Many people across the nation are stricken with with the terrible condition of insomnia. Unable to fall asleep for hours on end, and sometimes not at all, it becomes borderline tortuous to try and find some semblance of a cure.
Luckily, you’re not alone, as many music artists have experienced this problem and wrote songs discussing it. Therefore, in this article, I’m going to present you with my favorite songs about insomnia. And hopefully, you’ll end up relating to one or two of these great songs and maybe even add them to your playlist!
Fireflies by Owl City
This hit from 2009, with its playful synths sounds, sounds like someone with a childlike imagination perhaps got bored for too long and began recalling euphoric fantasies of dancing with fireflies.
While it certainly does radiate the energy of childhood nostalgia, singer Adam Young attributes the existence of Fireflies to his medically diagnosed insomnia. He couldn’t get to sleep and decided to pick up the pen and start writing about how it’d feel if he could get a good night’s rest—or what it’d be like if he wasn’t struggling with insomnia and was enjoying his night.
The song details being hugged by ten thousand fireflies, with notes of some deeper thoughts and self-reflection.
Brain Stew by Green Day
The third single off Green Day’s album titled Insomniac was written by frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, as he was unable to sleep for days due to having recently had an infant. The song begins with a clever metaphor, “I’m counting sheep but running out.”
Throughout the tune, Armstrong describes his symptoms of insomnia between catchy guitar riffs in a literal sense through lyrics like, “My eyes feel like they’re gonna bleed” and “My mind is set on overdrive” and “passed the point of delirium.”
In one line he states, “The clock is laughing in my face.” This is certainly something insomnia sufferers can relate to, as you’ve been up all night alone, with a whole day ahead of you and no sympathy from the capitalist world you must work in.
I’m So Tired by The Beatles
Tiredness and sleeping are common themes throughout The Beatles’ Revolver album. John Lennon was known amongst his friends as someone who had a strong relationship with his bed. This song was written while the group was on a meditation retreat in India, and despite meditating all day and being in a supposed relaxed state, Lennon was still unable to get to sleep.
Lennon went on the retreat with his then-wife, but had been forming a strong friendship with Yoko Ono—who would soon be his partner. Each line in the first verse of the song begins with “I’m so tired” and the chorus is a direct tribute to Ono, saying how if he could call her, it would give him the peace of mind he was missing and aid him into falling asleep.
Sleep by My Chemical Romance
Brothers and bandmates Mikey and Gerard Way stayed at the Paramour Mansion, which is said to be haunted, while recording their third studio album The Black Parade. Each of them had previously struggled with sleep disorders throughout their lives, but during this stay, they became more psychologically distraught. Mikey even had a breakdown so bad he had to go home.
Once Mikey left, Gerard began experiencing night terrors, which wasn’t an uncommon event for him but was perhaps even more intense due to the stress of recording an album alone, in a possibly haunted mansion. The beginning of the song Sleep is a recording Gerard took after waking up from a terror, describing how it felt like someone was grabbing his throat.
The album is about a dying patient and follows their grieving process, but each song is about intimate events that happened in the band members’ lives, with allusions to the storyline about the patient. So in Sleep, Gerard is trying to give advice to someone, but really, he’s wishing someone else was there saying those words to him.
Not wanting to sleep, or being unable to do so, is a reasonable reaction to having something terrifying happen every time you drift off into La-La Land. Gerard wrote these lyrics detailing how he feels insane and guilty about his experiences, but doesn’t want people to feel bad for him. In the chorus, he repeats the line “Just sleep.”
Go to Sleep by Radiohead
Main vocalist and songwriter of Radiohead, Thom Yorke wrote lyrics that are depressingly relatable for people who struggle with insomnia that is anxiety induced. He says something is going to happen, implying that he’d be able to stop it if he stayed awake.
He talks about a monster taking over, people’s sons and daughters getting hurt, and crazy people running the world. After each verse about this, he says “over my dead body,” as if he would singlehandedly be able to stop bad things from happening. Logically, this isn’t quite possible, but anxiety can be so paralyzing that logic doesn’t play a part.
Up until the last verse in the song, Thom is fighting sleep trying to fix problems that are virtually unsolvable—at least in the short-term. This is, until the end when he says, “May pretty horses come to you as you sleep, I’m gonna go to sleep and let this wash all over me.” It’s almost as if he’s taking the blame for every problem that runs through his head–and accepting there’s nothing he can do.
Day ‘n’ Nite by Kid Cudi
Scott Mescudi, the artist known as Kid Cudi, has written soundtracks for a generation of people struggling with mental health issues in their daily lives. He’s also produced for and inspired other artists in the rap game by redefining what rap music is with his unique sound and use of vocals.
The song was written after his girlfriend at the time left him, causing him to feel very lonely He briefly mentions this, but generally goes over his psychological anguish and reflections on his past that keep him up at night. “I toss and turn I keep stressing my mind, I look for peace but see I don’t attain / what I need for keeps this silly game we play.”
While his music has catchy melodies, he often speaks on darker topics that really only become pronounced when you listen to a song multiple times. This was intentional of course—he wanted to stand out in the rap game. He had a rough upbringing, with three siblings in a low-income, fatherless household.
Like most musicians, it took a while for his music to get going. This song, Day ‘n’ Nite, is debatably what kickstarted his career, as it drew the attention of Kanye West, who he would later work with on multiple projects.
Despite his success, he couldn’t shake the feelings of low self-esteem and depression. However, like a lot of artists, he was able to turn his pain into something beautiful and be a crutch for others who have felt the same way as him.
“Just to show the kids they ain’t the only ones up at night.”
Sleepyhead by Passion Pit
The band Passion Pit was formed in a rather nontraditional way, as it was originally meant as a gift to singer Michael Angelakos’ girlfriend. “It was more of like a guilt project. I’m so bad at being timely with anything… to sum it up, Passion Pit was never meant to be anything more than that, a little present” he said in an interview with The Fader.
The song Sleepyhead appears to be about grief-induced insomnia, with darker lyrics surrounded by psychedelic instrumentals. “They couldn’t think of something to say the day you burst / they crowd your bedroom like some thoughts wearing thin.”
He fantasizes about if someone were still with him, “You were one inch from the head of this bed, I dragged you back, sleepyhead,” entailing the feeling of denial people experience in grief.
Nights by Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean’s Nights is one song with three parts that cover the most common thoughts of sleepless nights, beginning with introspection on himself (“Everybody needs you, know you can’t make everybody equal”).
On this song, he talks about how he feels that others expect so much from him—people he doesn’t even know if he wants to please. All he knows is he needs to get more money to reach his goals, and then he can get away from those who don’t understand him.
After his self-reflection, the song transitions into more of a ballad, and the person he’s speaking to becomes someone else instead of himself. He talks about his strong feelings for someone (“Did you call me from a séance? You were from my past life”) and the irony of your body feeling so tired while your mind is going a million miles per hour (“This feel like a Quaalude, no sleep in my body”).
He’s hypnotized by his love, but wonders why it seems to make him unsettled rather than relaxed.
After a chaotic guitar riff, Frank is once again talking about his own life and his unhappiness with his circumstances but coming to terms with the way things are, “wake up as the sun’s going down, time to start your day, can’t keep being laid off” and “bummed out, stressed out, that’s every day.”
He talks about working every night to make it out of Texas and wishing to see life in a euphoric sense, trying to comprehend how to get there in a reasonable way.
I Can’t Sleep by Poorstacy ft. Iann Dior
This pop-punk-meets-rap tune is about a person feeling broken and kept awake by a relationship that is unfulfilling, but he doesn’t want to leave. He can see through their façade and doesn’t believe any of their promises anymore, but if things were perfect in the relationship perhaps he’d be getting better sleep. And sometimes it’s easier to wish things were different than seeing things for how they are.
He wonders if the person he’s talking to regrets hurting him or is even aware of the damage they’re doing (“I don’t know how long I’ll live and you always take more than you give, I can’t sleep”).
He’s wide awake knowing the person who makes him feel like himself is bad for him. It’s hard to navigate through the feeling of feeling safe around someone who hurts you.
Insomnia by Faithless
The scene of electronic dance music is enjoyed by many people, especially at night due to its energetic nature and complex production style, oftentimes with dark lyricism on top that might not be noticed immediately as the focus of this genre is the instrumentals.
Insomnia by Faithless is for those who are frustrated by their inability to fall asleep, but find themselves at their most productive during the ungodly hours of the night. After a captivating, synthesized intro, the lyrics of the song begin with, “deep in the bosom of the gentle night is when I search for the light, pick up my pen and start to write.”
Throughout the song he talks about how he feels like he’s running out of time, and it keeps him awake.
Insomnia can be a truly frustrating, and at times agonizing condition. But you’re not alone, as evidenced by songs on this list.
With so many songs about insomnia, you can rest assured that there are people out there that share your pain. Hopefully, a few of the songs on this list are completely new to you, and you can add them to your “Can’t Sleep” playlist the next time you head over to Spotify at 3 AM because you can’t fall asleep.
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