July 24, 2020

Classical music for sleep.

Dramatic costumes and massive scenery, a full orchestra blowing your hair back, and singers with voices capable of shattering glass—these may be a few of the things that come to mind when you think about opera. For every moment of pageantry and splendidly big sound, however, you can also find a gentle counterpart. Some of the most delicate, soothing moments in classical music can be found in the operatic repertoire.

If the stressors of the world are getting to you and you're looking for classical music that will help you relax and maybe even get a great night's sleep, we have some wonderful selections from opera and beyond to help you drift off to a deep, restoring rest. If you dream of beautiful, far-off places—that's just a bonus!


Soothing relief for insomnia: classical music for sleep


Giacomo Puccini

"Humming Chorus" from Madama Butterfly

In Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Cio-Cio-San stays awake all night as she waits for Pinkerton’s return; the peaceful “humming” belies this anxious moment. It might as well be a lullaby.


George Frideric Handel

"Ombra mai fu" from Xerxes

In “Ombra mai fu” from Handel’s Xerxes, the title-role Persian king admires the shade of a plane tree, perfect for an afternoon nap.


Claude Debussy

Suite bergamasque, L.75: III. “Clair de lune”

Fall asleep under the moonlight with Debussy’s “Claire de lune” from his Suite bergamasque.


 Jean-Philippe Rameau

"Tristes apprets" from Castor et Pollux

Though the song is about grieving a lost lover, the vocal line glides softly over the gentle ebb and flow of the orchestra in this lament aria from Rameau’s Castor et Pollux.


 Léo Delibes

"Duo des fleurs" ("Flower Duet") from Lakmé

The familiar “flower duet” from Delibes’ Lakmé paints a lovely pastoral scene of gathering flowers by a flowing river, birds singing overhead. 


Claude Debussy

“Deux arabesques”

What could be more serene than Debussy played on a harp? Here, Héloïse de Jenlis performs one of Debussy’s early, impressionistic works, “Deux arabesques.”


Max Richter


If none of the above selections have made your eyelids droop, Max Richter’s Sleep, clocking in at over 8 hours, is sure to do the job. The gentle minimal tones are engineered to carry you peacefully through the night.


Ready to dream? Listen to our "classical music for sleep" playlist on Spotify:

Photo: Todd Rosenberg