We humans love to sleep, apparently.
According to research, a third of our lives is spent sleeping or trying to fall asleep. To put that in ‘real’ terms, that’s like watching the movie Die Hard 105,000 times. We flippin’ love sleep!
It’s hardly surprising then that sleeping (and its favorite pastime, dreaming) shows up in a lot of songs.
So, here’s our pick of the best songs about sleep. Sweet dreams!
- ‘Golden Slumbers’ by The Beatles
- ‘A Pillow of Winds’ by Pink Floyd
- ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’ by The Beastie Boys
- ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night’ by Nirvana
- ‘Sleeping on the Roof’ by The Flaming Lips
- ‘Sleep the Clock Around’ by Belle and Sebastian
- ‘Ode to Sleep’ by Twenty One Pilots
- ‘Asleep’ by The Smiths
- ‘I Went to Sleep’ by the Beach Boys
- ‘When You Sleep’ by My Bloody Valentine
- ‘I Guess I Should Go to Sleep’ by Jack White
- ‘I Go to Sleep’ by The Pretenders
- ‘Go to Sleep’ by Radiohead
- ‘Your New Twin Sized Bed’ by Death Cab for Cutie
- ‘Fear of Sleep’ by The Strokes
- ‘Blinding Lights’ by The Weeknd
‘Golden Slumbers’ by The Beatles
Side two of the Beatles album Abbey Road contains a 16-minute medley of eight short songs. ‘Golden Slumbers ‘ is the sixth one.
The song was inspired by Thomas Dekker whose poem ‘Cradle Song’ (from the play Patient Grissel) was written in the 17th century. The poem was put to music by W.J. Henderson in 1885 and called ‘Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes’.
McCartney found the song in his step-sister Ruth’s piano book and loved the words. He couldn’t read music, so he wrote his own music to it. Paul had visited his Dad’s home and felt particularly nostalgic being home – and also, possibly, a touch sad, as he lost his mum as a young kid and his Dad had remarried: “once there was a way to get back homeward”.
‘A Pillow of Winds’ by Pink Floyd
From Pink Floyd’s 1971 album Meddle, ‘A Pillow of Winds’ is a gorgeous acoustic number with dreamy slide guitar and fretless bass.
The lyrics here are about the various stages of sleep.
In a “cloud of eiderdown” (eiderdown is a quilt filled with bird feathers) the narrator is tucked up warm with his love by his side.
The candle dies, and “the book falls to the floor” as he falls asleep (what a great line!). When he wakes in the morning, he tries to “behold the dream” but “the dream is gone” (for more on dreams, check out our list of dreaming songs).
‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’ by The Beastie Boys
A play on the 1981 Motörhead live album No Sleep ’til Hammersmith, ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’ was a send-up of ’80s glam rock / heavy metal music with the ridiculous costumes and hairdos (think Spinal Tap).
From their debut studio album, Licensed to Ill, the song was a fan favorite and traditionally used as their closing song in concert.
Guitarist for Slayer Kerry King played the guitar riffs and solo.
‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night’ by Nirvana
One of the oldest songs about sleep, this was a cover of a Leadbelly song (also known as ‘In the Pines’ or ‘My Girl’) and dates back to at least the 1880s.
This slow, moody, acoustic number was their final song at the brilliant MTV Unplugged concert in 1993 (MTV asked them for an encore but Cobain refused on the grounds he thought the whole band sounded terrible).
The vocal performance by Cobain was exceptional, especially towards the end of the song when his screams sound almost animalistic. Neil Young describes it as “unearthly, like a werewolf, unbelievable”.
‘Sleeping on the Roof’ by The Flaming Lips
‘Sleeping on the Roof’ appeared on The Flaming Lips’ 1999 album The Soft Bulletin, an album with lush arrangements and heartfelt songs that received critical acclaim with its layered texture (leading some critics to call it ‘the Pet Sounds’ of the 1990s).
It’s also the album that gave us the song ‘”Waitin’ for a Superman” which we feature on our playlist of songs about superheroes.
The song has no lyrics! Quite why it’s called sleeping on the roof is anyone’s guess!
‘Sleep the Clock Around’ by Belle and Sebastian
Belle and Sebastian are maestros of lo-fi indie-pop or ‘chamber pop’ as it’s sometimes referred to.
‘Sleep the Clock Around’ is from their third album, 1998’s The Boy with the Arab Strap, and is arguably the best track on it.
It’s well documented that singer Stuart Murdoch is a long-term sufferer of ME, and much of the songs and lyrics were borne out of this condition. “This is a pop band that sprang out of infirmity,” he said in a Guardian interview.
With that context, the words reflect the trouble he had just going out and his sense of vulnerability.
‘Ode to Sleep’ by Twenty One Pilots
American musical duo Twenty One Pilots are what Rolling Stone magazine called the “ultimate post-Spotify rock band” (namely, they flit from genre to genre, bouncing between rap, reggae, indie, and a touch of broadway musical).
Dan LeRoy at Alternative Press called it “a manic, tempo-shifting mashup of hip-hop swagger and indie-rock doubt, with a heart-stopping pop chorus designed to drive demons away.”
‘Asleep’ by The Smiths
Released as a B-side to the single, “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” in 1985, the melancholy ‘Asleep’ cropped up on compilation albums The World Won’t Listen and Louder Than Bombs.
With its understated piano and frontman Morrissey repeating the line “sing me to sleep”, it sounds like a lullaby and is one of the best songs about sleep (and probably not bad at making you falling asleep too).
‘I Went to Sleep’ by the Beach Boys
If you have trouble sleeping (insomnia) or suffer from sleep deprivation, try this dreamy waltz. It’s a gorgeous tune that will soothe your bones after a long day.
The words are brilliantly mundane too:
“I took a walk and sat down in a park / The gardener walked out and the sprinklers went on / They watered the lawn and I went to sleep”.
‘When You Sleep’ by My Bloody Valentine
From their iconic album Loveless (1991), ‘When You Sleep’ was the first single.
Featuring the signature ‘wall of distortion’ sound and distant, ethereal vocals, it’s a great example of the ‘shoegaze indie rock’ sub-genre (they hate that label).
In fact, the album ‘Loveless’ is widely considered the best shoegazer album ever made.
‘I Guess I Should Go to Sleep’ by Jack White
From White’s 2012 debut solo album Blunderbuss, ‘I Guess I Should Go to Sleep’ is a sort of sea shanty waltz that he conjured up on the spot.
The words tell of a guy who “ain’t managed to say the right thing yet” and concludes he’s better off just going back to bed.
“It’s too hard standin’ on my own two feet / Been runnin’ too long on an endless street / Well I guess I should go to sleep.”
‘I Go to Sleep’ by The Pretenders
Ray Davies (of The Kinks) wrote ‘I Go to Sleep’ while waiting for his wife to give birth to his daughter. Back then, men weren’t allowed into maternity wards so he penned this song while he waited.
This is arguably the best version with the superb Chrissie Hynde on vocals.
‘Go to Sleep’ by Radiohead
The second single from their 6th studio album Hail to the Thief (2003), ‘Go to Sleep’ could have been from one of their earlier albums such as The Bends.
This song, which is political in character, is mostly driven by a loosely arpeggiated acoustic guitar.
‘Your New Twin Sized Bed’ by Death Cab for Cutie
From their 2008 Narrow Stairs, ‘Your New Twin Sized Bed’ is a sad (or tragic) song about a guy who’s given up on finding a partner.
He resigns himself to the fact that he doesn’t need a bigger bed “that old queen was more space than you would need”.
‘Fear of Sleep’ by The Strokes
New York City sons The Strokes were one of the biggest bands in the indie rock revival of the early-2000s, jumping into prominence with their hit album Is This It.
Here is one of their lesser-known songs, ‘Fear of Sleep’, released on the album First Impressions of Earth in 2006.
‘Blinding Lights’ by The Weeknd
A common predicament for some people is not being able to sleep (insomnia).
That’s what happens in this song. The narrator is having a sleepless night because his lover has gone walkabout.
“I said, ooh, I’m blinded by the lights / No, I can’t sleep until I feel your touch”.
More songs about sleeping
- ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’ – The Everly Brothers
- ‘You Can Sleep While I Drive’ by Melissa Etheridge
- ‘I Don’t Like To Sleep Alone’ by Paul Anka
- ‘Who Needs Sleep’ by The Barenaked Ladies
- ‘(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All’ by 5th Dimension
- ‘How Do You Sleep?’ by John Lennon (Sam Smith also does a version)
- ‘Behind The Wall Of Sleep’ by The Smithereens
- ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ by Tight Fit
- ‘Talking In Your Sleep’ by The Romantics