Sleep music: A guide to relaxing tones for slumber

The right meditative sounds can lull you into a deep sleep. The best sleep music helps create optimal sleep conditions so you can get that restorative sleep your body craves. Try these listening ideas to help quiet your mind and drift off into dreamland.

Sleep music for bedtime - get better sleep
Sleep music: A guide to relaxing tones for slumber

The best music for sleeping

Generally, the best music provides a slow & steady bedtime soundtrack without too much variation in pitch or volume, masking distracting sounds that send your mind racing. The goal is to create a steady ambient background sound so that other sounds don’t “stick out” so much.

By making listening to soothing music or sleep meditation music a part of your bedtime routine, your body and mind will begin to recognize it as music for sleep, making it easier to fall into a deep sleep even after a busy day.

Sleep music basics

There are generally four categories of music ideal for evening listening:

  1. Soothing Classical Music
  2. Tranquil Nature Sounds
  3. Calming Sung Lullabies
  4. Peaceful Spoken Stories/Meditation music

Also, different types of music work better for different people. Not everyone responds the same way. Spend a week trying out sleep music from each of the categories above to find what works best for you. You may find that a specific type of music puts you to sleep at a particular volume like a charm!

It could be piano music or the sound of rain falling that work best for you… You’ll know after a few nights of deep slumber. And, If you’re looking for some examples – Keep reading! I’ve listed some for each category below.

SLEEP TIP: Remember that if it makes you feel energetic, tap your toes, or feel a strong emotional reaction, it’s probably not soothing enough for bedtime sleeping music.

Music for sleeping - relaxing classical music
Sleep music: A guide to relaxing tones for slumber

Soothing classical instrumental music

Classical music provides a consistent and soothing soundtrack at bedtime. Soothing instrumental music with a hum or a drone works very well. Look for music where the soundscape is even, without loud “peaks” and quiet “valleys.” The National Sleep Foundation recommends choosing soothing songs with slow rhythms, between 60 to 80 beats per minute.

Here are some ideas for classical bedtime music:

  • Lullaby, by Johannes Brahms
  • Song Without Words Op. 30 No. 3, by Felix Mendelssohn
  • Trois Gymnopédies, by Erik Satie
  • Nocturne No. 20 in C Sharp Minor, by Frédéric Chopin
  • The Swan (Le cygne, Le carnaval des animaux), by Camille Saint-Saëns
  • Ave Maria, J.S. Bach/Gounod
  • Vocalise, by Sergei Rachmaninoff

Relaxing classical music is an effective intervention in reducing sleeping problems.

Above all, choose relatively soothing music for your sleep playlist. Save the powerful opera music and other classical pieces with significant dynamics for the daytime! Perhaps they can be on your wake-up playlist.

Tranquil nature sounds

Nature sounds create a lovely white noise that masks the sound of various interruptions. Variations in the sound are gradual rather than abrupt.

Here are some tranquil nature sounds for your nighttime routine:

  • Ocean Waves
  • Running Stream
  • Falling Raindrops
  • Crickets Chirping

Relaxing music with these (and other) natural sounds is available on Youtube, iTunes, and apps such as

Colors of Nature Noises for Sleeping

While white noise is common, other colors of noise from nature with a little more bass may help with sleep:

“Pink noise is often found in nature, such as waves lapping on the beach, leaves rustling in the trees, or a steady rainfall. Brown noise is even more skewed toward the lower frequencies, so the sound is deep, like the sound of thunder or the low roaring of a waterfall.”

Apps like Simply Noise or Noisli can play nature noise for you in various colors.

For more information about how recorded natural sounds can promote sleep, check out this sleep study.

Some nature soundtracks have been designed explicitly as sleep music, combining soothing nature sounds with instrumental melodies like piano music. These can work exceptionally well if you like nature sounds but your partner prefers classical music.

Calming Sung Lullabies

Some of us just aren’t into recorded nature sounds or classical music. For some people, a calm and steady human voice is the ticket. If there’s no one around to sing to you, there are wonderful recorded sung lullabies. You can also learn these lullabies yourself and sing them to your little ones (your voice is their favourite…no matter how well you sing!).

Here are some folk lullabies and lullabies from movies:

Here are some pop songs that could be sung as a lullaby:

  • In My Life (The Beatles)
  • Time After Time (Cindi Lauper)
  • What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong)

Here are some recorded pop songs you may enjoy:

  • Flume, Bon Iver
  • Higgs Boson Blues, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  • Bird Stealing Bread, Iron & Wine

You can also record family members singing their favorite lullabies. I recorded about a dozen songs my Grandma sang, and my kids still love listening to them! I’m so glad we have them recorded.

Sleep music - how and what to listen to relaxing music
Sleep music: A guide to relaxing tones for slumber

Peaceful spoken bedtime stories & sleep meditation music

Kids love bedtime stories, and there’s no reason why adults can’t enjoy them too. The steady sound of the human voice can help lull even a grown adult to slumber.

Some bedtime stories have quiet ambient sounds playing, while others are just a calm voice. It’s like reading, but you don’t actually have to read (or keep your eyes open).

We’re not talking audiobooks here, but stories meant for bedtime. I find the best bedtime stories for sleepiness are ones where nothing much happens… (I must remember to record my parents telling their favorite bedtime stories!).

Calm offers bedtime stories on their app. My favorite is Wonder, which is read by Matthew McConaughey. It’s a sleepy story about a child watching the stars in the night sky with her grandfather.

Guided meditations for sleep can have a similar effect as long as they have a steady, relaxing tone. Both and offer guided meditations designed for better sleep. They are sort of a blend between spoken word and sleep meditation music.

SLEEP TIP: Before trying out different types of music, make sure your bedroom environment is optimal for sleep! It should be quiet, dark, and cool. Set the thermostat to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.5 degrees Celcius). Clear the clutter before going to bed. Refrain from painting your bedroom bright colors. Put tech away an hour before bedtime. Cover or remove any little blinking lights. Invest in airy, comfortable bedding and pajamas (I LOVE my sleep socks… So amazing).

Creating a relaxing sleeping environment with calm music
Sleep music: A guide to relaxing tones for slumber

How to play relaxing music in your bedroom

There are a few ways to play sleep music in your bedroom:

  • iPhone or iPad speaker
  • Sonos speaker
  • Bluetooth speaker

You can also use your iPhone or Sonos alarm settings to have your music play automatically starting at a specific bedtime, depending on your settings. Then you won’t even have to press play!

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a digital content creator and mom of three. She is also an engineer and bit of a plant nerd too. She has been featured by publications such as Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Homes & Gardens, and Family Handyman.

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