It's a familiar scene to many — a long day has crawled to a close, the lights are off and the promise of a solid nights' sleep is steadily slipping away thanks to insomnia. Here enters neurosis: weighing our "to do" lists against the day's accomplishments, thinking about which relationships are going well in our lives or which have worsened, ruminating over issues that've purposely or subconsciously gone unsolved — it's all fair game for your brain in the limbo before sleep overtakes us.
The bad news is that, as a whole, we're sleeping less. And sorry to say it, but as we age, the National Sleep Foundation says we actually need less sleep. Yet needing less sleep and not being able to sleep are two different things, and there's even a term for the phenomenon of consecutively missing out on sleep — sleep debt.
Of course, it's not entirely surprising many people have difficulty shutting off considering we're constantly connected. According to a recent study from Bank of America, 71% of Americans aged 18 and up who participated in a poll said they sleep in close proximity to their mobile device. More specifically, 55% of survey responders said they keep their mobile device on the nightstand at night, while 13% said they slept with their phone on the bed and 3% confessed they fall asleep clutching their phone.
Here's the good news: music can help.
According to Sleep.org, a publication powered by the National Sleep Foundation, music can help people of all ages quiet the body and mind at bedtime.
"It turns out that bedtime listening can even help people with sleep disorders by boosting sleep quality and quantity," Sleep.org reports. "The benefits may not happen overnight—it can take as many as three weeks to see improvement—but listening to music pays off. Putting on some tunes can help you fall asleep faster, wake up less during the night, and feel more rested in the morning."
Music streaming service Spotify offers a number of curated playlists, which roll together ambient-sounding cuts and tracks with relatively low beat per minute counts (Ed Sheeran is reportedly a safe bet to soundtrack sleep).
Others, such as British composer Max Richter, have even tackled songwriting with the expressed purpose of creating a sleep aid. On Aug. 8, Richter published a track called "Dream 13" to YouTube. According to the track's description, the cut belongs to Sleep, an effort the composer has described as "an eight-hour lullaby."
"While the reasons why music can help you sleep better aren't clear, it may have to do with the relaxing effect that a good song can have, or the fact that music may trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain," reports Sleep.org. "Music can have real physical affects, too, by lowering your heart rate and slowing your breathing."
In light of that, and for those who prefer to unwind to something that's a bit more substantive than ambient noise, here's a recommended list of tracks to hit play on before bed.