The Best Sounds to Fall Asleep To
We collected data on 20,000 sleep and relaxation playlists on Spotify that help people fall asleep
Mar 18th, 2020 •
Music can deeply impact your mood. For many, it’s a source of energy, relaxation, and even sleep. Recently, sleep playlists have been some of the fastest-growing categories on Spotify, with more and more Americans listening to selected melodies as they drift off to sleep each night.
Using the Spotify API, we scraped 20,000 Spotify playlists related to sleep and relaxation to learn which artists and songs soothe listeners most often. We also compared the songs users chose most often with those that Spotify frequently suggests for sleep-related playlists. Continue reading to see the musical trends we discovered.
Peaceful and Popular Playlists
Often, there’s a fine line between relaxation and sleep. Music can slow breathing, quiet the nervous system, and even lower your heart rate.
Looking at the most popular sleep and relaxation playlists created by Spotify (in terms of the number of followers), we found sleep playlists to be highly specific to just that: sleep. With 3.2 million followers and counting, Spotify’s unambiguous “Sleep” playlist topped the charts. 839,000 people followed “Deep Sleep,” and another 724,000 followed “Jazz for Sleep.”
Users demonstrated more variety when it came to choosing their relaxation playlists on Spotify. “Peaceful Piano” came in first with over 5 million followers. Jazz music was also popular in the relaxation category, with 1.8 million listeners using “Coffee Table Jazz” to relax and another 1.5 million using “Late Night Jazz.” “Sleep” was also highly popular among users for relaxation, again with 3.2 million followers.
Sing Me to Sleep
Looking at user-generated playlists on Spotify, preferred artists varied widely. Both high-energy artists like One Direction and XXXTENTACION topped the charts, appearing 208 and 315 times, respectively. While many of these artists’ popular songs would likely be more appropriate for waking up, they do also create music with more traditionally relaxing tones.
The No. 1 artist for falling asleep? Ed Sheeran appeared on 451 of the 10,000 user-generated sleep playlists analyzed. The Sleep Foundation suggests the ideal songs for sleep oscillate between 60 and 80 beats per minute, which many of Ed Sheeran’s popular songs do, such as “Perfect.” Interestingly, Ed Sheeran didn’t appear in the top 25 artists for Spotify-created sleep playlists.
The Song of Sleep
Just as any playlist can include variety, so can artists. Although Ed Sheeran was the most popular sleep artist, it was his song “Photograph” that put the most people to sleep. This song has remained a favorite for sleep-seekers almost since its release in 2014. His song “Perfect” was the fourth-most popular song, living on 189 user-generated sleep playlists of the 10,000 studied.
Coldplay was the only other band to appear more than once among the top 25 sleep songs. “The Scientist” was the 15th-most popular sleep song, while “Fix You” came in 23rd. Although their song “Strawberry Swing” didn’t make the top 25, this song is considered one of the most scientifically relaxing.
Curating Musical Relaxation
Once again, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay took the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively, for the top user-generated relaxation playlists. Ed Sheeran appeared on 647 of the 10,000 relaxation playlists scraped, while Coldplay appeared on 501.
Sam Smith was also a popular artist for relaxation, appearing on 444 playlists and counting. Known for his soft, melancholy, and soulful song collection, Sam Smith’s soothing voice was the third-most selected for relaxation among Spotify users. Next in line? Shawn Mendes. While many of the 20-year-old pop singer’s songs are high energy, he does record more mellow, relaxing music as well, such as “Youth” and “Where Were You in the Morning?”
The Sound of Relaxation
The people have spoken: Ed Sheeran is the king of sleep and relaxation. The singer had three hits that ranked among the top 25 most popular relaxation songs. “Photograph” appeared 238 times, “Thinking Out Loud” showed up 232 times, and “Happier” was found 169 times.
As popular as Ed Sheeran is for relaxing, he did not create the No. 1 song for relaxation playlists. That spot went to “Let Her Go” by Passenger. At 75 beats per minute, this stays within the scientifically suggested range for relaxing music. The soft guitar, piano, and soothing voice throughout the song all encourage ease as well.
Going a step further, we wanted to know exactly what it was about a Spotify song or playlist that would make a listener drift off to sleep or relaxation mode. Comparing both energy and valence against loudness, there were some interesting differences between Spotify and users’ sleep decisions.
User-generated sleep playlists tended to have higher energy and loudness levels than Spotify’s curated sleep playlists. In a sense, Spotify veered toward the more traditional and expected in terms of energy and volume.
When it came to relaxation playlists, Spotify and its audience were more in sync. Both user-generated and Spotify-curated relaxation playlists demonstrated similar levels of loudness and energy. Users and the platform were also consistent in terms of valence. In music, valence refers to the measure of how happy or sad a song sounds. Ultimately, “happiness” levels and volume remained consistent between users and the platform when in relaxation mode.
The Key to Sleep
Although the ideal musical key for putting your brain to sleep has yet to be scientifically determined, our scrape of 20,000 Spotify sleep and relaxation playlists revealed some distinct commonalities. For both sleep and relaxation playlists, C was the top musical key. For reference, much of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” is sung in C, as is the song “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley.
The least popular key for sleep and relaxation was D sharp. Adele’s hit “Rolling in the Deep” employs much of this key. As beautiful as the song and voice may be, the intensity and key do not lend themselves as easily to falling asleep or resting. Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” also utilizes D sharp frequently and is also much more appropriate for high-energy situations.
Sleeping With Spotify
Spotify provides the background noise to many lives across the globe. This, of course, includes the sound and setting to which people drift off to sleep. Although the platform includes more than 30 million songs, both Spotify users and the platform gravitated toward certain artists and songs more than others for their sleep and relaxation playlists.
Although specific songs and artists will remain more popular for some, there are, of course, individual needs and preferences to consider when setting the stage for sleep. The most important piece of the puzzle, however, is the mattress. Finding the right platform for sleep is important for cultivating good energy and health, so make sure to consult the experts at Mattress Advisor before making a purchase. Our experienced team can help you select the perfect mattress for your needs and comfort, both as you start to listen to your sleep playlists and as you doze off.
Using the Spotify API, we scraped 10,000 playlists each associated with sleep and relaxation. The API limits scrapes to 10,000 results, so this project includes 10,000 playlists each for sleep and relaxation for a total of 20,000 playlists. The scrape results are as of Dec. 8, 2018.
Fair Use Statement
Is someone you know struggling to drift off to sleep every night? Share this study as inspiration for their slumber-inducing playlist. We just ask that you link back here so that they can explore all the musical melodies that might help them get some shut-eye.
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