From Heaps of Sheep by Robert Wyatt, to the Beatles’ I’m Only Sleeping, the Chordettes’ Mr Sandman and Metallica’s Enter Sandman – sleep, or a lack thereof – has long been a popular lyrical trope. But can music – whether explicitly snoozed-minded or not – actually help us sink into slumber?
According to NHS, it can go some way to help. Aside from the obvious (taking sleeping pills, avoiding caffeine and wearing eye masks), they also recommend “calming music” to ease you into a coma. Incongruous as it sounds, perhaps Jeff Bridges can help: his new sleep-centric album (Jeff Bridges’ Sleeping Tapes, a double album of his spoken word and ambient music) hopes to lull you into a lowered state of consciousness.
He’s not alone in his pursuits to prevent the 3am anxiety of sleep deprivation, however: a year ago, the actor, comic, writer and musician Matt Berry found himself staring at the ceiling night after night in his London flat, and decided to turn the problem into two long-form musical pieces under the title of Music for Insomniacs. Dorian Lynskey’s piece, The upside of insomnia: how sleep deprivation aids creativity, discussed Berry’s struggle with sleep and his artistic endeavours, and also looked into the soothing power of certain tempos, frequencies, keys and “delta binaural beats”.
So what works for you? As mentioned in Lynskey’s feature, writer Sasha Geffenclaims Burial’s remixes of Massive Attack “became a pill” guaranteed to send her to sleep, while in Cerys Matthews’s column, she has suggested Gurdjieff’s Harmonium Improvisations is the “sonic equivalent of a rocking cradle with a dummy thrown in”.