of a patient before surgery.

Reducing the anxiety of a patient before surgery can speed up recovery. It is mainly because stress hormones can delay the healing process. Drugs are currently used to calm the nerves, but they have some side-effects.

The study, published in the BMJ journal, looked at the effects of music in reducing blood pressure, anxiety and heart rate of a patient. The research team found that a soothing song can be as good as a sedative.

For the study, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania selected 157 people, who were preparing for surgeries. Then, they divided the participants into two groups. The first group of patients was made to hear the song Weightless by the UK band Marconi Union.

The second group of participants was given midazolam drug – when a region of their body was numbed through anesthesia. Both the methods reduced the anxiety of patients to a certain extent.

However, the research team stated that anxiety reduction through drugs can have its own side effects. It may need constant monitoring by the doctors. On the other hand, music is inexpensive and “virtually harm-free.”

“Music lights up the emotional area of the brain, the reward system and the pleasure pathways. It means patients can be in their own world, they can be comfortable and have full control,” Dr Veena Graff, assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care from University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, said.

Although the patients who were played the song felt relaxed during the surgery, many of them said they would have been more happy if they were allowed to choose their own music. The doctors also faced some unexpected challenge while communicating with the patients because of the noise canceling headphones.

So, the research team is now looking forward to a follow-up study to find out if there will be a difference in the results due to the type of music and the way it is played to the patients.