What is the best music to fall asleep to?
Most people need silence to send them to sleep, but there are also those who find that relaxing music can sometimes work wonders, and so are always on the lookout for good music to fall asleep to.
So what genre or style of music is the best for falling asleep to, and what defines whether a piece of music will help you drift off, or accidentally get your toes tapping when you need your eyelids to be drooping?
The first question is simple to answer: there is no 'best' genre or style of music to fall sleep to. What is important is that you actually enjoy listening to that kind of music in the first place. There are many incredibly relaxing classical music pieces out there for example, but maybe you are mostly into punk, techno or garage. It may be then that you won't find even the most relaxing classical music in the slightest bit conducive to sleep. If you are looking for the best music to fall asleep to, and want to look beyond classical, then have a look at my other articles: music to help you sleep: the chill-out and ambient list. and also calming music which lists relaxing world music.
The second question is harder to answer, and for that reason I used specific selection criteria to choose individual pieces of music, despite knowing that not everyone will agree with them. For example, some people will find that fast music helps them sleep because they simply find slow music irritating; but those people will by and large be in the minority. I will therefore set out the criteria I used for choosing music so you can decide for yourself in advance whether the music listed in this article is likely to meet your needs or not.
But first, please fill in this poll:
The rules defining how I have chosen the best music to fall asleep to
Let me say again, these are my personal rules, and not everyone will agree with them. The reason I am setting them out is not to claim authority over what makes music relaxing, but simply to let you know what you can expect from most of the music listed in this article.
- The music is generally slow, though I can't give you an exactly defined average tempo or average beats per minute (bpm).
- The music is fairly calm, relaxing or peaceful: by that I mean that it does not have sudden, dramatic or frequent changes in tempo, volume or intonation.
- The music mostly does not contain words. This is because I personally feel that good music to fall asleep to should not engage the brain too much, and lyrics do tend to engage the brain more than purely instrumental or synthesized music.
- The music does not generate strong emotional reactions. Now this is extremely subjective, and depending on your current mood, you may find some of the music to be emotional, but I have tried to stay away from music that was intentionally designed to generate strong emotional responses.
Relaxing classical music
Most classical music has, by its very nature, the potential to break most of my 'rules' in one way or another. So in choosing songs it wasn't so much a case of finding music that fits neatly into the criteria, but finding music that does not completely destroy them!
Some genres such as ambient, or chill-out, do tend to have entire albums which are relaxing. With classical music, it is more a case of choosing them piece by piece. You may therefore need to create your own compilation of songs.
So here is my list of good music to fall asleep to in the classical and contemporary classical category:
The Most Relaxing Classical Music In The Universe
This article focuses primarily on individual relaxing songs by great composers. If though you are looking for a simple collection of relaxing music on one CD, then this aptly named album is one of the best you could hope for. A double CD, it contains a couple of the songs mentioned later on, but also a wide selection of great pieces of classical music that will surely help you drift off into a peaceful state of sleep.
Opus 23 by Dustin J. O'Halloran
Dustin O'Halloran was born in 1971 and is a self-taught pianist and composer. This piece is truly beautiful, and one of my all time favorite relaxing piano pieces. I challenge you to listen to it on the video here and not feel any inner tension start to dissolve in an instant. O'Halloran has a talent for creating stunning piano pieces, and Opus 23 can be found amongst many other beautiful songs on the album 'Piano Solos Vol.2'. Have a listen and see if this is the kind of music that will soothe you to sleep...
Moonlight Sonata - by Ludwig van Beethoven
Written in 1801, this is still one of the most popular piano pieces ever composed.
Gymnopédie No.1 by Erik Satie
Satie began his 3 Gymnopédies in 1888. Interestingly though, the Wikipedia entry states that they are seen as a precursor to modern ambient music. See what you think...
Symphony 9, 3rd movement, Adagio molto e cantabile - by Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven's last complete symphony is generally regarded by critics as his best symphony, and one of the greatest classical works ever. The 3rd movement is particularly soothing music and great for falling asleep to. It does break my rules somewhat, but it is still incredibly relaxing music to listen to.
Clair De Lune - by Claude Debussy
The third of four parts of the Suite Bergamasque is the most popular. It translates as 'moonlight' from french.
Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Air is the 2nd of 5 pieces in Bach's 3rd Suite. It is one of the most famous examples of french baroque music. I like this video particularly as it is a live recording of a Croatian ensemble, making a change from the usual YouTube videos with just paintings or photos!
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Finding music by Mozart that does not break the rule of 'frequent changes in tempo, volume or intonation' is almost impossible. This haunting piece comes close though I think, and is definitely relaxing. If anyone can think of a piece which comes even closer to not breaking the rule, please leave a comment!
Serenade no.10 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Another rule breaker, but no list of classical music to fall asleep to would be right without at least 2 Mozart pieces. This serenade has 7 movements, but my opinion is that the 3rd is the most relaxing.
Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber
This piece arranged for a string orchestra was finished by Barber in 1936. I was hesitant to include it on the list at first as it is often regarded as an incredibly sad piece of music, which doesn't exactly follow my rules of not inciting strong emotional responses. However, it remains an incredibly beautiful and potentially relaxing piece of music in the right time and place. Made even more famous by many movies, such as Platoon and the elephant man, only include it on your bedtime playlist if you are not likely to reach for the tissues on hearing it!
Canon in D by Pachelbel
Returning to slightly more uplifting music, we have a song played at weddings across the globe. Canon in D is undoubtedly one of the most positive and beautiful songs ever composed. Don't include this one on your playlist though if it was played at your wedding and is going to have you reminiscing when you should be drifting off to sleep.
Méditation from the opera Thaïs by Jules Massenet
A stunning piece which is played between scenes of the opera Thaïs. It does break the rule somewhat with a crescendo in the middle, but overall it very soothing music to fall asleep to.
Piano Quintet in A Major - 2, Andante by Franz Schubert
Otherwise known as the Trout Quintet, the piece has 5 movements, of which Andante is the second. Composed by Schubert at the age of 22, it is a very worthy addition to the list of relaxing music.
Now for an expanding of horizons...
This ends my list of good music to fall asleep to in the Classical category. But before finishing the list, I thought I'd include some contemporary classical music and jazz. Some of the following pieces are in my opinion close to perfect when it comes to what soothes the mind and helps relax you to the point of being able to drift off. So bear with me as I explore a few other absolute gems that you might just want to add to the bedtime playlist.
Prelude 2 by Dustin O'Halloran
Another stunning piece by O'Halloran. He has composed so much incredible music, and wrote the entire soundtrack to the film American Affair. Just about everything he produces comes up on amazon rated by people as 4.5 or 5 stars.
River Flows In You by Yiruma
This is my current personal favorite piano piece. Yiruma is a South Korean musician, and his style is sometimes described as contemporary classical, other times as popular. It neatly continues the theme of relaxing piano pieces that pervades the music selected so far.
Spiegel Im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt
This beautiful piece was written in 1978 by the Estonian Arvo Pärt. It can translate as 'Mirror in the mirror'.
Almost Blue by Elvis Costello
This version is performed by Chet Baker. It breaks yet another rule in that it has lyrics. But I think by now the rules have all gone out the window in my delirious exploration of relaxing music to fall asleep to. This piece is very soft and is definitely good music to help you sleep if this style of music grips you.
In a Silent Way –by Miles Davis
Considered by many as the greatest work of Miles Davis, In a Silent Way was a studio album recorded and released in 1969. Music critics have struggled over the years to define exactly what style the album falls under. What is sure though is that if you are a fan of Jazz, fusion and ambient music, then this could be great music to fall asleep to.
Please help add to the list
So there you have it - my list of the best music to fall asleep to, with a few tangents thrown in at the end for good measure. Please do leave comments if you have suggestions for good classical music to help you sleep. I would be particularly interested in hearing more contemporary suggestions, and would like to grow this list over time based on people's feedback.
I hope that this list either provides you with new ideas, or gives you suggestions of music you can dig out from your existing collection to create your own playlist of the best music to fall asleep to.
- No Sleepless Nights
My website and blog which is full of useful information about sleep, and has lots of tips and techniques for ensuring you fall asleep easily at night.
- Classical Net - Classical Music Information & Reviews
A great resource for classical music
Sommer on April 01, 2019:
I fall sleep to "Cristofori's Dream" by David Land, then "Clare Dr Lune" by Debussy, and finish it off with the Somewhere in Time Soundtrack or at the least the piece by Rachmaninoff that inspired the film's main theme.
On occasion I will throw in Gabriel's Oboe from the movie the Mission.
Yusuf on March 09, 2017:
Uno and Ritornare by Ludovico Einaudi
Shannon on February 24, 2017:
I fell asleep to the Four Seasons-Autumn 2nd movement once.Then the 3rd movement came on and jump scared me really hard.But the 2nd movement is very relaxing.
Sophie on October 12, 2015:
Thank you for these great tips. I like the music you posted and I´m sure they´re all very relaxing, for piano music has that effect on our brains.
I found a youtube channel, which produces relaxing sleep music. There are also a few videos with piano music, in case you´re interested.
Jgoode on October 27, 2014:
Gershwin's lullaby for strings is my go-to piece that makes me drift right off.
Tracey on October 17, 2014:
This may not be what some would want for sleep music, but one of my favorites is a piece by Pyotr Tchaikovsky - Nutcracker Suite 5 - Arabian Dance. Just thought it would be a great mention.
Jeff Winchell on July 04, 2014:
I recommend the Bobby McFerrin/Yo Yo Ma version of the Bach Air.
Alyssa on June 21, 2014:
One of my favorite classical-esque pieces is Miles Davis' 'It Never Entered My Mind'. It's a very mild, soothing piece, but has a nice slow-dance quality as well. You can find it on the soundtrack of the movie 'Runaway Bride' with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.
The pianist Yiruma has so many beautiful relaxing pieces, I almost can't pick a favorite. Some of his newer work has other instruments playing in addition to his piano. I downloaded a guitar cover of Yiruma's 'River Flows in You' and I like it better than the original!
Ethan Green (author) from England on March 29, 2014:
Hi Cheryl - fair enough, I can understand that they can be emotional. Glad you found one or two that were more relaxing though!
Cheryl again on March 29, 2014:
And 'Almost Blue' by Chet Baker almost broke my heart....The Miles Davis piece works!
Cheryl Randall on March 29, 2014:
All the classical pieces were too emotional for my slumber, and/or so familiar that I was anticipating the melody. But I loved the first O'Halloran composition ~ it had my eyelids closing, and I liked the piece by Estonian Part. Thank you!!
Ethan Green (author) from England on February 01, 2014:
Nica - great - glad you enjoyed them:-)
Peeps - thanks, and yes that's a lovely song too.
Peeps on January 28, 2014:
Great list. Another favorite of mine to fall asleep to is the Flower Duet from Lakme.
Nica on January 08, 2014:
Downloaded all the songs. Thanks!
Ethan Green (author) from England on May 19, 2013:
Wow - I wish I could play that song on the piano JHoang - and I will check out that other song - thank you
Thanks idig - glad you found it useful and thanks for the positive vibes:-)
idigwebsites from United States on May 19, 2013:
Thank you, this will be of great help to me. Up and useful. :)
Jhoang on May 19, 2013:
I love music. I can play river flows in you on piano. Loch Lomond by sonic world orchestra is a great song as well, you check it out.
Ethan Green (author) from England on February 20, 2013:
Glad you like it DJ:-)
DJ on February 19, 2013:
Great list, thanks for putting it together