While some forms of media might rile you up — getting you spooked or excited about a topic or event — there are tons of others that are more likely to quiet the mind and help you feel sleepy. So, if you're craving a relaxing bedtime story or insomnia is keeping you from falling asleep, podcasts could be worth a shot.
According to a 2018 study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 25% of Americans struggle with minor insomnia each year, but of that group, 75% of them are able to restructure their sleep habits and health, eventually overcoming it. Various external factors like stress, illness, and medications are listed in the study as possible causes of insomnia, but in many cases the cause remains unknown.
Whether you live with clinical insomnia or not, powering down for sleep can be a really complicated endeavor for lots of people, which is why you might turn to your phone at bed time. And though you'll eventually fall asleep after scrolling through your phone for a while, you're actually much more likely to fall asleep quickly and deeply when your eyes are closed before bed and have been blue-light free for at least 30 minutes. In fact, blue light can trigger insomnia, which really makes a case for avoiding screens before bed altogether.
That's where podcasts could come in as a great middle ground between that sensory excitement we crave and the sleep environment we actually need. Just in the same way that certain stories helped you drift off into dreamland as a child, certain podcasts might be able to help you transition to sleep mode as an adult, even when insomnia is threatening to keep your mind alert. Here's a collection of podcasts that are interesting enough to capture your attention, but not excitatory enough to keep you up.
The ASMR Podcast
The ASMR Podcast features a combination of soothing sounds and sensory-heavy stories told and produced by a variety of hosts. Each episode is about 15 minutes long and features a different combination of calming noises and stories that hold your attention before lassoing you in for a deep sleep.
In the Sleepy podcast, radio host Otis Gray simply reads old books for about an hour, and listeners drift off to sleep. Not because old books are boring, or because Gray's narration isn't interesting, but rather because we've heard them before, and his voice is soothing. The combination of knowing what happens next and the monotone nature of Gray's voice makes it easy to leave the day behind and drift off.
Nothing Much Happens
On Nothing Much Happens: bedtime stories for grown-ups podcast, nothing much happens. Each episode features a 25 minute story told by a narrator with a smooth voice, that's not really about anything worth staying up for. The subject matter is interesting enough to pay attention to (nice observations about weather and seasons), but not captivating enough to fight sleep off for. Chances are, you won't make it til the end of the episode before you fall asleep.
Sleep With Me
If you listen to the Sleep with Me podcast in the middle of the day, you'll find it very funny. Host Drew Ackerman has created a "Dearest Scooter" character who tells stories in the most nonsensical, nonlinear way possible to keep listeners in a state of exhausted confusion. The stories are about nothing, and everything. They start to make sense and then they veer off. If you listen to it at bedtime, you'll try to follow it, but quickly your brain will give up and you'll be asleep before you know it.
Story Not Story
When listening to the Story Not Story podcast, you might get the feeling that hosts (and real life married couple) Chyna and Craig are making up the storylines on the spot, and that's because they are. That's kind of the point. Without too much excitement in their voices, they tell stories, sometimes with prompts from listeners, but usually just from each other. Because it's not scripted, you're slightly less invested than you would be if you knew there would be a plot point headed your way for sure. Instead, you find yourself just listening out of curiosity but then happily ducking out for sleep after a few minutes.
With a calming voice, narrators read 30 minute excerpts of classic literature in the Snoozecast podcast. The monotone storytelling combined with sleepy synth compositions immediately create a bedtime atmosphere, making it hard to do anything other than gear up for sleep. Each episode also includes some calming moments of sleep meditation to ensure you are as relaxed as you can be.
I Can't Sleep
The I Can't Sleep podcast is boring. I mean literally, that's the point. Host Benjamin Boster reads articles from the internet that he finds incredibly boring with the hope of boring his listeners to sleep. Whether he's reading from the "sand" Wikipedia page or taking his time defining gravity, you'll find it hard to hang on to his words.
To stay in-line with the tenants of good sleep hygiene, you'll want to ensure that your phone is face-down while you're listening to these podcasts so that your room is dark and blue light free. And because there's a fairly good chance you're going to fall asleep before the podcast is even over, you'll want to completely ready yourself for bed before you press play.
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. (2018, June 5). One in four Americans develop insomnia each year: 75 percent of those with insomnia recover. ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180605154114.htm