We’ve all been there: it’s 2AM, you’re wide awake, and counting sheep just isn’t cutting it. You've already tried reajusting your pillow, doing yoga and tried natural sleep treatments. The next time you find yourself wide-eyed and far too far from Dreamland, reach for one of these podcasts, designed to turn down insomnia and turn up the ZZZs.
1. Sleep with Me
With episodes self-described as getting progressively “more boring until you fall to sleep”, San Francisco-based host Drew Ackerman is here to tell you an adult bedtime story. Ackerman – otherwise known as “Scooter” – advises using a smart speaker with a sleep timer to listen to his show, which sometimes involves listlessly reading a JC Penny catalogue for over an hour. For Ackerman, the more “boring” the subject matter, the better, as each episode’s theme is designed to make you lose interest – and lull yourself to sleep – as quickly as possible.
2. Sleep Whispers
Shenandoah University professor Craig Harris Richard uses ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) to help listeners relax and catch a few winks. Told barely above a whisper, his tales are often purposefully nonsensical – a recent episode was all about “animals that lie”, for example – to allow listeners to really lean into the sedative sensation they should be experiencing, and relax.
3. On a Dark, Cold Night
For horror-lovers with insomnia, On a Dark, Cold Night, serves up hair-raising ghost stories to lull you to sleep every week. Written, performed, and produced by Toronto-based Kristen Zaza, the podcast has been up and running since January 2018, so there’s plenty of spooky stories to catch up on.
4. Nothing Much Happens
Like the name suggests, nothing much happens in yoga and meditation teacher Kathryn Nicolai’s podcast, Nothing Much Happens. With episodes spanning roughly 30 minutes, no sleep timer is necessary as Nicolai recounts wholesome, low stakes tales that will make “you feel good” and then fall asleep. On her website of the same name, Nicolai says, “Bedtime stories are like a soft nest for the mind. They are a place for it to rest so that it doesn’t wander away and get into trouble, and in the world we’re living in now it is so easy for it to find trouble”. Podcasts not your thing? She’s also got a book, “Nothing Much Happens”, filled with cozy and calming stories to soothe your mind and help you sleep.
5. Get Sleepy: Sleep Meditation and Stories
Get Sleepy gets you in the mood for slumber by starting episodes off with a calming sleep meditation followed by a low-action story to prep your mind for sleep. Episodes drop twice a week, and typically run for about 45 minutes – so for those who drift off easily, you may want to set a sleep timer.
6. Stories from the Borders of Sleep
Described as a “semi-regular” podcast, Stories from the Borders of Sleep features “original stories, fantastic fables, and curious tales” written and read by host Seymour Jacklin. Episodes are short and sweet, typically spanning under half an hour, and are designed to take you on an “imaginative and thought-provoking journey”. Having started in March 2011, each episode is paired with a sleep-inducing soundscape to lull listeners straight to Dreamland.
7. RecipeZZZ for Sleep
Though it’s no longer in production, RecipeZZZ for Sleep is worth mentioning for its unique subject matter: “Bedtime stories for food lovers”. A self-proclaimed “salve for your insomnia”, RecipeZZZ for Sleep is exactly how it sounds: a medley of hosts read recipes aloud to help you fall asleep. Episodes are typically under half an hour, and with nearly two years of content to choose from, RecipeZZZ for Sleep is sure to satisfy your slumber – and your sweet tooth.
8. Slow Radio
Described as “an antidote to today’s frenzied world”, Slow Radio presents a variety of soothing sounds from around the world. Presented by the BBC, Slow Radio has something for everyone: from rain on a hot tin roof to the sounds of an Antarctic fur seal and her pup to the tempo of the banks of the River Ilmenau. This podcast is perfect for those who might follow stories too closely, and just need a little music to unwind.
9. Sleep and Relax ASMR
Designed to help you relax from the hustle and bustle of your daily life, Sleep and Relax ASMR leans on a variety of ASMR triggers like whispers, gentle speaking, and relaxing background noises to prep your body for sleep. Some episodes of the weekly podcast are as simple and soothing as rain hitting asphalt, whereas some wax poetic on various subjects ranging from Super Mario lore to Quentin Tarantino films.
10. Goodnight, World!
As all parents know, insomnia and restlessness isn’t just for adults. For kiddos resisting sleep, turn to Goodnight, World! podcast, a new series from Headspace Studios and Sesame Street. With episodes typically under half an hour – just long enough to keep your kids engaged – listeners join Alan and well-known pals from Sesame Street on incredible adventures using their imaginations. For parents who’ve read the same books backwards and forwards, popping on Goodnight, World! is a welcome alternative to traditional storytime.
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