Sleep Science

The Soundtrack To A Better Night’s Sleep

An image of Lucy Dodds
26 Sep 20195.5 min read

Mattress Online studied 1,098 songs from 8 official Spotify ‘Sleep Playlists’ to create the ultimate soundtrack to a better night’s sleep.

With 6,576,512 listeners when we gathered the data, millions of people are turning to music to get some shuteye. This all-natural sleep aid could take as little as three weeks to improve your sleep quality.

We’ve chosen the most popular songs according to Spotify’s algorithm and looked at how exactly they’re improving the world’s sleep. You’ll find all snooze-themed songs which feature multiple times in our data-driven playlist we’ve created, too. Click below to start listening to our Sleep Soundtrack.

The top tracks to fall asleep to

Here are the top tracks that you should be listening to at night. We’ve also explored the instrumentals, happiness rating, beats per minute (tempo or song speed) and decibels (loudness) to show why these tunes are so effective.

A Spotify playlist called 'The Top Tracks To Fall Asleep To' with a list of songs.

Sources: Spotify and Tunebat

Each of these songs appeared several times, with the top two tunes played five times more than most songs across the 8 official Spotify playlists we studied. For the rest of our top tracks, they appeared four times more.

Creating the ultimate song for snoozing

Based on our findings, we calculated the average beats per minute (BPM), decibels (dB) and happiness of these top tracks to show how the perfect song for sleep is created, plus discovered which instrument is best for sending you to dreamland. So, what’s the result?

Criteria of the best songs to help you fall asleep. It reads 'The Ultimate Song for Snoozing - 98 BPM, 23 dB, 30/100 Happiness, Piano'.

Slow, quiet, sad piano songs are best for sleeping

Our research reveals that the ideal song to sleep to would be created using:

  • Low BPM of 98
  • Small dB of 23
  • Gloomy melody
  • Piano music

But why does this matter? We looked at the reasons why these factors are helping over six million listeners get a better night’s rest.

Slow tempo (BPM)

BPM is another phrase for tempo, or how fast the music is. A normal resting heart rate for adults is around 60-100, so anything in that tempo range would be perfect for sleeping. The ideal BPM for snoozing is 98.

To give you more perspective, the average 30-year-old has a maximum heart rate of 190 BPM. So, if you were doing intense exercise and reached your peak heart rate, you’d be working around 50% over the ideal BPM for sleeping.

Quiet sounds (dB)

The dB scale measures the power of sound, or how loud it is. The closest sound to silence measures 0 dB, whereas an ambulance siren is around 140 dB.

We’d obviously struggle to sleep through loud noise, but many of us will go to bed with some background sounds, like if your partner is watching television in another room. If you do, you’re sleeping through 40 dB, which is the dB for average home noise.

All the top tracks in our sleep playlist are under 30 dB, which is the same sound intensity as leaves rustling or whispering. The optimal dB for sleep is 23.

Sad mood

We already know upbeat, fast tunes pair perfectly with exercise, so it makes sense that you’d need to listen to something less cheery when trying to sleep.

Our best sleep tunes scored an average of 30/100 on the happiness scale, showing that sorrowful songs are best for bedtime.

To work out how happy a song is, Spotify analyses the track and then uses an algorithm to estimate its happiness rating. When you learn that Happy by Pharrell Williams scored a huge 96 on the happiness scale, it’s a good indicator of what kind of songs you shouldn’t be listening to at night!

Piano instrumentals

Our findings show that the piano is the most soothing instrument, more than classical instruments like the violin and the flute, as it was the most common in our soundtrack research.

Relaxing piano music is associated with various health benefits. It can help relieve:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Overthinking
  • Chronic pain

As a result, if you’re feeling calmer before bed, you’re more likely to get a good night’s rest.

Now you know what music you should be winding down to, how else can you make the most of our sleep playlist?

A woman lying in bed with her headphones on with a blue overlay on the whole image.

The best methods of listening to music for sleep

Don’t just get straight into bed with your headphones on. Here are the most relaxing ways to listen to sleep songs to improve your chances of dozing off.

Listen before bed

Research suggests if you fall asleep within 10-15 minutes of going to bed, you’re more likely to have better sleep health. Those who take longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep have a greater chance of being in sleep debt.

If this sounds like you, listen to sleep-inducing songs for at least 45 minutes to give you the best chance of drifting off quickly.

Avoid headphones

Don’t listen to sleep playlists with headphones in. They aren’t just uncomfortable but can cause health problems like wax build-up, which could affect your hearing. Instead, play music from your smartphone, or any other device which is compatible with Spotify.

If you think using your phone will have a negative impact on your sleep, don't worry. Spotify has just introduced a ‘Sleep Timer’ function which will turn off the audio for you. If this hasn’t been rolled out to your device yet, many phones have these built in already.

Don’t play music all night

You don’t need to listen to music all night, as the noise could accidentally wake you up again. Simply use your sleep timer and the music will switch off when you (hopefully) do.

How long do sleep songs take to work?

Soothing music can take up to three weeks to work, which is definitely worth a try for a lifetime of easier snoozing. For some of us, it could even happen overnight.

A man listening to music with his eyes closed with a blue overlay over the whole image.

What about ASMR?

Not forgetting soothing sounds, we’ve also searched through 195 ASMR triggers. With only 330,638 listeners across just 4 Spotify playlists at the time of our study, you may not have heard of ASMR yet. It might not be as popular as relaxing music, but it’s definitely on the rise, with online interest for ASMR increasing by 566% over the past four years.

ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. It’s a calming, tingling sensation which spreads from the top of your head to your spine, triggered by relaxing audio sounds.

Here are the most popular ASMR triggers, based on our Spotify research – number one appeared fourteen times more than most sounds in our research.

Top ASMR sounds

  1. Water running/splashing
  2. Footsteps in snow
  3. Skiing
  4. Massaging
  5. Whispering
  6. Droning

If you’re not too keen on the sound of ASMR, there’s always relaxing songs available in our Sleep Soundtrack. If it does help lull you to sleep, remember to save the playlist to your Spotify library so you can listen every night.

With so many night-time interruptions, from air pollution to our own pets, it’s no surprise we’re turning to music for a great night’s sleep. Read more about sleep science and sleeping better in the Mattress Online blog.