Three Of The Best Albums I Have Ever Found To Fall Asleep To
Ever since I was a kid, I saw value in music as a path to sleep. I used to have a transistor radio in a white box that would open and close. Open it to turn it on, close it to turn it off. It was a little gem bestowed to me by my parents and I loved it. But I didn’t get to the idea of playing music to fall asleep to until I got a radio with a timer, or an LP player, for I needed something that would stop on its own.
A few years later, I got a better radio, this one powered by a cord, and it had a sleep timer. I can remember tuning in to KMET, the once legendary rock station in Los Angeles. Every Sunday I listened to Joel Benson’s “The Seventh Day”, a radio show where the DJ would play seven albums back to back. There were no commercials except between albums and that was a novelty for me.
But one Sunday night, it was not to be. Instead, there was only strange music I had never heard before. It was instrumental music by artists like George Winston, Enya and Don Harris. It was nice, dreamy music to fall asleep to. My disappointment led to bliss as I found myself listening to a playlist without a DJ and no commercials, for the station had just changed their call letters to KTWV, The Wave. For what seemed like a month or more, I’d play that station in my car, and on my radio by my bed for sleep, with no commercials and no DJ.
Since then, I’ve moved on to CDs, digital music as a set of files and finally, streaming services like eMusic, Pandora and Google Play Music. I found with these new services that I had even more control of the playback and a much wider range of choices for music to listen to. That means I can play a set of music that will reliably stop at some point rather than play all night.
What follows then, are the best tracks or albums I’ve found, to fall asleep to. I’ve used these tracks to lull myself and my kids to sleep. And these are the three best albums I could find to sleep to.
Thursday Afternoon, by Brian Eno
This little gem is by Brian Eno, musician, producer, and visual artist. I first learned of Eno when I bought the album, Remain In Light, by Talking Heads — an album Eno produced. Eno is a pioneer of ambient and experimental music and that spirit really shows in his work.
In Thursday Afternoon, Eno is not creating a hit, he’s making music just the way he likes it, and he shares it with us. This is a one hour track, that is, a single song lasting for just a bit over one hour. It’s a repeating melody with minor variations throughout. It’s slow and meandering melody is almost like listening to a clock. So peaceful, so relaxed. The song says to me, “relax your mind and float downstream”.
Long Ambients 1&2, by Moby
I have long known Moby better for his modern dance and rock tunes like South Side, Alice and Body Rock. So I was surprised to learn that he had performed and compiled a 4-hour collection of ambient music. He even provides a free download of all of the ambient tunes from his website here.
I found that I could fall asleep to any one or two of the long ambient tunes put together. The longest track is 47 minutes long and it doesn’t disappoint. All of the tracks are calm, relaxing and provide a soothing backdrop from which to fall asleep. I’ve done it myself for a nap, only to wake and stop the music to move on to something else for the day.
Each track has a nice repeating melody, slowly undulating to a rhythm with no beats. Some tracks are tranquil in their melodies, some are uplifting and positive. In ordinary circumstances, I can fall asleep in about 5 minutes. When I need some help, I know I can turn to Moby, pick a long track and float my way to sleep.
Oceanic, by Vangelis
I heard Vangelis first on the LA station KTW, but never quite caught their name. Then one day, while streaming music at random, I caught them. I think it was their song, Spanish Harbor that piqued my ear. They have a nice sort of classical style to their melodies. They are gentle, somewhat rhythmic and best of all, peaceful.
The opening track is grand, yet peaceful. The songs blend well together as a theme and they ease one into the relaxation station. From Bon Voyage to Spanish Harbor to Song of the Seas, each song has an “oceanic” theme to it. Each song undulates like a wave, gently, softly, slowly rocking your heavy head to sleep.
Yes, there are beats in some of the songs, but they are gentle and unobtrusive. They move the music along ever so lightly and they keep it moving. But the pace of the rhythm is conducive to sleep. If sleep is your goal, this album will get you there.
Bonus and rare music suggestion, Opafire, by Opafire
I was going to leave this out because it is really, really hard to find. But then again, I’m sure that among you, there is a determined sort who will dig, buy and listen to the wonderful tracks on this album, Opafire.
By far, Opafire is one of the best New Age albums I have ever heard, and it is one of those rare gems that I happened to hear on KTWV, The Wave. At one point, KTWV played 3 or 4 of the tracks from the album in heavy rotation. It’s so hard to find, that on YouTube, there are only two tracks (one with a copyright disclaimer) from this album and there is one group that followed them. This album is almost certainly orphaned copyright.
The songs that stand out in my memory are the opening track, Kalimbahari, Wajumbe, Somewhere In Between and Walk Like Rain. They are all wandering, meandering melodies, with a gentle beat and a common theme. And they are the 4 tracks I heard the most on KTWV. The entire album taken together is a great sleeping aid. They are peaceful, graceful and gentle on the ears.
I bought Opafire as a CD back in the day when there were actual stores dedicated to CDs and vinyl. Now it’s only available at Amazon.
I hope you find this collection useful in your pursuit of sweet dreams as I have. They say that music soothes the savage beast. Well, I suppose we’re not so savage, but all of us could use a sleeping aid that has no side effects. This music is that aid.