When it comes to sleep habits, 2020 has surely left its mark. From strange COVID dreams to doomscrolling, countless Americas are experiencing brand-new challenges to getting restful sleep and counting sheep clearly isn’t cutting it. Instead, in addition to apps like Calm and Headspace, people are turning to a somewhat unexpected place to combat their stress-fueled insomnia: YouTube.
YouTube searches for “sleep music” terms have been growing over 200% year over year, according to Google internal data.
Many of these videos have one thing in common: They all feature atmospheric and ambient music. Though we can no longer see the number of search results on YouTube, a search trend report shared by Google in May 2020 revealed that global searches for “relaxing chill house music” — a genre that often falls into the category of sleep music due to its relaxing sounds — was also spiking.
So what is it about sleep music that helps us unwind?
Why YouTube Sleep Music Works
YouTube Sleep music, with much of it being ambient, can be a powerful tool for those looking to get a quality night’s sleep.
“Ambient music, and other forms of music with less syncopation, are in many ways designed to relax and release tension in humans,” says environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant Lee Chambers, MBPsS. "Much of this music is designed to induce calm, grounding us sensorily into the present, reducing our cortisol levels.” And that’s important because relaxed bodies have an easier time transitioning to sleep.
Ambient sleep music can also connect with people through a sense of familiarity. When searching through the abundance of sleep music videos on YouTube, there's no shortage of well-known songs and soundtracks that people have shared on the platform with the purpose of serving as an ambient mix. People might often latch onto a film or television soundtrack because they know it by heart.
“We naturally gravitate towards the music we prefer, music that has a BPM of around 60-70, and sometimes music that feels familiar,” says Chambers. “For some, a movie soundtrack works powerfully, as it is very familiar and is therefore not only safe but requires minimal effort to concentrate on.” That familiarity can very much be a comfort as you try to get to sleep.
With as much stimulus and stress that surrounds us on any given day, the slower, methodic sounds of YouTube sleep music are a perfect remedy for nighttime.
Our Top Picks for YouTube Sleep Music
If you’re looking for a place to get started in the world of YouTube sleep music, the mixes below are a perfect place to start. Just make sure you only listen, not watch — screens emit blue light that can disrupt the production of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone.
‘Dreams’ Beautiful Chillstep Mix by MixHound
Slated as great study or background music, this one-hour chillstep mix creates a calm and dreamy sound.
Epic Chillstep Collection 2020 by Arctic Empire
This compilation of 27 chillstep tracks brings together a host of beautiful songs, including one titled “Sleepless Nights,” but don’t let that dissuade you.
‘Dawn’ An Ambient Mix by MrSuicideSheep
These 26 tracks work together perfectly to create a calming ambiance. If you’re in search of something reminiscent of classical music but with a little more ‘oomph’, this might be the mix for you.
Weightless (Official 10 Hour Version) by Marconi Union
“Weightless,” otherwise known as the “world’s most relaxing song,” features soft synths and melodies that really pull the listener into a dreamlike sound. With this 10-hour version, you can easily put this on while you get ready to head to sleep and just let yourself drift off to its soothing beat.
Chillstep 24/7 Livestream by MixHound
If you’re in search of a playlist that runs 24/7, YouTuber MixHound has you covered. This live stream features a 400+ song playlist that streams all day, every day, making it an option if you’re in the mood for some variety in your YouTube sleep music.
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