Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bedtime Beats: The Secret to Sleep
CD review by Sombrero Grande

Perhaps you remember the episode of The Muppet Show where Victor Borge guest starred. On the other hand, you probably don’t so I’ll fill you in on what happened.

In one sketch, Victor played Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” for Fozzie Bear and the music proved so soothing that not only did Fozzie quickly nod off but so did Victor as well as the Beethoven bust sitting on the piano.

The soothing power of classical music (and the innate ability of some compositions to cause drowsiness) served as guiding purpose in the creation of a new 2-disc CD release entitled Bedtime Beats: The Secret to Sleep. It’s advertised as a potential solution to insomnia and the booklet inside reads: “Relax, dear reader. Bedtime Beats offers a new, holistically healthy, and (let’s face it) much more enjoyable alternative for getting to sleep than expensive and potentially addictive drugs and other therapies.”

Based on “solid research,” this compilation of soothing classical melodies (such as “Moonlight Sonata,” Puccini’s “Chrysanthemums,” Saint-Saëns’ “The Swan,” and Debussy’s “The Girl With the Flaxon Hair”) plays at 60 to 80 beats per minute which, according to the text inside the booklet, “is considered a musical healing zone for the body, since the normal adult resting heart beats at about the same cycle.”

Bedtime Beats isn’t exactly a CD release I can review in the traditional sense of rating how good the songs are on it, since that’s not really the reason for the album’s existence. Instead, this “review” will be more a description of a highly non-scientific experiment to see if, at face value, the CD works for its intended purpose.

Every night, my wife and I usually pop in a CD before going to bed anyways. Our selection is usually something from Enya, Kenny G, Sade, Martin Tillman or the soundtrack to the IMAX film The Living Sea. So what I wanted to find out in this experiment is if Bedtime Beats helped us fall asleep any faster than our usual catalog of soothing CDs (which, despite what some smartasses may tell you, are NOT intentionally designed to induce slumber).

For the first two nights, we listened to the first disc of Bedtime Beats as we went to bed. On the third and fourth nights of the experiment we listened to the second disc. For the fifth night, I selected The Living Sea’s soundtrack. The sixth night was Martin Tillman’s Eastern Twin album and Kenny G’s Greatest Hits was the selection for the seventh night.

As an extra piece to the experiment, I tried listening to the discs of Bedtime Beats outside of an attempted slumber situation; specifically, I turned disc two on to listen to while writing this review. I’ll give you the results of that last part first.

Upon initially starting the second disc of Bedtime Beats I had an almost immediate feeling of relaxation waft over me. Fortunately I’d already written the first couple of paragraphs of this review, otherwise I would have been sorely tempted to just give the whole business amiss and sit in my recliner to spend some quality time “spacing out.”

A few songs in, however, I found my fingers aggressively typing away and I even returned to the CD player a few times to turn up the volume on the disc. While the first couple of tracks seem to try to hit the listener very hard upfront with the “relax” vibe, later tracks merely provide a peaceful and pleasant background as if transported into a dreamland (which, if those first couple tracks do their job, ideally is where the listener will be). Many of the recognizable tunes are very beautiful and can make for an enjoyable listen anytime.

Okay, now onto the question: how effectively did Bedtime Beats aid in bringing about sleep? Well, since it’s hard to know exactly when one falls asleep, I’m measuring each night’s progress by how many tracks I can recall listening to or when was the last time I can recall glancing over at the clock each night.

For those first few nights I really began to wonder if Bedtime Beats was any better than the CDs we usually listen to. I didn’t remember ever reaching the ends of any of the discs and, in fact, could only recall actively listening to the first five or six tracks, which is pretty much par for the other discs that end up getting repeat plays in our bedside CD player. My wife, who typically falls asleep before me, was asleep after just two or three tracks, which, again, is pretty normal.

Okay, I thought, these will just be another two discs that will make it into our regular rotation, but I was in for a surprise on the fifth night when I started off with the soundtrack to The Living Sea and found that my wife and I were still wide awake, talking, joking, and laughing more than halfway through the album. Since it was getting rather late at night (or early in the morning, in this case) and we had to work early, I switched The Living Sea out for disc one of Bedtime Beats. The change was dramatic and nearly instantaneous as I can’t recall more than the next ten minutes before falling asleep.

Results were similar on the sixth and seventh nights as Martin Tillman and Kenny G were both sleeplessly booted partway through their CDs to get the music from Bedtime Beats back in the air.

So what are my conclusions from my highly non-scientific experiment concerning this album? Bedtime Beats is full of beautiful classical music, has an instantaneous relaxation effect on the listener and has ruined all of my other “relaxing” CDs I previously used to help fall asleep at night. Hopefully the folks behind Bedtime Beats are planning some more releases in the future because I’m going to get tired of just listening to the same two discs over and over again, night after night. And to think these discs were created to try and prevent “addictive...therapies.” I’ll be chuckling about the irony all the way to the record store if “Bedtime Beats 2” ever comes out.


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