If you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep night after night, you’re not alone. An estimated 60 million Americans suffer from chronic insomnia and sleep deprivation—that’s nearly 1 in 5 people in the U.S.! Anything from health issues to your usual nighttime activities can be a cause for insomnia, but researchers and sound engineers might have a new tool to battle sleeplessness: music.
A song created back in 2016 is what some call “the most relaxing song in the world.” Titled 'Weightless' and produced by artist Marconi Union in collaboration with sound therapists, the song can reduce anxiety by up to 65%, making it the perfect tool for battling insomnia and sleeplessness.
Of course, it’s not the only song that could help you drift off to sleep at night. As it turns out, there’s a science behind how certain types of music contribute to great sleep—and it has to do with more than just the brain.
How does music help you sleep?
According to a recent meta-analysis of 10 sleep studies, music really can help you doze off—but not all music is created equal for sleep.
The meta-analysis revealed that while music can be a hugely impactful sleep aid, only music with a tempo of around 60 beats per minute has a profound impact on calming the mind and helping you nod off. Why? Because this tempo matches a resting heart rate of 60 BPM—a rate that’s proven most conducive to restful sleep.
There are plenty of songs that fall around the 60 BPM range, including plenty of classical music and even some contemporary songs, like Joni Mitchell’s 'Blue Room Hotel'. But what makes Marconi Union’s 'Weightless' distinct isn’t just its tempo. The song has other characteristics that make it profoundly relaxing: progression, length and construction.
Click here to listen to 'Weightless' by Marconi Union
How does “Weightless” work on the brain?
The song was produced in collaboration with sound therapists to include a careful combination of rhythms, tones and tempos that reduce not just your heart rate, but also the stress-related chemical cortisol.
The song’s progression helps ease the mind, first starting at around 60 BPM and slowing to around 50 BPM. This helps guide the mind to a calmer state, which is a proven technique for helping insomniacs drift off to dreamland.
The length of the song also contributes to its effects, since its 5-minute run time maps onto the average time it takes for the body to relax and the mind to slow—a process called “entrainment”. And with no repeating melodies, the mind is free to relax completely since it’s not anticipating what’s coming next.
The careful construction of the song contributes to its effects—a 65% percent reduction in anxiety and 35% reduction in usual physiological resting rates. It’s so effective that researchers even advise against driving while listening to the song, since many tested became drowsy within minutes of listening.
What is the perfect evening routine for great sleep?
Next time you’re getting ready for sleep, consider how music might be a great addition to your evening routine. While playing a song like 'Weightless' might help you drift off, it’s important not to forget other crucial aspects of a restful nighttime routine.
Try these easy tips for crafting the perfect wind-down for your best sleep yet.
Tip #1: Drink soothing tea or tart cherry juice an hour before bed.
Certain caffeine-free herbal teas, like chamomile and valerian, contain healthy ingredients that work like natural sedatives. Cherry juice has melatonin, a chemical responsible for making your brain and body feel “sleepy” at night.
Tip #2: Ditch the devices 45 minutes before bed.
The type of light emitted from your devices keeps your brain awake, so swap to a book or other analog activity just before bedtime.
Tip #3: Listen to calming music through special headphones.
Songs like “Weightless” can certainly help you drift off to sleep, but don’t listen through in-ear headphones that could cause pain. Instead, try special headphones designed for sleep, like Cozyphones and AcousticSheep headphones.
Tip #4: Invest in the right bed.
No matter how many sleep tactics you employ, if you’re sleeping on an old or worn out mattress, no amount of sleep will leave you feeling rested in the morning. If you consistently wake up feeling drowsy or achey, consider shopping for a new mattress that could offer better support, cooling and comfort for the perfect night’s rest.