Here’s a catch-22: Sleep supports your immune system which reduces your risk of contracting illness — but the fear of contracting illness can keep you from going to sleep.
Experts advise that sleep is crucial during this time (and all other times, for that matter). However, increased blue light exposure, indistinguishable work-rest schedules, and the now ever present stress of COVID-19 may be making it harder to get a good night’s rest. Our current experience is so unique that scientists at Australia’s Monash University set up a study to track the pandemic’s impact on sleep.
So what’s a desperately zzz-deprived you (and me) to do? It may be time to turn to podcasts. The sleep podcast genre is a surprisingly rich one, with a range of easy listens scripted and recorded to help you nod off. Here are eight relaxing sleepytime podcasts that may make it easier to turn off your racing mind when you turn off the lights.
Sleep with Me (Nightvale Presents)
Drew Ackerman’s “Sleep with Me” podcast is a bedtime story from one insomniac to another. Ackerman, who hosts under the moniker Dearest Scooter, tells rambling, low-stakes narratives, that last at least an hour. Each of the 800+ episodes is loosely tied to a single topic, and Ackerman riffs whimsically from there — recaps of “Dr. Who,” product unboxings, real-time cooking projects, oddball characters and faux guests, and mildly silly original fiction are all a part of the mix. The point isn’t to make sense of or follow Ackerman’s meandering vocal fry, but to let your “bore-friend” Scooter lull you to dreamland.
Seymour Jacklin pens charming, imaginative bedtime and folk stories for adults and little ones in this “semi-regular” podcast. The episodes are short (most between 15-20 minutes), and are designed to quiet the mind before bed rather than serve as a one-way-ticket to REM. Jacklin’s narratives “live” in the space of semi-consciousness before you drift off and are enhanced by gentle instrumental soundtracks.
Sleep Whispers (ASMR & Insomnia Network)
Performing under the name Harris, host Craig Richard is a hushed storyteller whose whispers are like a sedative. For those who can experience it, sound-induced autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) triggers feelings of relaxation and relief, making it an ideal sleep companion. Sleep Whispers is a prime example of the whisper ASMR trend — which is also wildly popular on YouTube — featuring Harris’s crisp succinct vocals weaving in and out of “Whisperpedia” articles, meditative practices, and original stories.
One Third of Life (That’s Not Canon Productions)
Host Zane C. Weber believes it’s good to be exhaustively educational when trying to help his listeners get some shuteye. He slowly and breathily reads Wikipedia articles about religious figures and mythology or classic longform poetry over celestial, ambient drones.
A rotating trio of hosts — known as V, M, and N — offers soothing retellings of historical literature, folklore, and poems. Readings range from “Woman’s Institute Library of Cookery,” Volume 1 (breadmaking!) to excerpts from beloved familiar fiction, like “Little Women” and “Black Beauty.” But fret not, the hosts’ measured increasingly relaxed speech will erase any interest in reaching the last page.
Slow Radio (BBC Radio 3)
Be immersed in an unusual blend of extremely specific soundscapes, musical compositions, and quiet conversations produced to help you wind down. Radio 3 describes their podcast of mindfully curated samples as “an antidote to today’s frenzied world.” With no clear unifying theme, Slow Radio takes listeners to Sussex Woods for a nightingale lullaby and to Pluscarden Abbey, where Benedictine monks share their plainsong and thoughts on the value of meditation.
Be Calm on Ahway Island (Sheep Jams Productions)
If the younger members of your household need some extra help winding down these days, Ahway Island offers programming designed to create some tranquility before bed. Episodes open with easy-to-follow meditative exercises — dragon breath in, dragon breath out — followed by uplifting, satisfying, and brief children’s stories.
If nonsensical or tedium doesn’t put your mind at ease, maybe Kristen Zaza’s creepy bedtime podcast will. Psychological theories for why fictional horror could help some anxious people calm down cite our brain’s ability to feel control over fear that’s not warranted IRL. Zaza calls her rich, episodic ghost stories “spine-chilling yet soothing.” It might be the scary story that helps you surrender to sleep.