I have tried various technological or mental gizmos over the years to help me fall and stay asleep: white noise machines, small fans, mantras, working my way through the alphabet naming flowers or birds or superheroes, or tensing and relaxing my body from the feet up.
A few months back, I tried something different and I now tend to fall asleep and get back to sleep more quickly.
It's not a new idea by any means: I listen to music through my Bluetooth headset as I go to sleep. If I wake in the night, I simply put the music back on and away I doze.
Two keys that make this work for me: the music and the hardware.
What came first was the music. I don't know why music works for me; it could be that the music distracts the busy analytical part of my mind enough so the sleepy part can shut everything down.
In my iTunes music library, I created a playlist folder called "Zleep" (it sorts to the bottom) and in it, I have playlists for the following:
- Some time back, Moby released a playlist of slow, droney tracks that he created to help himself relax and sleep. Each track is from 17 to 35 minutes long, so I created playlists holding just 2 or 3 tracks at a time. I usually find myself asleep within a few minutes.
- If my mind is feeling overactive, I listen to Sharon Isbin's complete Bach lute sonatas. This album is in its own playlist and lasts about an hour. I can't remember ever listening to the whole thing; I think my mind has associated this CD with sleep for so long that I am usually gone by the third or fourth track.
- Max Richter's From Sleep is a minimal, ambient album, not as electronic or droney as Moby. More rhythmic. There is piano, strings, some vocal chant -- rather melancholy, truth be told. It's an hour long and is excerpted from the much much much longer work Sleep, which is intended to reflect a complete 8-hour sleep cycle. As one Amazon customer puts it, "Playing it a little louder, it also works fairly well as somewhat somber background music for dinner parties." Sold!
And that's it. When I go to bed, I pick whichever playlist stands out and crawl under the covers. If I get up in the night, I'll simply start playing it again.
The other key to making this work for me is my LG HBS-730 Bluetooth headset. I've had these for so long the button locations are in my muscle memory.
I use a bit of black tape to cover up the blinking blue light. Whenever I wake in the night and want to hear the music again, I simply press the Play button and the active playlist starts right up.
I like this "collar" style of headset for sleeping. It does not obstruct my head movement and does not get in my way. I sleep on my side, so it's easy to magnetically dock an earbud when I'm sleeping on that side.
My sleeping problems seem to be 90 percent licked. The waking-up-and-not-raring-to-go-in-the-morning problem is still there, but these things take time.