Dr Michael WoltersNational Bed Month is The Sleep Council’s longest standing awareness campaign, which started in 1990 and runs throughout the whole of March.

As part of National Bed Month, Dr Michael Wolters (Deputy Head of Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University), shares his thoughts on sounds that may help to ensure that you have a good night’s sleep.

What to listen to when you’re lying in bed wanting to go to sleep? I have talked to a lot of people about this in the past. Some people like listening to the sound of the sea or something similar, you know, something ‘relaxing’.

The sound of the sea or the sound of exotic birds at dawn or Herefordshire cows at dusk or whatever natural sounds there are … all those sounds keep me wide awake as I’m only thinking of the fact that they’re just too cheesy to be taken seriously. They then make me laugh, which wakes me up more. So, no natural sounds.

Next…well, I’m a professional musician, so music might seem an option. It really isn’t. If it’s too dull, I think about it being too dull and if it’s too exciting, I get really engaged in it and excited. So, that’s not productive. In fact, music is great at pretty much any other time, just not when you’re trying to go to sleep.

I once made the mistake of putting on James Macmillan’s Sinfonietta, which I had not heard before, just when I was going to sleep. It’s a piece that starts beautifully calm and extremely quiet, so I turned up the stereo … Six minutes into the piece, you get the most massive bang. I was not only wide awake but I also nearly died. I said to my friend Isobel that she should listen to the piece in the same way and she did and she screamed and she didn’t forgive me for a while.

So, anyway… music is clearly out. If you love music it’ll always engage you. This leaves us with words. Quite a few friends of mine like listening to Radio 4 when they’re going to sleep. That works better as I don’t listen to what they’re saying. But I always get to the point, when I’m half asleep, that I think there are people in my room and I want them to get out. So, that doesn’t really work either. The shipping forecast is the big exception. It’s just great to listen to. I absolutely love it, but it means organising your whole sleeping routine around a 15 minute broadcast and I really don’t want to give the BBC that much power over me. That leaves me with the only thing that works: nothing. I listen to nothing. The quieter the better. Then a train goes past and it makes me feel at home and happy and I fall asleep. In fact, I never have trouble going to sleep. So, my tip is: move somewhere quiet, next to a train line.

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Michael Wolters

Michael Wolters

Deputy Head of Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University
Michael Wolters

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