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Singing in your sleep (7/25/11)

July 25, 2011

Composing New Songs

Do you sing in your sleep? Or just write music as you  slumber?

Barry Manilow does.  Often he hears songs for the first time in his dreams.  Keeping a recorder next to his bed, some of his biggest hits, like “One Voice,” appeared to him fully fleshed out as soon as he awoke, as Adam Smit wrote in (   Manilow would hear it, know it, wake up with the song, and sing it as he rose from bed.

He’s not alone.  Lots of people dream music.  Many others compose music in their sleep.

When Do We Sing In Our Sleep?

We generally sing while we dream.  As the brain rewires itself during the night, refitting old memories into new, usable ones, making and pruning connections throughout the cortex and other brain regions,  fragments of that process are revealed to us as dreams.  Sometimes they appear monochrome, black and white and purely visual, while other dreams outbid waking reality for operatic sensual splendor.

Do Dreams Only Occur in REM sleep?

No.  Dreams can occur in any phase of sleep – including very light ones.  However, complex dreams engaging music and vision usually occur in REM sleep, which itself appears necessary for different kinds of memory to become encoded.  REM itself is functionally another form of consciousness with sometimes bizarre physiologic effects – we lose control of temperature and lose almost all muscle tone,  yet remain in a state of probationary alertness which makes it usually very easy and quick to wake people from dreams.

Can We Use Dreams To Become More Creative?

Many people claim to do just that.  Practitioners of yoga and many different meditative traditions feel that calm, relaxed states can also promote more “creative” sleep.  Certainly when people produce lucid dreams where they control dream content and format, they can “think” about important issues while they sleep – as occurs on a heroic scale in the movie “Inception.”  However, most of us have trouble learning to do lucid dreaming.

How Can We Dream Music?

Listen to it during the day – and try listening before you go to bed at night.  Some people use different kinds of rhythmic music to treat their insomnia, listening in the middle of the night when they can no longer sleep.  Rhythm itself seems to provoke sleep, as a recent study of a special rocking sleep bed seems to demonstrate (  June 29th).

Can Music Promote Sleep?

Several studies claim it can.  One interesting done in Taiwan looked at men and women 60-83, many of whom had trouble sleeping.  They listened to music for 45 minutes before going to sleep,  with their muscal choices mainly Western, though there was one set of Chinese pieces.  The music listeners fell asleep quicker and slept more deeply – (

There are many playlists available for people who want to fall asleep musically.  My own preferences are available here: (, blog archive 10/30/11).

Is Music Useful to Aid Other Kinds of Productivity?

Lots of people love music because of the innate pleasure it produces.  Yet it’s clear that music improves sports performance in quite a few – especially in terms of endurance.  Numerous research studies argue marathoners and triathletes last longer when they have a chance to listen to music they like – particularly if the rhythm of that music is set at around 120-140 beats a minute, similar to the heart rate they have when competing.

So How Do I Get Musical Sleep?

According to Oliver Sacks, the brain makes little distinction between music heard entirely within our heads and that which we hear externally.

So listen to music you love during the day – particularly in the evening, a time of required rest before sleep.  Then try to remember some of that music and “listen” to it as you get ready for sleep in your 30-60 minute pre-slumber sleep ritual.         Don’t be surprised if you hear yourself humming or singing it in your sleep – while you dream.  And perhaps there will be a new melody in your mind as you awake.
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

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