Find the Best Music for Sleep [A Personal Journey]

Written by Stephanie Iadanza on

quality sleep

What do WE listen to, to soothe ourselves? We listen to music for more than just pure entertainment. We also listen to music to help with relaxation and to decompress from the day, but furthermore for good, quality sleep. From classical and ambient music to nature sounds, the options are nearly endless with today’s technology.

Stephanie would like to share her journey on how she found what sounds and music help her focus and cope with her daily stressors, but more so what she uses to maintain quality sleep as an adult after years of insomnia.


Introduction

A while back, I shared an article about why I Sing My Son Lullabies. Whenever I hear the word ‘lullaby’, I automatically think of songs used to soothe babies and small children. You know the ones – like the famous and calming Johannes Brahms’ “Lullaby” or the many versions of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”.

Sidebar: According to dictionary.com, the definition of a lullaby is “a song used to lull a child to sleep; cradlesong”.

By that definition, adults don’t listen to ‘lullabies’.  However, I strongly feel that we adults need SOMETHING!!

Waaait-a-minute, you might be asking yourself, if adults don’t listen to lullabies, then what do they listen to for relaxation or to soothe themselves to sleep?

The sky’s the limit, really—there are so many options to choose from, such as ambient music, nature sounds, relaxing classical music, or meditation tracks. Whatever it may be for you as an individual to generate that relaxing, comforting and unwinding ‘space.’

So how does one discover what works for them??

 

How My Journey Began

When I was in 7th or 8th grade, I began to struggle with achieving quality sleep. I had already had a history of sleepwalking and night terrors as a child.  Thankfully the sleepwalking was no longer an issue by this time, but it began to take longer and longer for me to fall asleep. And I was never able to stay asleep for the entire night. For a long time I just coped with it and didn’t even share what was going on with my mom. I just hoped it would go away.

By the time I hit high school, my sleep had gotten even worse. My trouble sleeping had turned into spending up to a few hours some nights to fall asleep and to top it off, I wasn’t staying asleep for longer than 3-4 hours at a time once I did start to sleep. It didn’t seem to matter how tired I was, what time I woke up in the morning, what time I tried to go to sleep or what I did during the day. Nothing helped. I had insomnia.

The CDC says: “1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep.” So why exactly have we given up those bedtime routines and relaxing ‘lullabies’ we so loved and cherished as children??

Music has always been a part of my daily life – not in the sense of coming from a family of musicians or anything, but I have always considered myself an avid music listener. I listen to a lot of different types of music: 80’s pop (passed down from my big sister), 90’s hip hop & pop, classic rock, metal and what I call drum & bass, sort of like today’s popular EDM genres – I listen to it all really.

Happy 2B Hardcore Vol.3 At the end of summer 1997, I was about to start my freshman year of high school. One evening in a bout of late night frustration, I put on some music just to pass the time, not realizing the profound effect it would have on me. I had just put on some drum & bass, not thinking much about it as I always listened to music.  In that moment Anabolic Frolic’s Happy2BHardcore Vol.3, with its repetitive beats and vocals, just so happened to be exactly what I needed.

Almost exactly the same way a monotone voice giving a boring speech can put students to sleep during a lecture…I passed out!!

I fell asleep and it didn’t take me hours!!!

 

The Struggle Continues

Over the next few weeks I had growing hopes of getting back to a quality sleep schedule. Sadly, that was not the case – at least not right away. The drum & bass I had chosen on that fateful night was starting to lose its effect. ‘Ohh no’, I thought, ‘what’s happening now’? I was confused. What had worked before wasn’t working anymore and I tried to figure out why. Maybe the drum & bass was simply too repetitive sounding for me now or I needed to change things up.

I did my best to use what I had, borrowing a few CDs and also picking up a few new ones. (I’m talking circa 1994-1998 here, so I was still full swing rockin’ CDs, played on a boom-box and Discman). Nevertheless, I had to conclude that my CD collection just wasn’t going to be a long-term fix. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I did my best to keep moving forward and continue to search for what WOULD stick.

A handful of months passed and I was still struggling with sleep…And it was starting to really get to me. I felt tired all the time and the lack of sleep wasn’t helping the growing daily stresses of being in high school or starting on my journey to becoming an adult. I was falling asleep faster than before I found what I am now terming the ‘drum & bass effect’, but I still didn’t have (in my mind) quality sleep.

At this stage it would take me over an hour to fall asleep at night. I would sleep for a solid 3-4 hours, and then wake up and have to repeat the cycle of taking another hour, if not more, to fall back asleep. Rinse and repeat. The second time trying to fall back asleep always seemed harder than the first time too.

This went one for over a year.

 

Well-Needed Self Discovery

Listening Station Music to one’s ears MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

One day several months later, I was at a bookstore and I saw one of those stand-alone listening stations with headphones for previewing. The selection was for easy listening and relaxing music. This little display was different from what I was used to using for previewing ‘new music’. This one was a flat front wooden display, shaped in an A-frame with a grid of about 30-40 small square pictures of album artwork on the front, one per album. The headphones hung on a hook off the side, and each picture on the front was a button to select that particular album for listening.

Being a tad bored must have been on my side that day because I decided to put those headphones on and give each and every single one of those albums a listen!

I was making my way through all of the options and wasn’t finding anything that I loved. There were no ‘music to my ears’ moments, so to speak. Some smooth jazz, some guided meditation tracks, relaxing flutes and that sort of thing. Regardless of not finding the perfect fit for myself, I was still determined to give each one a listen in the hopes that something might catch my ear.

That was when I got to the nature sound albums. The first few were oceanic albums with sounds like whales and seagulls. There was another one of ocean waves, then ocean waves with music tracks over the sounds of nature, including the flute, didgeridoo and violin. I realized very quickly that I enjoyed the nature sounds without music over them more than the ones that had instrumentation.

Distant Thunder
Distant Thunder by Bernie Krause

There was something about the nature sounds that took me out of my element and transported me to the beach or the desert or rainforest. Whatever environment I was hearing, that’s where I went. After hearing “Distant Thunder”, my mind had been made up – I grabbed the CD and went straight to check out.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was starting to make a huge self-discovery.

I had always struggled with dueling audio (where 2 lines of audio compete to be heard or fully listened too. Such as a TV on in one room then someone listening to music at the same time in another) and I began to realize that this struggle was why my complex drum & bass music had lost its effect so quickly and also the same reason why I found the simple sounds of nature so impactful.

I was eager and excited to test it out! I got my boombox all ready, completed my bedtime routine and laid down. Pushing play I quietly listened to “Distant Thunderstorm” and slowly drifted off to sleep. This CD helped me fall asleep, stay asleep, and when I woke up in the middle of the night, it helped me get back to sleep within a reasonable amount of time.

Sidebar: I grew up with hurricanes and thunderstorms–serious ones too! My mom and I used to count the seconds from the thunder to the lightning to see how far away the storm was. I remember my mom saying that she was always so surprised that the storms never woke me up.

Even as a young child I guess thunderstorms were just soothing and relaxing to me. I just needed to rediscover it!!

 

A Bump In The Road

That Distant Thunderstorm CD was used every night for almost 4-5 years! Basically until that disc just flat-out didn’t play anymore (a skipping CD of thunderstorm sounds is the farthest thing from relaxing! LOL).

sleep

So once the CD was unplayable, I thought, no problem, I’ll just go buy a new CD. However, when I tried to, I couldn’t find it. Noooooooo!!! What was I going to do now? My mission to maintain regular, on-going quality sleep had yet to be fulfilled and the only thing that had helped so far was now gone.

I knew that similar nature sounds might help me achieve that same sort of tranquility that my amazing thunderstorm CD had given me, but to put it simply, I was in love with the thunderstorm. I set out on a new mission to find even better rain and thunderstorm recordings to fall asleep to!

Around 2005 I was in college, living in Philadelphia. A friend of mine who worked at The Sharper Image had suggested I get their ‘sound soother’, a little tabletop sound box, that played preloaded ‘white noise’ at the push of a button. My first question?: Does it have a thunderstorm? Yes? Okay, then I NEED this!

 

A Touch More Self-Discovery

The audio in the sound soother used short looping clips that were not spliced together very well and you could hear the looping clear as day. The same clap of thunder or gust of wind just repeated over and over again and it was only about a 15-20-minute clip at best. It was far more distracting than relaxing, which was frustrating for such an expensive item. It quickly moved from my night-stand to my closet.

For a while I jogged down this road of poorly-crafted audio loops and low-quality recordings, but they seemed to be all I could find. I tried all the sounds I could get and even listening to the city sounds out my window helped sometimes, however, I kept coming back to the thunderstorm. It just resonated with me.

quality sleep app

In 2007 or so, I had finally joined the masses in switching to a smartphone. Now I had the world of ‘apps’ at my fingertips. After feeling like I had regressed in my sleep solutions for so long, it didn’t take me any time to turn to the digital world for a solution to my ‘no proper thunderstorm recordings’ problem. Finding apps was super easy and a quick search generated plenty of results to sift through. Most of them had a free version so I could try them out to see if it was going to be a good fit first.

I tried numerous apps over the course of probably a year or so. THEN… I found the very amazing and continually impressive Relax Melodies app!!!!

FINALLY!!! Hallelujah!!!

I found something that sounded great, worked great, and did exactly what I needed it to.

 

So What About Now?

At this point you’re probably wondering: “But did it last?”

In short, YES, yes it did!!!

Fast forward – now a days, I fall asleep in under 10 mins (most nights) and stay asleep all night. For almost 10 years I have been using this app, most times I don’t even need it to fall back asleep (if I wake up), because I sleep so well now! And if I do struggle at all, falling back to sleep is never an issue with Relax Melodies.

Originally released in 2009, this amazing app allows you to create customized soundscapes with over 100 different ambient sounds, melodies, binaural beats, white noise and more. You can save your soundscapes, share them, listen to popular ones, or try a pre-made one. There are easy-to-use timers and bedtime reminders as well.

All of the features mentioned above are available in the free version. That’s right, you read that correctly: the bulk of the Relax Melodies’ features are available for FREE!! There are, of course, a variety of options for unlocking all features such as subscriptions and lifetime options as well.

The app developers, Ipnos, continue to beef up their relaxation support even further with ‘Sleep Moves’, their latest program added to the app (a series of innovative body exercises to help ease you to sleep), as well as the guided meditation and breathing programs, integration that allows you to discover what others use, and more.

If the nature sounds and white noise are not your forte, the app developers have an array of other apps that offer great options that support quality sleep and relaxation as well as reducing stress and anxiety levels.

Quality sleep, Happy Faces

After having achieved such great success with the app myself, this year I started using Relax Melodies with my son, Oliver. After we do our bedtime stories and lullabies, then I turn on his ‘sounds’ before I leave his room for the night.

My son is only 5 and he knows exactly what he likes and what he wants to listen to. (“Night time, fire and frogs, mom,” he says). It’s basically like you’re sitting at a campfire in the woods, minus any actual animal noises that are ‘too scary’.

Oliver and I (plus a few of my friends!) are in love with Relax Melodies and use it daily.

This app changed my life and transformed my sleep!! I went from struggling with maintaining quality sleep on a daily level, to having the best sleep of my life with Relaxed Melodies. I can not imagine where I would be today in my journey to find quality sleep if it wasn’t for this app. Thank you Ipnos for creating Relaxed Melodies!!! You guys truly gave me my rest and my life back!!

I invite you all to try it out! See what there is to discover for yourself -there’s nothing to lose!! (Other than stress, anxiety and bad sleeping habits).

Wishing you a peaceful and relaxing night sleep!


Stephanie Iadanza

About Stephanie

Hey there! Jersey born - currently livin' in Sacramento, California (US). Growing up I always had a passion for art & music, now I get to have them be a part of my life everyday! Being Simply Music's Art Director/Senior Designer and mom to my son, I live a very busy life and I just can't help it, I like to share.

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  • Laurie Richards

    Great article, Steph! I’m glad you found the answer to your sleep issues.