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Music to fall asleep (10/30/10)

October 30, 2010

The Pleasures of a Calm Mind

The bard wrote “music hath charms to soothe the savage beast.”  Apparently that also includes people.

Britain’s Travelodge is one of the few hotel companies that publicizes the sleep quality(ies) of its clients.  Due to this hotelier we know that when the financial meltdown hit Europe, their average sleeper shaved more than 40 minutes off of sleep time – evidence that economics and rest are deeply interrelated.

Now Travelodge has surveyed its sleepers (mostly British, of course) for the music they prefer to use to fall asleep.  Here is their Top Ten list:

1. Coldplay 2. Michael Buble 3. Snow Patrol 4. Alicia Keys 5. Jack Johnson 6. Taylor Swift 7. Mozart 8. Barry White

9. Leona Lewis 10. Radiohead

Though it’s hard for me to see Mozart listed 7th in anything, this is a real, population based we actually use this music to fall asleep list  – unlike the thousands of sleep play lists on the net that include artists like Endorphin whose music would probably keep me up most of the night.  The type of music that helps people sleep is highly individual, as is sleep itself; but soothing music can often work throughout a lifetime.

Lullabies continue to work centuries after they are crafted, so the artists on the Travelodge list have little to worry about.  Interestingly, the choices also describe personality preferences.  A recent study of social networking  found Facebookers who listed information publicly generally preferred the Beatles, while those opting for full privacy often liked Coldplay.

So, friends it’s not so bad to be listed No.1  for your music, even when it comes to falling asleep.

Rest Before Sleep

The human body is profoundly rhythmic, and many repetitive  sounds and activities help condition sleep (more about the power of rhythm to engage sleep will appear another time.)  Yet that people like to listen to music at bedtime speaks to something centrally important – the need to rest before sleep.

With our machine model of the body firmly entrenched in the American psyche, it’s sometimes hard to get people to realize that rest is regeneration and renewal.  Yet even those conditioned to think of themselves as machines frequently know they need to do something to slow down.

Music can be profoundly helpful in the hour before sleep to calm nerves and place the mind in a state where the day’s travails can be ignored and the pleasures of nighttime restoration advanced.  Music can excite and enthrall, enrapture and entertain, but can also still and calm our brains when they most need rest.  Then biological clocks can come into play, putting  into play the symphonic brain processes by which sleep can begin.

Music to Sleep To – A Personal List

Most lists of music that soothes, calms, and provides balm to the soul  varies wildly by culture and individual.  Yet lullabies and folk songs are regularly cited by people as helping them calm.  The pure voices of Linda Ronstadt or Joan Baez can help make older American folk tones tonics for a peaceful night.

Yet classical music, the polyphonic wonders  that compromised the popular hits of previous centuries, is an underused resource.  And though Philip Glass’ hypnotic, highly repetitive competitions are popular among those desiring sleep, his music is not popular with my orchestral musician friends, who sometimes describe playing Glass as sawing at a lumber mill.

So here is a list of a very few composers that may not be as well known to some, but are great as well as often highly relaxing and soothing:

1. Josquin Desprez – one of the finest composers of the 15th century, Desprez was an international superstar, a master of melody and rhythm.

2. Giovanni Gabrieli – Venice’s great 16th century composer is best known today for his trumpet fanfares, but wrote widely and wonderfully in many genres.

3. Heinrich Schutz – the 17th century precursor to Bach wrote music that fitted the austere, difficult times of the 30 Years’ War. His soaring, calming melodies and cantilevered compositions can quickly aid contemplation and slumber.

4. John Dowland – one of the most famous 16th century lutenists, Dowland’s often melancholy songs (“Come, Heavy Sleep”) are passionately restrained and deeply poetic.

5. Hildegard of Bingen – a great soul as well as musician, Hildegard is now the subject of a major biopic by German director Margaretha von Trotta, who herself knows the difficult intersections of politics and art.  For a foretaste of heaven few compete with Hildegard, whose music is a natural when you want to pre-dream – imagining the kinds of dreams you wish to  have.

And can get, especially with practice.  Music can improve athletic performance and endurance; give pleasure to the exhausted  and the hopeless; and let us enter the wonderful realm of sleep, which knits up our cares and rebuilds our minds, physically and metaphorically, night after night.

So that’s one short list of music to help you fall asleep.  What about yours?  Let me know – here – in your comments.
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 1, 2010 11:52 PM

    I sleep with music every night. I tend to favor “New Age” music especially music by Liquid Mind, John Nilson, Spencer Brewer, etc. I enjoy pan flutes and harp music as well. Plus, I love Pachebel’s Canon, especially when you can find it in hour long DVDs.

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