11 Palate-Cleansing TV Shows That Are Perfect For When You Just Watched Something Intense & Can't Sleep

We've all been there. Whether it was a documentary on whale euthanasia or an especially ominous episode of Breaking Bad, you accidentally watched the wrong thing before bed. Now, you're either too depressed, scared, or existentially restless to drift off to sleep. You need something to chase the intensity of that experience with, lest you have the most unsettling dreams ever. Enter, your TV palate cleanser — a shot of neutral, happy, or soothing TV to take the edge off of an intense show or movie.

Typically, these palate cleansers fall into the genres of sitcoms, space documentaries, or episodic reality shows. What they all have in common are the fact that they effectively restore you to a state of psychological balance after some more aggressive programming. Also, they're all available to stream! Here are the 11 best palate cleansing shows that are readily available to you at any time, for the next time that you make the mistake of watching The English Patient before bed.

'Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey'

Not only is this science anthology series enriching to your mind, it’s amazing pre-sleep television. Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s voice is extremely soothing, and the space visuals are awe-inspiring and trance-inducing. It’s basically the television equivalent of being back in the womb.

Streaming on Netflix

Image: Fox

'Bob's Burgers'

If every family were like the Belchers, the world would be a much better place. The indelible sense of playfulness inherent in Bob’s Burgers and is great to equalize any feelings of dread or depression. Also, I’m convinced that Linda’s songs release happy chemicals.

Streaming on Netflix

Image: Fox

'NYC Prep'

I don’t know if it’s the fact that every problem these kids experience fall into the category of non-problems, but something about NYC Prep — aka Bravo’s vintage stab at making an IRL Gossip Girl — is very effective at getting you out of your head. Perhaps its the fact that every one of them will look back at this show one day and facepalm.

Streaming on Netflix

Image: Bravo

'Curb Your Enthusiasm'

Some people may disagree with me on this one, but Larry David’s strained yelling is my lullaby. This show highlights the absurdity of social foibles in a way that distracts you from worrying about your own. Even if David’s schmuckery is regularly cringeworthy, this show enables dreamless, peaceful sleep in me. Also, each episode typically ends with a hilarious clincher that gives you a window to cut yourself off, before you fall asleep with your laptop open on your belly.

Streaming on HBOGo

Image: HBO

'30 Rock'

Just like Curb, 30 Rock piles on the absurdity in the most therapeutic way. Even if Liz lives in a state of controlled chaos, everything is always moving forward at a comforting pace. Furthermore, the fact that much of the dialogue is packed with rapid-fire jokes and humorous asides is sure to bring you back from the Oscar-winning drama sad-feels brink.

Streaming on NetflixImage: NBC

'Parks and Recreation'

Even if Tuesday night’s feelings-packed series finale left me craving a palate cleanser for my usual palate cleanser, Parks and Recreation is a wonderful show to restore mental homeostasis after something leaves you feeling downtrodden. It’s hopeful without being simplistic. It’s smart and quick, but it hinges on the wonderful feeling of having found your humans.

Streaming on Netflix

Image: NBC


You’ve probably seen every episode about 13 times, which is why this show makes for such fantastic before bed TV. Also, something about a laugh track is better than a wave machine.

Streaming on Netflix

Image: NBC

'Say Yes To The Dress'

Sure, the customers on Say Yes To The Dress can be insufferable and aggravating. But those almost nonsensical conclusions that come at the end of every episode are strangely comforting.

Streaming on Netflix

Image: TLC

'The Wonder Years'

Given the fact that this classic coming-of-age sitcom was in the mid-’90s Nick-at-Nite block (aka, the original palate cleanser marathon), it makes for some good comfort TV. Also, the soft lighting makes for a nice sleep transition.

Streaming on Netflix

Image: ABC


Something about a good sketch show like Portlandia is always restorative. It’s hyper-zany, which isn’t for everyone, but the fact each conflict is wrapped up within minutes is great for when you feel like things are too complicated. Plus, the general Bohemian low-toned-voices (with the exception of angry bicycle guy) make for good before-bed watching. A nice TV amuse bouche.

Streaming on Netflix

Image: IFC

'The Simpsons'

Ah, the OG palate-cleansing show. Because this is probably one of the sitcoms that you were raised on, you know every line and narrate every move in your head. You begin each episode with a problem that you know will be solved in 22 minutes, in that oh-so-soothing sitcom fashion. It makes you feel like everything in your own life will work out okay, and that ultimately, you will never age and the same outfit will always fit you.

Streaming on Simpsons World

Image: Fox