With any luck, you'll never hear the last track of Bedtime Beats (Rhino). It's not much of a revelation that Americans, in general, are suffering from a monstrous collective sleep deficit " brought on, as reported via various sources, by long hours at work, family demands and too much time on the Internet. Some studies have suggested that too little sleep produces a myriad of adverse health effects, which doesn't come as much of a surprise. Sleeping less than an optimum amount, apparently, can lower immunity, contribute to obesity and even make people die sooner (however, there is plenty of time to sleep when you're dead). The National Institutes of Health has reported that more than 40 million Americans suffer from at least one chronic long-term sleep disorder. The number of prescription sleep aids on the market seems to attest to ample demand. Late at night, while you're fitfully not sleeping, you can stare at the television and longingly watch any number of commercials for sleeping pills in between reruns of Law & Order and commercials for how to repair your credit or earn money from home via the Internet. There also are plenty of ads for ergonomically designed mattresses with eye-opening price tags. (I don't have any particular trouble sleeping; I just stay up late " and have cable.)
Luckily for those 40 million-odd Americans who can't sleep, the good folks at Rhino Records have hit upon a potential solution that costs less than a special mattress and isn't as taxing as trying to wrangle drugs out of your general practitioner. The label, until now mostly famous for reissue box sets and quirky compilation CDs, has teamed up with a New York-based music, lifestyle and entertainment development company called Smash Arts to offer a nonprescription solution to the insomnia epidemic. Working from the venerable aphorism that music has power to soothe the savage beast, the two have teamed up to create the double-CD compilation Bedtime Beats: The Secret to Sleep, Tranquil Seductions One Beat at a Time. According to the press materials, sleep researchers at Case Western Reserve University found that music with a tempo of 60-80 beats per minute results in 'significantly better perceived sleep quality, longer sleep duration, greater sleep efficiency and more." The Associated Press reported that Bedtime Beats was 'just the remedy for America's restless sleepers." Hoping to reap these benefits for myself and my friends, I passed the CD around to a semi-scientifically selected cohort of guinea pigs to see how it panned out.
Unfortunately, it turns out that the people I know either already rest easy at night, or are too picky about their musical preferences to use Bedtime Beats as a sleep aid. My boyfriend would represent the latter. The morning after I left him with Bedtime Beats, he emailed me from work: 'Horrible dreams, sleeplessness, not good. This didn't really "help' me sleep at all. I wonder if you need to train yourself for it to work." (Looking at the press release more closely, it appears that you do " a second read revealed the suggestion that, similar to dosage advice for other meds, the scientists at Case Western Reserve advise that you listen to Bedtime Beats daily for at least two weeks at the outset.) My test subject also said, 'Please don't make me listen to any more awful CDs."
The shimmery, mostly piano-based modern jazz tone of the CD is hardly 'awful," but even though it features solid names like Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, it seems to have been curated for its inoffensiveness. My roommate, Robert, and a Gambit staff member both reported falling asleep easily during the first track, as did I. In the interests of science, I did listen to the CD the following day at lunchtime, and while I didn't fall asleep unexpectedly, I also had a difficult time paying attention to the fact that there was music on at all. Most of the tracks are smooth, instrumental modern jazz tunes that showcase meandering piano or lulling horns in nonmelodic patterns " less for the mind to latch on to, possibly. Still, besides the one bad review, nobody seemed to notice the music at all. For $11.99, though, it beats Ambien.