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Why do so many Spotify users fall asleep to Ed Sheeran?

An analysis of 20,000 sleep and relaxation playlists on Spotify reveals the tunes most conducive for getting to the land of Nod.

Why do so many Spotify users fall asleep to Ed Sheeran?
[Photos: Eva Rinaldi/Wikimedia Commons; Vladislav Muslakov/Unsplash]

Ed Sheeran has a lot of laurels to rest on. He’s a multi-Grammy Award-winner, a Game of Thrones cameo artist, and a fashion icon. The singer-songwriter now has a fresh distinction: He’s the musician that puts the most people to sleep.

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Well, at least on Spotify, anyhow. A new study from the team at Mattress Advisor, which is like the New York Times’ Wirecutter but for beds, analyzed 20,000 user-generated sleep and relaxation playlists in search of common denominators.

The fact that there are even 20,000 such playlists to comb through speaks to the high level of demand for audio sleep aids. Sometimes the sound of a medium-strength ceiling fan simply isn’t enough to block out our own internal playlists, which often consist of tomorrow’s to-do list, coupled with an analysis of the previous day’s potential blunders. This is where music or mindful meditation mixes come in handy.

The top Spotify-generated playlist for falling asleep is simply called Sleep and sounds exactly like you think it does, filled with ambient vibe vessels with names like “Think Like the Flowers.” With 3.2 million followers and counting, this list sits comfortably at the top of the heap.

When you go more granular into the data, some of the findings about what Spotify users sleep to is rather surprising.

Beyond Ed Sheeran (the artist found in the most user-generated sleep playlists, with 451 occurrences), the top 10 also includes higher-energy artists like the late XXXtentacion (#3, with 315 occurrences), Billie Eilish (#5, with 280 occurrences), and Post Malone (#7, with 266 occurrences.) Amazingly, all of these musicians beat a guy who goes by the name Sleeping At Last, which seems like almost a cheat code for winning this study. A bit further down on the list, but still in the top 20, are Bruno Mars (#12), Drake (#18), and Ariana Grande (#19).

While these anomalous artists suggest that some people simply like to sleep to the same music they listen to in their waking hours, the playlists designated with the word “relaxation” rather than “sleep” trended closer to chillness. In addition to the again-reigning Ed Sheeran, the top 5 includes Sam Smith, Coldplay, and Shawn Mendes. These are apparently the artists to listen to whether you’re lying on a bed or a yoga mat. Versatility!

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Among the study’s other interesting findings, C major is by far the most popular key among sleep songs; with D being the least popular. Have a look at the rest of the data here, including which specific songs dominate sleep and relaxation playlists, before choosing tonight’s lullabies.

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