The musician Moby may be best known for his dance music, but he’s hoping his latest album will put you to sleep. Literally.
The 53-year-old, who has sold 20 million records worldwide, has written a new album, Long Ambients 2, a collection of music very different to the genre that made him famous.
Essentially, Moby – a lifelong insomnia sufferer – has created a soundtrack to help people sleep, meditate and relax.
Thinking back to the first time he experienced problems with sleep himself, he says, “I assume there was a time in my life when I was an infant where I could probably sleep through anything.
“But since infancy that has not been the case. I have a terrible relationship with sleep.
“It’s rare for me to get two hours uninterrupted. I sleep for 90 minutes, wake up for an hour, go back to sleep for 90 minutes. It’s this constant interrupted cycle.”
Over the years, Moby, who lives in the Los Feliz neighbourhood of Los Angeles and is single, has found that not sleeping can cause a vicious circle of insomnia.
“When you don’t sleep you get super anxious, which makes your sleep worse,” he says.
The health benefits of a good night’s slumber are not to be underestimated.
“I hear that when people have a really good night’s sleep they’re sharp, aware, calm and happy in their waking life,” he says.
“I don’t know what that’s like really because I tend to never have a great night’s sleep.”
Moby – real name Richard Melville Hall – is a relative of Moby-Dick author Herman Melville.
He’s long been interested in the science of music and how it can impact on our brains – and in turn our health – having spent time working with Oliver Sacks, the late British neurologist based at The Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, in Mount Vernon, New York.
“Music can decrease cortisol, a stress hormone, and promote neurogenesis [the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain],” he says.
“If all of a sudden we became a culture and a species where all of us slept well, we would be calmer, healthier, have stronger immune systems and be smarter. The benefits would be remarkable.
“But we are all seemingly addicted to triple espressos and checking our screens at 1am.”
Whether this behaviour impacts on our ability to sleep will vary from one person to the next.
“Everybody has such a different relationship and experience with sleep,” says Moby.
“For example, my ex-girlfriend can sleep anywhere for as long as she wants. She can have a pot of coffee and then go to sleep for 10 hours, but I’ve always needed something to ‘turn down’ external stimuli.
“I think I almost have sleep autism, I’m so hyper aware of the last little bit of stimuli when it comes to going to sleep.
“I’ve spent my whole life coming up with different strategies in order to help me sleep, whether that’s avoiding caffeine in the afternoon or bright blue spectrum lights for about an hour before bed.
“I’ve used sleep masks, blackout curtains, white noise machines, ambient music, meditation, having the right bedding…
“I’ve tried everything and still I rarely get more than six hours at night and that’s been the case since I was a little kid.”
This endless experimentation led Moby to start writing ambient music to aid his slumber.
“Most of the music in my life I’ve made with an audience in mind, but this long ambient music I originally just made for myself,” he says of the new album which has now been released on Calm, the world’s leading sleep and meditation app.
“Then I realised, ‘Oh, there are other people who have sleep issues or battle anxiety and have a hard time calming themselves down’.
“Maybe this could help them get a good night’s sleep because it’s simply a type of music that I couldn’t find.”
With around a third of us struggling with poor sleep and over 95% of those suffering from insomnia reporting low energy levels, there are plenty of us who could benefit from Moby’s new soundtrack to sleep.
Just don’t try putting on the album – made up of six soothing tracks running to approximately 37 minutes each – while you’re cooking dinner.
“You’d be bored to death,” he laughs.
“It wasn’t really designed to be listened to, it was more designed to exist in the background and, as a result, it works for an audience of people who needed sounds to do yoga, meditate or sleep.
“My suggestion to people is not to approach this as music but to approach it as a sleep aid – to approach it as a tool.”
- Listen to Moby’s new album on the Calm app or online at cal.mn/moby . Subscriptions cost £35.99 a year and unlock 125+ Sleep Stories, advanced mindfulness programmes, a new meditation every day, Calm Music and a Calm Masterclass