THE BLOG
02/08/2013 08:29 am ET | Updated Apr 10, 2013

Getting Rid of Insomnia: A Sample Playlist!

Sometimes your anxieties can gnaw at you like a pebble in your shoe. Then the next thing you know they are keeping you awake at night. Some people try to turn their mind off with a little wine. Others will watch television or read a book until they go down. This works for many of us, most of the time.

Other individuals, however, have a more difficult time, and end up experiencing bouts of sleepless nights. For some, getting to sleep isn't necessarily the issue. Their problem is staying asleep the whole night. These individuals wake up unfailingly at almost the same time every night, having to go to the bathroom or to get a drink of water. Then they cannot get back to sleep. Often they start ruminating about work or relationships or other issues. Some just give up trying to go to sleep and wind up checking their email or Twitter or surfing the Internet. After a couple of hours of that, they finally get to sleep for only an hour or two before their alarm starts screaming at them. They drag themselves to work, exhausted.

One possible solution to insomnia is to put together a musical playlist that will work on your mind and body like your own personal lullaby. Either instrumental and/or vocal music will work. If you use songs with lyrics, just make sure that they are sending you the right message to soothe your anxieties. There are lots of songs that have this effect on people everywhere. The idea is to find one that works for you.

Consider this true story: One such individual -- let's call him Jack -- struggled with insomnia for several years. Then he tried using music to relieve his nighttime anxieties. He loaded up his cell phone with several songs he thought might calmed him down because he already knew they relaxed him in other scenarios. Not all of the songs worked, however, for this particular goal. But the one that finally did do the trick for him was "Reflection Eternal" by Nujabes. He would lay back in bed, close his eyes, and play his calming song for about 12 minutes each night (or a little more if necessary) before turning off the lights and going to sleep. As the days went by, he started feeling better and better. After about three months, he started using the song randomly. "I don't need it all the time," he said. "It's like my mind starts playing it all on its own. Next thing you know, I'm out."

Playlist Tip: Songs of fewer than 100 BPM (beats per minute) can do the trick. The lower the song's BPM, the better. So, for example, Norah Jones' "You Turn Me On" has 59 beats per minute. But remember, the song has to be one "you" like -- and the more you like it, the better it will work.

Strive for:

  1. Songs that you already know have a calming effect on you.
  2. Songs you like a lot.
  3. Songs with BPM under 100.
  4. Instrumentals are good.
  5. Vocal songs are good, too. Be sure the lyrics send the right message.
  6. Songs from childhood are great, songs you sang with your mom or your mom sang to you, ones that carry memories of safety and warm coziness.
  7. Songs that calmed Mom down before you were born.

Use other parts of the mind when listening.

  1. Try visualizations. Create a comforting interpersonal image or environmental image in your mind as you listen, or make a mental movie as you listen.

  • Use color. Visualize the color green as you listen, or imagine a natural environmental setting with luscious greens. Then, view it as though you were looking through a green lens. Relax, slow and deepen your breathing, breathe the entire image in. Feel its calming energy.
  • Sometimes playing white noise (you can actually purchase this online) for a while before your playlist will help shut your mind off. You can also shift out of a detrimental mindset by using a slideshow of a time and place where your mind felt perfectly free, happy, and relaxed. Then put on your insomnia-soothing playlist.

    Using recordings of nature's soothing sounds works well, too -- wind or rain, sounds of a campfire, waterfall, or ocean waves are all favorites. You can plan ahead with these by making your playlist ahead of time, so it will be available whenever you need it.

    You can also record your own brainwaves at a Brain Music Treatment Center near you. This is a research-based treatment for reversing insomnia.

    Happy sleeping... Shh.

    "Silhouette" -- Dagmar Krug
    "Pachelbel's Canon in D" -- MaryLee
    "Turn Me On" -- Norah Jones
    "Unforgettable" -- Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole
    "In My Life" -- The Beatles
    "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" -- Mozart
    "Every Breath You Take" -- The Police

    For more by Joseph Cardillo, Ph.D., click here.

    For more on sleep, click here.