by Dr. Rachel Hott
MUSIC TO SLEEP BY By Rachel Hott, PhD, co-director of The NLP Center of New York As part of the sleep project for the Institute for the Advance Studies of Health (IASH) as well as a modeling project for our Master Practitioner summer intensive, I had the opportunity to interview Paul Steinfeld. Paul is currently the principal clarinetist for the Brooklyn Symphony as well co- proprietor of the bed and breakfast, The Blue Porch, in Brooklyn. He also has a specialization in e-learning and is a graduate of The NLP Center of New York’s practitioner and master practitioner certification training.
When we met to discuss his sleep strategy Paul immediately stated that he “enjoys sleep.” He had been involved in corporate work up until two and a half years ago and at that time would get about six hours of sleep. Since then, he has been getting about eight hours of sleep, which has improved his health. Before this interview he hadn’t really thought of his sleep strategy, but what he realized is that he likes a regular schedule and plans to get to bed around midnight. He did acknowledge that he has always slept well.
He said, “ All my life, I‘ve slept well.” So his basic assumption is that he is going to sleep well and he enjoys sleep. Even if he has to get up earlier he will still go to bed around midnight. He sees it as a historical habit, that began when his children were young, and he wanted to see them before he went to work and then when he would come home. At that time his kids came first and then there was time for himself. So his routine initially began as a way to be available for his family. Due to his health considerations (Paul is a diabetic), he also has to eat on a consistent schedule. He can eat up until 7pm, but it will not be healthy for him to eat later. Again the necessity to have a regular schedule is something that he uses as a guiding principle for his sleep. His and his wife’s schedule are factors that will determine how and when he goes to sleep. Sometimes he is not tired, and then he won’t go to sleep, right away. Instead he will read or get out of bed and watch television.
He knows when he is tired because he will be aware of physical sensations. He realizes he is exhausted when it is difficult for him to concentrate, his eyes begin to feel heavy, has a lack of interest and an overall sense of wanting to stop. As he becomes aware of being tired and ready to go to sleep, he explained that he “always without exception makes sure the lights are out in the house and checks that the doors are locked. I never go upstairs without doing that.” This is important to him because he has a strong sense of responsibility, and wants to know that he has control of what he believes he can control.
Before officially going to sleep he reviews his task list for the next day. He will use his computer to go over his three-four goals, which he pays attention to daily and the evening review is a “passing remembrance before I go to sleep.” This may be something he will think about for the morning before actually falling to sleep. After the house has been checked, he is ready to go to bed. He washes up and takes his medications. Then he turns out the light, puts the music on, lays on his back and he is asleep. So let’s go through that with some specificity.
Okay, so he turns out the light, but what is happening with the music? He states that he “always, consistently will listen to WQXR (a New York City classical radio station). He has a radio next to his bed and he will have it programmed to play for an hour on a very, very soft volume. He said, “I love anything music. It like a narcotic for me.” He likes most kinds of music, if he doesn’t like it, he has “music in my head.” It is easy for him to call up something in his head. For example, he can easily hear, Rachmanioff’s Symphonic Dances, particularly the clarinet solos, or if he is another mood he may hear Brahms in his mind. Although WQXR will have enough music that he likes, at least one to two times a week he will turn off the radio and listen to the music in his head. And then he falls asleep. “It often just takes a few minutes of music and I fall asleep.” Putting his head on the pillow is also very specific.
He lays on his back, a habit he had to begin 25 years ago due to a very serious surgery. Initially he had to sleep on his back to avoid pain, but then it became comfortable and now it is a habit. If he does wake up, which is rare, he will get up to see if there is anything going on in the house or out on the street. Again the safety of his family and the house are his first responsibility. After knowing that everything is safe he then he will put on his ipod and no surprise he will listen to classical music (which could include renaissance, concertos, etc), and then he falls asleep.
If he is sleeping outside of his home without his radio, then he completely relies on his thousands of pieces of music that he has played or heard. He can hear a full orchestra, plus choral voices in his head. For example, he can hear the Brahms Sonatas opus 120 for clarinets and pianos in his head. He explained that the sound comes at him and the full timbre is around his ears. There is also a strong physical component, where he feels a powerful unique resonance in his body.
After interviewing Paul I attempted his strategy by making sure that I was tired, followed up with my responsibility to my family and home, knew what I had to do the next day, reminded myself how easy and enjoyable sleep is and then after washing up, turned off the lights, laid on my back and began to hear music in my head. My repertoire is limited to about three classical pieces; The Brandenberg Concertos, Peter and The Wolf, and something like Beethoven’s 9th symphony, “Ode to Joy. “ I found Paul’s strategy very effective. I heard the music in my head and I was asleep. How do I know that? I only know that because I woke up in the middle of the night on my back (I usually sleep on my left side) and added music again and once again asleep. My next step will be to acquire more classical music so that I can have more music to sleep by.