If eight hours of slumber sounds like a dream to you — and counting sheep just doesn't do the trick — a podcast might be the ticket to a good night's sleep. A few of the six super-relaxing podcasts featured below focus on calming sounds, while others offer soothing bedtime stories or whisper sweet nothings that quiet the mind. You can listen using apps such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or go directly to the websites included below.
1. Sleep With Me
San Francisco Bay Area host Drew Ackerman (aka Scooter) records his twice-weekly podcast, Sleep With Me, from within a “Harry Potter closet under the stairs” at his house, he says. And the whole idea behind his “bedtime stories for grownups,” which are usually an hour to 90 minutes long, is that you're on the phone with a friend (one “you don't really have to listen to,” he says) who's telling you a story to help you fall asleep. Ackerman suggests using a smart speaker with a sleep timer to listen to his show, which might include him paging through old HBO guides and detailing other similarly dull things designed to make you lose interest — and wakefulness. “There's a lot on peoples’ minds right now,” he adds. “You deserve a good night's sleep.”
2. Sleep Whispers
This is a “podcast of whispered ramblings and whispered readings” by Shenandoah University professor Craig Harris Richard (he goes by “Harris” on his show). Richard is the author of Brain Tingles, which delves into ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) — a pleasurable, tingly feeling that can be triggered by certain hushed sounds — and his podcast is relaxing in a similar way. Sleep Whispers alternates through six types of themed episodes “to calm those overactive squirrels running around in your head,” says Harris, who may quietly share some trivia with you or take you along on a deep, softly whispered dive into the topic of dreams and dreaming. He adds that listeners often tell him they have no idea what he talks about in most of his podcasts because they fall asleep within the first 10 minutes. “This would be an insult to most podcasters,” he says, “But to me, this is the greatest compliment I can get.”
3. Deep Energy and Dark Ambient Podcasts
If voices in general tend to keep you awake, then these roughly hour-long Deep Energy and Dark Ambient Podcasts that combine the sounds of nature with synthesizers might be the perfect lullaby. “My music purposefully doesn't have a beginning or an end, it just flows,” says host Jim Butler, who notes that his podcasts (there are more than 300 in the bank) are used by listeners both for stress relief and to induce sleep. “I think the distraction from your own mind is what helps people sleep,” he notes.
4. Daily Meditation Podcast
These half-hour guided meditations led by host Mary Meckley can help rest your mind before you sleep (or, really, at any time of the day).
Her Daily Meditation Podcast includes long, soothing stretches of very quiet music between her instructions on how to relax — quietly advising you to, for instance, “tap into your inner wisdom and affirm the peace within you.” And whether you sit to meditate, as is the preferred method during waking hours, or simply lie in bed and listen with your eyes closed, the effect is instant calm.
5. Nothing Much Happens
Yoga and meditation teacher Kathryn Nicolai reads you to sleep with bedtime stories where “nothing much happens” during her roughly 20-minute podcasts of the same name. “Bedtime stories are like a soft nest for the mind,” she notes on the show's website, which succinctly explains how the podcast works: “You feel good and then you fall asleep.” Nicolai, who used to make up stories as a child to drift off to dreamland, offers appropriately low-action tales about, for instance, a carefully prepared cup of tea enjoyed on a cool morning, or standing outside as fresh snow falls from sky.
6. Slow Radio
"A lo-fi celebration of pure sound,” is how BBC Radio 3 markets this podcast to listeners looking to channel some inner calm. It excels in doing just that with 15- and 30-minute journeys of sound that might have you listening to a late-night duet between a musician and a nightingale, tuning into the natural sounds of a snowy Norwegian forest (if you've never heard tadpoles hibernating under snow, trust us, it's relaxing) or nodding off to owls calling to each other within Sherwood Forest.
Have we lost you already? Good. Sweet dreams.