4 Soundtracks to Improve Sleep, Boost Productivity, and Create Calm

4 Soundtracks to Improve Sleep, Boost Productivity, and Create Calm

Whether you're trying to get more done during the day, wind down in the evening, or prepare for restful slumber at night, there are plenty of how-to guides out there. But one thing many of them miss is the power of music to increase focus, bust stress, and cycle down the nervous system. Here are five albums that are tailor-made to do all this and more.

  • The Secret Language of Trees by BT

You might not know the name BT, but you’ve almost certainly heard Brian Transeau’s music. If you’re a fan of the Fast and Furious series, you listened to BT’s score for the first installment. Do you have kids who love Pixar? He did a track for the Partysaurus Rex short film. More into artsy cinema? BT composed the soundtrack for Monster, the film that won Charlize Theron the Best Actress Oscar.

While you can buy all of his movie-related music, the best gateway into BT’s creations is through his studio albums. The seventh installment of his This Binary Universe opus just came out, and it’s arguably his best work yet. The Secret Language of Trees was inspired by the juxtaposition of the natural world and artificial intelligence (AI). While the regular versions make for good listening, check out the Producer’s Cut iterations on the deluxe edition for a fuller exploration of the album’s main musical themes.

After putting this LP on at all hours of the day and night, it seems to be most impactful first thing after waking up. Whether you’re journaling, calendar-blocking your high-priority tasks, or trying to get your creative juices going, The Secret Language of Trees is the perfect accompaniment. And as there’s over two hours of music here, it will last for the duration of your morning routine, no matter how elaborate it is.

  • Spatial Sleep Music by Tom Middleton

Back in the ‘90s, Tom Middleton recorded several pioneering albums with musical collaborator Mark Pritchard in southwest England that set a new standard in sound design. In addition to the Global Communication duo taking the dance music scene by storm, Middleton was known as a pro’s pro whom fellow DJs would travel miles to see play mind-bending sets at clubs across the country.

Over the past few years, Middleton has kept making music but pivoted somewhat. His fascination with neuroscience led him to explore the impact that sound has on the human brain. He discovered that certain beat patterns, frequencies, and arrangements promote deeper, more restorative slumber. Calm hired him to build such tracks for their uber-popular app, and Middleton released the aptly titled Sleep Better album (the deluxe edition of which lasts for a full eight hours).

Middleton has since gone down the rabbit hole with ever-more complex soundscapes. His latest long player is titled Spatial Sleep Music. Best experienced in Apple Music streaming service, this piano-driven, four-dimensional audio journey will take you out of the tired-but-wired state many of us find ourselves stuck in and send you into restful repose.

  • Biome by Llyr

We’ve written plenty of posts about the healing power of seeing and being in nature. But did you know that listening to rain, animals, insects, and birds can also be soothing? Llyr proves this point with his richly immersive debut album, Biome. He embedded in the Amazon rainforest for several weeks with just a guide and a field recorder for company and came back to civilization with the noises of bats, bugs, tropical storms, and more safely stashed on memory cards.

Then Llyr spent months carefully arranging these original recordings into intricately layered tracks that transport you to a jungle half a world away. Putting the most diverse ecological environment into musical form with beats underneath has a hypnotic effect that is perfect for downshifting your nervous system into parasympathetic recovery after a long, stressful workday. Put on your headphones and disappear into the forest canopy for just a few minutes – you will feel completely chilled out afterward.

  • One Hundred Billion Sparks by Max Cooper

There’s only one producer that can come anywhere close to BT’s sound design skills: Max Cooper. The founder of the boundary-pushing record label Mesh cut his teeth as a DJ touring all over Europe and then began to focus more on creating audio-visual installations that combine electronic music and dazzling light displays (think IMAX but in a club, old church, or even the Acropolis, where Cooper recently recorded a live album).

While it’s nearly impossible to recreate the live experience of a Max Cooper show, his albums come pretty darn close. The title of One Hundred Billion Sparks was inspired by the number of neurons in the brain, and each track explores a different area of cognitive function. Yes, this is all a little deep nerd, but the sonic results are what Will Ferrell (as James Lipton) once called “scrumtrilescent” in an SNL skit.

The best practical use of Cooper’s seminal LP is to power your productivity. There’s something about the tracks – whether it be the just-fast-enough BPM range or the complicated layering of so many sound channels – that makes One Hundred Billion Sparks the perfect album for writing and any other kind of creative endeavor. Soon it will become so ingrained in your mind that you won’t even hear it as you’re locked in a hyper-productive flow state.