Every night my routine for getting to sleep is to play my Sleepytime playlist from Spotify. That’s really what I call it: “Sleepytime.” I’ve been curating this playlist for ten years. It contains more than 1200 tracks, virtually all classical music, including a lot of renaissance vocal music. It’s music with relatively constant sound levels, no abrupt or loud passages, and calming tempos. Yet each has enough counterpoint and musical interest to distract me from the mundane thoughts and worries that would otherwise keep me awake. I play it from my iPhone into my bedroom stereo and set the timer to “Stop Playing” when it reaches the end.
I have a degree in music and musicology and I’ve spent my whole life listening critically to good music. Sleepytime is not your usual collection of syrupy adagios and bargain-bin performances. It’s all high-quality music. I have obscure tastes so there’s plenty of composers and compositions here you’ve probably never heard of before–Palestrina, Dufay, Ligeti, Willaert in addition to Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Chopin. Every track rewards careful and repeated listening. Every track is the best performance I can find on Spotify.
A strange thing happens in my head every night. I set the timer to 22 minutes and put the Sleepytime playlist on shuffle. For the first ten minutes or so I’m listening intently, focusing on the details of the music. But as sleep begins to take over, I start hallucinating images and voices and enter a strange hypnagogic state, halfway between waking and dreaming. I’m still aware of the music but also aware that I’m hallucinating, and for a while I can switch back and forth. It’s a weird feeling. I gradually sink into the dream images and lose all awareness of the music. On a good night, by the time music stops I’m fully asleep and don’t notice.
Here’s the Sleepytime Playlist. It’s private in the sense that I built this only for me, but it’s publicly available to download for anybody with a Spotify subscription and I’ll be flattered if other people find it useful. (I added **S** to the title so I can spot this playlist among all the other playlists on my iPhone without my glasses.)