Here’s a picture: It’s midnight, you’ve been tossing and turning for hours, but can’t fall asleep. When this happens to me, I find that a playlist of sleep songs really does help me cross over to that glorious REM cycle I’m craving. But it can’t just be any ballad. It has to be a mix of soft vocals, subdued production, and simple lyrics. You know, the stuff dreams are made of.
These 10 tracks, below, always do it for me. Try them out the next time you have insomnia and see if they help you bop to sleep:
“Let’s get unconscious, honey” Madonna sings on this nineties classic—and after listening to it, you may do just that. I mean that in the most flattering way, of course. With its bubbly ambient production and hazy vocal delivery, “Bedtime Story” is an ideal song for unwinding. You could call it the perfect…well, bedtime story.
Norah Jones, “Don’t Know Why”
Jones shot to the top of the charts in 2002 with this warm, sleepy ballad, and it still holds up nearly 20 years later. Her vocals are velvety smooth, and the piano production is equally as relaxing. The result? A downtempo track that feels like the first five minutes in a hot bubble bath.
Sufjan Stevens, “The Dress Looks Nice on You”
Similar to “Don’t Know Why,” there’s a lulling quality to this Sufjan Stevens staple that will put you in a slumber-y mood. Maybe it’s the soft guitar plucks. Maybe it’s the soft synths in the background. Or Stevens’s muted vocals. It’s probably a combination of all three. Either way, this song lowered my blood pressure two points, so get into it.
Charli and Carly are known for their uptempo party bangers, which is why it’s funny their only collaboration together is this haunting slow-jam. “Backseat” is the quintessential zone-out song—atmospheric and electronic, with a pulse that never gets too high. Even with its heavy synths and Auto-Tuned casing, you’ll fall right into your REM cycle.
Beach House, “Take Care”
Beach House has a consistently chill discography, but “Take Care” is one of their finest tracks. It literally feels like riding down a winding road on a warm spring day. And you know what that means? Peace! And! Sleep!
Any song on Kacey Musgraves’s Golden Hour album would work for this list (except maybe “High Horse”), but my personal favorite is “Oh, What A World,” a trippy country ballad with electronic tinges and twinkly production. It’s the sonic equivalent of a deep-sleep dream.
Moore’s 2007 album Wild Hope was a significant departure from the candy-colored dance-pop that made her a star. In lieu of sugary-sweet hooks, she went full-on folk-acoustic—and the results were beautiful. Especially on “Extraordinary,” which sounds like the lazy Sunday morning you’ve always hoped for.
Frou Frou, “Let Go”
For a brief period of time, Imogen Heap and producer Guy Sigsworth were a dream-pop duo known as Frou Frou. Their best song (which you no-doubt heard on soundtracks for The Holiday and Garden State) was “Let Go,” a synth-pop tune with luscious orchestral influence. It’s nothing short of stunning, and one of the most relaxing songs you’ll hear.
Rihanna’s cover of this Tame Impala song is one of the highlights off her 2016 album Anti— and that’s saying something, because every track on that record is superb. Airy, experimental, and surprisingly soft, RiRi’s “Same Ol’ Mistakes” is a fever dream that will make you melt…then sleep.
Britney Spears, “Out From Under”
Another Guy Sigsworth appearance. The iconic producer helped craft this rare Britney ballad—which is one of her best, might I add. She truly sounds angelic on the song. Listen once, and your stress level will drop significantly.
Sleep is a $70 billion industry—we throw our money at a dreamier night’s rest, promise ourselves we’ll prioritize it, and then gripe when we’re still, inevitably, so tired. Despite our collective obsession with sleep, we seem totally unable to get more of it. In fact, we’re clocking fewer hours than ever. So, this month, we’re taking a look at what’s getting in the way—and what to do about it.