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How long did it take you to doze off last night? Five minutes? Twenty minutes? An hour? A number of things can prevent us from switching off — and, whether you feel overloaded by big life stresses or simply have Adele lyrics cycling through your brain, this ultimately cuts into precious slumber time.
Experts recommend we get at least 7 hours’ sleep each night, as this shutdown time is essential for our bodies to recharge and repair.
Indeed, sleep is intrinsically linked to physical and mental health, influencing everything from weight, immunity, and blood sugar to emotions, concentration, and productivity.
To help prepare your body for a good night’s rest, it’s important to take the time to wind down.
As tempting as it may be, scrolling on your phone or flopping in front of the TV is not the solution (the blue light these devices emit prevents your brain from producing the sleep-encouraging chemical melatonin). But there are plenty of equally enjoyable approaches you can try.
Diving into a book and relaxing in a bubble bath are two popular choices, but listening to a slumber-inducing podcast is also effective. With podcast creators using techniques such as bedtime stories, meditation routines, and slow ramblings to send us off to the land of nod, we’re spoiled for choice (and, as a bonus, they’re all free!).
Here we share nine of the best podcasts for sleep and relaxation, taking into consideration their approach, length, and user feedback. With this much variety, there’s sure to be something for every taste and need. Happy sleeping!
“The Daily Meditation Podcast”
Perfect for: A touch of zen
Led by certified yoga and meditation teacher Mary Meckley, this sleep meditation podcast is designed to induce peace and calm. A new episode is released each day.
Each episode targets a different factor, such as stress, concentration, breathing, and motivation, so you can choose according to your needs. Averaging 10 minutes in length, they’re the perfect bite-size nuggets for meditation newbies and aficionados alike.
“Sleep with Me”
Perfect for: Those with FOMO
Created in 2013 by insomniac Drew Ackerman, this podcast receives 3 million downloads per episode and has been recommended by the New York Times, Esquire, and more — so you’ll be in good listening company.
Ackerman recounts random, self-invented stories (swampy bogs and boy bands, anyone?) that become more boring as they go on, so your mind definitely won’t stay awake to catch any cliffhanger endings.
Listen via the “Sleep with Me” website.
“Deep Sleep Sounds”
Perfect for: Fans of white noise
If nothing brings you joy quite like the smell of freshly baked bread or newly cut grass, then this is the podcast for you.
Each episode offers some of life’s most strangely soothing sounds, such as rustling bamboo leaves, rumbling thunder, the hum of a plane cabin, and the buzz of an air conditioning unit.
At 2 hours each, they’re plenty long enough to send you off to sleep and help prevent stirring during the first throes of slumber.
“Nothing Much Happens”
Perfect for: Being bored in the best way possible
If you’re looking for a boring podcast for sleep encouragement, “Nothing Much Happens” takes the trophy. Every story relates a different scenario where (you guessed it) not a lot occurs. It’s read at a regular pace the first time and then repeated even more slowly, just in case you’re still awake.
With an impressive 4.7 out of 5 rating on Apple, the series is led by yoga and meditation teacher Kathryn Nicholai, whose soft voice alone encourages droopy eyelids — and that’s just during the opening mention of sponsors.
“Sleep and Relax ASMR”
Perfect for: Something a bit different
Have you seen those videos of people whispering softly close to a microphone? Far more than just a YouTube fad, autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is proven to have a calming effect on the mind and body — so it could become your new bedtime BFF.
In addition to spoken word, this podcast — which was awarded Best Podcast for Sleep by sleep website Tuck — also includes popular sounds like underwater bubbles and the counting of money to induce that burst of melatonin.
Listen via the “Sleep and Relax ASMR” website.
Perfect for: A scientific approach
While this NPR series focuses on all aspects of life, it has five episodes ideal for those on the hunt for podcasts about sleep science.
One episode features scientists who reveal different cognitive behavioral therapy methods that could aid insomnia. Another explores whether some of the most common sleep-inducing hacks (oh hey, counting sheep) are actually beneficial.
It may not be the ideal pillow talk for bedtime but could definitely help you prep for sleep.
Listen and search episodes over on NPR.
Perfect for: Bookworms
If your partner or roommate isn’t on board with reading a bedtime story to help you doze off, don’t worry — “Snoozecast” is here to bring the happily ever after.
Forget pricey audiobook services: This podcast offers ad-free excerpts from classics like Jane Eyre, Little Women, and Peter Pan, and you can narrow your selection by category. There are also three different narrators to choose from, in case you find one particularly conducive to snoozing.
Listen at the “Snoozecast” website.
Perfect for: The curious
This podcast offers both soothing short stories for nighttime and half-hour inquisitive discussions for daytime listening. The latter take an engaging and informative look at the aspects of our lives closely associated with sleep — such as relationships, nutrition, and sports — and offer expert insights on how to tweak them to improve your sleep quality.
It’s the perfect way to get to the root of the problem rather than just focusing on the symptoms.
Perfect for: Ambient noise with a twist
While BBC Radio 3 — an airwaves mainstay in the U.K. — is best known for its classical music output, this podcast couldn’t be further removed from Mozart and company.
This “lo-fi celebration of pure sound” regales listeners with 30 minutes of ambient noise from different locations around the world — from the buzz of downtown Nashville to chatter among Irish cattle farmers.
By shifting your attention from the hustle and bustle in your brain to hubbub elsewhere, you’ll find yourself pleasantly relaxed.
Want to get the best out of your slumber? Try pairing these wallet-friendly extras with your podcast of choice:
- Eye mask. This is essential to help block out pesky streaks of light (we’re looking at you, streetlamps) since light exposure can reduce melatonin production.
- Earplugs. Whether you live on a busy street or have a roommate whose snores shake the walls, these are a necessity for stopping unwelcome noise from stirring your brain into action.
- Essential oils. Add some to a diffuser, dab a diluted solution onto your wrists, or pop a couple of drops on your pillow. Some oils — particularly lavender — are known for their relaxing effects.
- Weighted blanket. This will provide gentle pressure that helps relax your nervous system. Research also suggests snuggling under one can relieve feelings of anxiety — ideal if racing thoughts are keeping you up.
- Blackout drapes. Can’t bear a mask over your eyes? Invest in some of these to prevent summer sunrises from waking you up early and streetlamp light from flooding your room.
- Herbal tea. Ditch the late night glass of wine and pick up a warming brew instead. Chamomile is a great choice since it contains plenty of apigenin, an antioxidant thought to encourage sleep.
- Journal. If thoughts of tomorrow’s tasks are keeping you up, get them all out of your system: Research suggests writing a to-do list before climbing into bed can encourage faster dozing off.
These nine podcasts can help you relax, unwind, and empty your mind of what’s keeping you up. We selected the best sleep podcasts based on length, approach, and user reviews.
Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
For even more sleep help, check out our list of handy tools, such as eye masks and blackout drapes, that can turn your bedroom into a sleepy oasis.