While not expressly designed for the purpose of sleeping, ambient music can often be incredibly meditative. The term “ambient” was coined by the English visionary Brian Eno in the late ‘70s. He defined it in the liner notes of his album Ambient 1: Music for Airports as music that’s “designed to induce calm and space to think.” While we now understand the genre to be much broader (due to its shared DNA with “electronic” and “experimental”), most would agree on one central criteria: Atmosphere and tone are always at the forefront. Our brains, as a result, are active enough to fill in the missing parts (often vocals) and just idle enough to surrender to some shut-eye.
People swear by this winning recipe, including Brian Sweeny, someone I spoke to while researching this story. He’s the founder of Ambient Church — an experimental event series that brings artists into elaborate Brooklyn churches — and someone who knows a thing or two about bedside-music recs.
To be sure: I am not a prolific composer or a famed neuroscientist or an adjunct professor at Stanford! But I am very tired, and with some insight from Sweeny, I’ve rounded up five sleep-inducing albums for your inquisitive listening pleasure.
Before we dive in, a caveat: The recs below do not include sleep-specific albums (see Max Richter’s eight-hour, neuroscientist-backed opus Sleep and the not-nearly-as-scientific album Sleeping Tapes from actor and Dude Jeff Bridges), because I’ve never had much luck with them. You, however, might. Otherwise, the records below do work for me, and hopefully they’ll do the same for you.