The Role of Music to Promote Relaxation in Intensive Care Unit Patients


  • Polyxeni Mangoulia RN, MSc, PhD, Faculty of Liaison Psychiatry, Evaggelismos General Hospital of Athens, Greece
  • Aikaterini Ouzounidou Director of Nursing Services, Evagelismos General Hospital of Athens, Athens, Greece



music therapy, music medicine, music listening, relaxation, ICU patients, intensive care unit


BACKGROUND: The intensive care unit (ICU) is one of the most stressful environments for patients among various clinical settings in a hospital. ICU patients are not only compromised by illness but also faced with a wide range of stressors. Most of the time, pharmacological therapies are commonly used to control the distress, but are expensive and lead to high hospital care costs. It is thought that music can act as a nursing intervention to relieve both physiological and psychological responses and increase comfort of patients.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of the study was to identify, review and evaluate the literature regarding the role of music listening to promote relaxation for patients in the ICU together with considerations for future research.

METHODS: MEDLINE, PubMed, CINAHL, AMED and PsycINFO databases were searched for the terms “music therapy”, “music medicine” and “music listening”. In addition, an internet search using Google Scholar was performed.

RESULTS: Literature research shows that music can influence a wide range of physiological and psychological effects and is effective in decreasing stress and facilitating relaxation responses. Different types of music and music preference of the individual patient may have a different effect. Moreover, live music is considered more important than pre-recorded music.

CONCLUSION: Music therapy has been widely used in a variety of cultures for centuries to decrease patients’ perception of pain, anxiety and depression, and boost their feelings of relaxation. Music can be used as a safe and inexpensive non-pharmacologic antianxiety intervention to enhance relaxation and decrease stress in ICU patients. The key implication is to educate doctors and nurses on modern aspects of music therapy.