25 Of The Best Songs About Insomnia And Sleepless Nights

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

It’s no secret that the silent hours of the night often stir up the most profound emotions and thoughts. No wonder it prompts songwriters to pen down their experiences.

This article dives deep into the world of melodies that echo the sentiments of sleeplessness. They unravel the beauty and pain intertwined in these nocturnal narratives. These songs offer solace, a reminder that you’re not alone in your battle against the ticking clock.

Thus, we’ve collected 25 of the best songs about insomnia and sleepless nights. Coming from various genres and eras, each captures a unique perspective on sleeplessness. Read on to learn more!

1. “Sleeping With The Television On” By Billy Joel

With his knack for storytelling through music, Billy Joel gives us an intriguing narrative in “Sleeping with the Television On.” The song explores the theme of insomnia, but not in the conventional sense.

The song tells the story of a woman named Diane. She keeps people at a distance, leading a life ridden with loneliness. It highlights how she would rather keep the television on as a distraction from her problems than face them head-on.

“Sleeping with the Television On” does not directly address insomnia. However, it beautifully portrays the sleeplessness that stems from internal struggles. It’s about those long, restless nights when the mind is too crowded with thoughts to allow sleep, a sentiment that many insomniacs can relate to.

2. “How Do You Sleep?” By Sam Smith

More often than not, heartbreak and betrayal will lead to many sleepless nights. Sam Smith knows this well in his 2019 song “How Do You Sleep?”

In the song, Smith questions, “How do you sleep when you lie to me?” The line reflects the singer’s struggle with deceit and the emotional turmoil that ensues, leading to metaphorical sleeplessness.

In essence, the song is not just about sleeplessness but also the emotional insomnia that many people experience in times of distress. It’s a beautiful exploration of how our emotions can disrupt our peace, making sleep an elusive concept.

3. “Sleeping Sickness” By City And Colour

Canadian singer-songwriter Dallas Green, performing under the alias City and Colour, delves into the theme of insomnia in his hauntingly beautiful song “Sleeping Sickness.”

Contrary to its name, the track does not discuss a literal illness. Rather, it is a metaphor for the mental and emotional turmoil that keeps one awake at night.

The lyrics delve deeper into the emotional and psychological aspects of insomnia. They reflect on how our inner demons can rob us of peaceful sleep. The recurring line, “Someone come and someone come and save my life,” adds another layer to the song, suggesting a desperate plea for help or change.

4. “Sleep To Dream” By Fiona Apple

Up next, Fiona Apple brings forth a powerful narrative in her song “Sleep to Dream.” Despite its title, it’s not about insomnia in the literal sense. Instead, it uses sleep and dreams as metaphors to represent personal strength and courage to break free from an unhealthy relationship.

The lyrics are loaded with raw emotion and self-affirmation. Lines like “I’ve got my feet on the ground / and I don’t go to sleep to dream” reflect a determination to stay grounded in reality rather than escaping into the realm of dreams.

“Sleep to Dream” reminds us that we have the power to take control of our lives and not let anyone else dictate our worth. It’s a powerful anthem for anyone who has ever felt trapped or powerless in a toxic relationship.

5. “Insomnia” By Daya

The American singer Daya gives a unique spin to the theme of sleeplessness in her single “Insomnia.” This song mentions insomnia to express the emotional turmoil of missing someone so intensely that it keeps you awake at night.

The lyrics find the narrator struggling with insomnia. She is unable to sleep because she can’t stop thinking about the one she loves. Daya’s soulful vocals and thought-provoking lyrics perfectly capture the vulnerability of this situation.

With its catchy beat and unforgettable chorus, “Insomnia” is a captivating song that highlights the reality of love-induced insomnia. It is a relatable and emotional portrayal of the universal feelings many have experienced.

6. “Who Needs Sleep?” By Barenaked Ladies

Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies addresses the struggle of sleeplessness in their song “Who Needs Sleep?” Released as part of their Stunt album, this track has certainly made waves in the music scene.

This song with “insomnia” in the lyrics captures the frustrating experience of insomnia. This is embodied in the lines “Lids down, I count sheep / I count heartbeats / The only thing that counts is / that I won’t sleep.” The lyrics convey a sense of surrender to the relentless cycle of sleepless nights, indicating the emotional toll insomnia can take.

The clever use of irony in the title and throughout the song underscores the desperation and exhaustion that often accompany sleepless nights. This makes the song a relatable anthem for anyone who has battled with insomnia.

7. “Beds Are Burning” By Midnight Oil

The Australian rock band Midnight Oil made waves in 1987 with their powerful track “Beds are Burning.” Interestingly, the song isn’t about sleeplessness or insomnia, at least not in the literal sense. Instead, it uses the concept of sleep as a metaphor for ignorance or apathy.

This politically charged anthem addresses the struggles and injustices faced by Australia’s Indigenous people. Its title is a fiery metaphor that captures the urgency of the situation. It’s as if to say, “How can we sleep when our beds are burning?”

The song is a wake-up call, urging us to open our eyes to the injustices happening around us. While it may not be about insomnia in a medical sense, it certainly speaks to societal restlessness and desire for change.

8. “Sleepless Nights” By Norah Jones

The classic “Sleepless Nights” was originally written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. It was first performed by The Everly Brothers in 1960. In 2004, Norah Jones lent her own unique interpretation to the song.

This track captures the torment of insomnia induced by heartbreak. The lyrics express the pain of longing and the loneliness of unrequited love. The protagonist spends sleepless nights crying and wondering about their lost love: “Through the sleepless nights I cry for you / and wonder who is kissing you.”

Jones’ haunting vocals add a new layer of emotion to the already heart-wrenching lyrics. Her soulful tone conveys the depth of feelings expressed in the song.

9. “You Can Sleep While I Drive” By Melissa Etheridge

Gifted country singer Melissa Etheridge presented a musical gem in the late ’80s titled “You Can Sleep While I Drive.” This track, from her album Brave and Crazy, is a poignant depiction of love, trust, and companionship.

The song seems to be a heartfelt conversation between two people embarking on a road trip together. Though it does not talk about insomnia precisely, driving long lengths can be tiring and leave one sleepless. Thus, the protagonist invites her partner to “sleep while [she] drives.”

“You Can Sleep While I Drive” can also be interpreted as one’s unconditional support and care. It underscores the idea of providing comfort and safety to a loved one, allowing them to rest while you navigate the challenges ahead.

10. “Wide Awake” By Audioslave

From the rock supergroup Audioslave, “Wide Awake” is a song that resonates with listeners on multiple levels. Despite its title, it’s not about insomnia in the literal sense. Instead, it employs the metaphor of being wide awake to address political and social issues.

The song uses the imagery of being “wide awake” to signify awareness and alertness toward the mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. The lines “You can look a hurricane right in the eye / twelve hundred people dead or left to die” explicitly criticize the government’s response to the catastrophe.

In this sense, the band is “wide awake” to the realities of the situation. They refuse to turn a blind eye to the injustices they perceive. It’s a call to action, urging listeners to open their eyes and question the actions of those in power.

11. “Enter Sandman” By Metallica

The world of rock music would be incomplete without the mention of Metallica. This heavy metal band is known for their intense and thought-provoking songs. One such song is “Enter Sandman,” the opening track and lead single from their self-titled fifth album.

“Enter Sandman” isn’t directly about insomnia. However, it does delve into the concept of sleep and what lurks within it, particularly nightmares.

The song explores childhood fears associated with sleep, using the character of the Sandman. This figure from European folklore brings dreams by sprinkling magical sand onto the eyes of children. The dread of such nightmares, as shown in the lines “Sleep with one eye open / gripping your pillow tight,” is sure to cause sleepless nights.

12. “Sleepyhead” By Passion Pit

The American electronic band Passion Pit made a significant mark with their debut single, “Sleepyhead.” This song is featured on their first EP, Chunk of Change, and also made its way into their debut album.

“Sleepyhead” uses the lack of sleep as a metaphor to explore themes of escapism and dealing with overwhelming emotions. For instance, the line “And you said it was like fire around the brim … / burning thin the burning rim” hints at a mind teetering on the edge of exhaustion yet unable to find solace in sleep.

The song perfectly captures the struggle of trying to escape these feelings, perhaps by seeking refuge in sleep, only to find that the mind remains active and alert. This is a state that many insomniacs would find familiar.

13. “Sleepless” By Soul Coughing

Blending jazz, hip-hop, and electronic music into a unique song, Soul Coughing gives us “Sleepless.” This track from their Irresistible Bliss album dives into the theme of restlessness and struggle with sleep.

Its lyrics portray a sense of insomnia through the repeated line, “I got the will to drive myself sleepless.” This suggests the narrator’s mental battle and his willful decision to stay awake despite the body’s natural need for rest.

“Sleepless” is a reminder that, sometimes, our minds can be the greatest obstacle to our own peace and stability. It highlights the importance of rest and self-care in maintaining a healthy mind and body.

14. “Both Ends Burning” By Roxy Music

The influential English rock band Roxy Music has a distinctive song in their repertoire titled “Both Ends Burning.” This track is part of their 1975 album Siren and showcases their blend of art rock and glam rock sensibilities.

The song uses the metaphor of “burning at both ends” to express a state of constant activity or emotional turmoil. This often leaves little room for rest or peace. The relentless burn symbolizes a mind that’s always “awake.” We can interpret this as a form of sleeplessness or insomnia.

Furthermore, the repeated line “Both ends burning” suggests a candle burning at both ends. This is a state of being that can’t sustain itself and will eventually burn out, much like a person dealing with insomnia might feel.

15. “Don’t Wake Me Up” By Chris Brown

Our next song does not have “insomnia” in the title. However, it is a sentiment that insomniacs might feel after finally experiencing a much-needed sleep. “Don’t Wake Me Up” by Chris Brown tells the story of a man clinging to a past love, a relationship he can now only experience in his dreams.

This theme presents a different angle on sleeplessness or insomnia. Instead of struggling to fall asleep, the protagonist is fighting to remain in a dream state where he can relive his lost love.

In the song, sleep isn’t the enemy or an elusive state; it’s a refuge. It becomes a place where past love lives on, making the waking world seem less appealing.

16. “You Really Got Me” By The Kinks

Bringing a unique flavor to the music scene in the mid-1960s, The Kinks presented us with “You Really Got Me.” The song, written by frontman Ray Davies, is considered a classic rock anthem and has influenced many bands that followed.

The lyrics capture the feeling of being completely smitten or taken over by someone. The protagonist is so enthralled and consumed by this person that he’s lost control, including being unable to sleep at night.

The song has a raw energy to it that was unlike anything else at the time. It’s no wonder that “You Really Got Me” has been covered by countless artists, including Van Halen.

17. “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” By Carly Simon

The American singer-songwriter Carly Simon is known for her emotive interpretations of songs. “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” is no different. This track, originally written by David Mann and Bob Hilliard, was first popularized by Frank Sinatra. It was later included in Simon’s second album, My Romance.

The song delicately weaves a tale of quiet longing as the protagonist finds themselves still awake in the early hours, plagued by thoughts of a lost love. It’s during these wee small hours that the harsh reality of loneliness and heartache is felt most acutely, amplifying the struggle of insomnia.

18. “Can’t Sleep” By Above & Beyond

Using the medium of trance, the English electronic music group Above & Beyond expresses emotions and states of mind in their music. One such track is “Can’t Sleep,” which comes from their album Tri-State.

The title itself could be interpreted as a direct reference to insomnia. However, the song goes beyond merely describing a state of being unable to sleep.

Lyrics like “Daybreak comes too soon” and “Still can’t close my eyes” explore the emotional turmoil, inner thoughts, and feelings that often accompany insomnia. The protagonist appears to be caught in a cycle of restlessness. He yearns for sleep, but it remains just out of reach.

19. “Sleep Without You” By Brett Young

Diving into the world of country music, we have next Brett Young‘s “Sleep Without You.” The lyrics express the protagonist’s deep attachment to his significant other and how her absence affects his ability to sleep.

The song is essentially about a man who finds it difficult to fall asleep when his partner isn’t by his side. This possibly leads to sleepless nights and insomnia.

The lines “No matter how late, baby I’ll be staying up / I can’t sleep without you” describe how the protagonist is unable to find rest until he knows his loved one is safe and on her way back to him.

20. “Awake” By Godsmack

Reaching #1 on Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock chart is Godsmack‘s “Awake.” This nu metal track is not about insomnia in the literal sense. Instead, it uses the concept of being “awake” as a metaphor for vigilance, especially in the face of adversity.

The lyrics “I’m awake because of you” suggest that the protagonist has been alerted to the harsh realities of life due to someone else’s actions. This state of “awakeness” could be interpreted as a form of emotional or mental insomnia. It’s where past experiences or current circumstances prevent the mind from finding peace and rest.

21. “I Can’t Sleep” By Clay Walker

Released in 2004, “I Can’t Sleep” is a captivating piece by American country music singer Clay Walker. This song has touched the hearts of many with its relatable theme and poignant lyrics.

The song tells the story of a man who finds himself unable to sleep. It’s not due to clinical insomnia, but because he is haunted by the memories of a lost love.

Lines like “I been up all night long … / I’ve given up, damn the dawn / it ain’t never gonna come … / as long as you’re gone” show his yearning for the woman who slipped between his fingers. Yet, like the good night’s sleep he needs, she is unattainable.

22. “Insomnia” By Megadeth

Guilt and regret are ingredients for sleepless nights. Megadeth expresses this perfectly in their aptly named song “Insomnia.”

The song’s protagonist is haunted by his past and the guilt that comes with it. This past is described as being “buried,” suggesting that it’s something he’s tried to put behind him. However, his mind won’t let him forget, leading to sleepless nights filled with paranoia and exhaustion.

“Insomnia” is a relatable song for many people who have experienced guilt and regret. It’s easy to get caught up in our mistakes and dwell on them, thus preventing us from moving forward.

23. “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” By Beastie Boys

A classic track by the Beastie Boys graces our list. “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” was released as part of their debut studio album, Licensed to Ill. It uses sleeplessness metaphorically to capture the relentless energy and spirit of the New York music scene.

The song is an anthem about the band’s journey. This includes their tireless pursuit of making music and their determination to make it big in the industry. It suggests they won’t rest until they reach their destination — Brooklyn. This place is a representation of their goals and dreams.

In this context, sleeplessness isn’t a condition but a self-imposed state of constant work and dedication toward their passion — something many of us can relate to.

24. “Blinding Lights” By The Weeknd

Love is a common reason for sleepless nights and insomnia. The Weeknd knows this all too well in his song “Blinding Lights.”

The track is about the protagonist wanting to see his beloved late at night. As he drives toward her, he is blinded by the city lights. The line “Blinded by the lights” can also imply his blind love for her. It’s so strong that he “can’t sleep until [he] feel[s] [her] touch.”

“Blinding Lights” is one of The Weeknd’s biggest hits. Released in 2019, it topped multiple charts around the globe, including the Billboard Hot 100, the UK, Australia, and Canada.

25. “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All” By The 5th Dimension

We’re ending this list with a sweet classic from The 5th Dimension, “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All.” This pop ballad explores the theme of sleeplessness due to emotional turmoil.

Consumed by thoughts of her loved one, the protagonist was kept awake all night. She even took a sleeping pill, but it was “just a waste of time.” She couldn’t close her eyes, because he was always on her mind.

“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All” is a relatable song for anyone who has experienced heartache and the inability to find peace in slumber because of it. It’s a testament to the power of love and how it can consume one’s thoughts, even when they desperately need rest.

Summing Up Our List Of Insomnia Songs

Through their poignant lyrics and evocative melodies, the songs we’ve listed have painted a vivid picture of our sleepless nights.

From gentle ballads to hard rock, each one serves as a lullaby for the sleep-deprived. They turn our silent struggles into shared symphonies.

Thus, we hope that in the quiet hours of the night when sleep eludes you, you can find solace in the sweet strains of music we have shared here. Happy listening!

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.