Nod off with bedtime stories for grown-ups

Nod off with bedtime stories for grown-ups: And other surprising ways your phone can help you sleep

  • Three-quarters of Brits claim their shut-eye is being affected by the pandemic
  • Anna Maxted explored if it’s possible to overcome insomnia with podcasts
  • She also rounded up a selection of the best dream-inducing podcasts
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Even when you’re dog-tired, switching off at the end of the day can be difficult. And anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic has made it a lot more challenging.

In fact, as many as three-quarters of Brits said unease about the global pandemic was affecting their shut-eye in some way, a survey commissioned by The Sleep Council, The Sleep Charity and Sleepstation found, when they questioned nearly 3,000 participants, five weeks into lockdown.

While it isn’t easy to quiet a fretful mind — particularly when many of our worries are justified — there are a wealth of tranquillity-inducing podcasts available to help you drift off.

Anna Maxted explored the possibility of improving sleep with podcasts, as research reveals three-quarters of Brits have had their shut-eye affected by the pandemic (file image)

Whether it’s whispered conversation, bedtime stories or white noise that soothes you, it’s all there to download and help get you to the land of nod.

So why and how do these podcasts work (or not)? Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert who works with Sleepstation and The Sleep Council, says: ‘Some people do have soothing voices and are easy to drift off to.’

Dr Stanley, author of How To Sleep Well, adds: ‘Some people live next to the sea, so listening to the waves crash is a good sound to fall asleep to, because it’s their everyday sound. If you live in the middle of Britain, your brain would probably think: “What’s happening? Are we being flooded?” ’

Essentially, any sound or topic of conversion you perceive as negative or which taps into your internal fears will keep you alert. Dr Stanley says: ‘It’s about the context. If a sound is meaningful and perceived as a threat, or odd so you have to listen because you don’t know what it is — that’s a problem. You won’t be able to fall asleep to that sound. If you can basically ignore it, then it’s OK.’

Choosing the best dream-inducing podcasts isn’t easy but, having slept on it, here are my top five.


Sleep With Me: The Podcast That Puts You To Sleep by Drew ‘Scooter’ Ackerman,

Anna said Sleep With Me: The Podcast That Puts You To Sleep (pictured), has more than 870 episodes to choose from 

This describes itself as ‘a silly bedtime story podcast for grown-ups’, with more than 870 episodes to choose from. Millions download them for free each month.

I plumped for It All Started With An Ice Cream Bar, ‘a bedtime story of how an heir to an ice cream fortune helps a friend’. I snuggle down, with one earphone in, and the volume low.

At first, I’m bemused. Drew is an affable American with a chewy accent, rambling on about an ice cream bar that’s also a debate club, but also stumbling and leaving sentences unfinished.

I’m vaguely aware he’s half talking nonsense. I can’t quite follow his point and nor can he. He keeps darting off on tangents, remembering things he’s forgotten. It’s all very pleasant, and not nearly as annoying as it should be.

The next thing I know, I’m surfacing from sleep to pull the earphone out my ear.

The following morning, I’m able to appreciate the cleverness of this podcast and its ‘trapezoidal logic’. Your brain can’t focus, so it stops trying and you drift off.



Anna revealed the Sleepy podcast (pictured) helped her to fall asleep within 25 minutes of listening to The Little Princess

There’s an excellent choice of bedtime- story podcasts out there.

If you prefer a female narrator, you might try Scare You To Sleep — deliciously spooky stories, sent in by listeners, not always perfectly plotted, but conducive to feeling snug and safe under the covers.

However, I’ve chosen Sleepy, because the stories are classics — Black Beauty, Peter Pan, The Little Princess — and to be read your childhood favourites in midlife, it turns out, is a treat.

Deep-voiced host Otis Gray, a New York radio producer, has an expressive yet understated delivery and I’m rapt. My problem is that I remain awake from sheer excitement.

But, after 25 minutes of The Little Princess, vivid and spellbinding though it is, I’m sleepy (as it says on the tin). I reluctantly turn it off. Sleep comes as easily as it did when I was ten.


Sleep and Relax ASMR,

Anna revealed Sleep and Relax ASMR (pictured) didn’t help her to sleep, but many people have found it helpful 

This wins a place because so many people find this podcast a catalyst to sleep.

For me, however, the ambient sound of waves, a street pub in Rio, or a Parisian cafe, leaves me crossly awake, provoking no Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).

This is the technical term for ‘brain tingles’, a deliciously relaxing sensation that some people experience when hearing tapping or whispering.

I try a Deep Sleep Meditation, but find the detailed instructions wearying in a non-drowsy sense. Bubble Wrap Popping sounds like fireworks going off.

A whispered ASMaRticle — on The Parliament of 1327 — is more the ticket. As is an episode on The Definitive Guide Of Cat Breeds. While I rarely tire of cat talk, the host’s waffle sends me to sleep after a while.

A podcast with something for everyone, eventually.


Sleep Whispers, sleep

Anna said Sleep Whispers (pictured) is so effective that it took her six attempts to review it

This podcast, hosted by ‘Whispering Harris’ is so effective it takes me six attempts to review it.

His podcasts include stories, trivia, chat and readings of Wikipedia pages. The soft sibilance of his words seem to tickle and stroke the inside of my head. It’s a physical sensation, as well as emotional — he’s chatting yet shhh-ing you to sleep. I realise it’s triggering ASMR.

Very quickly, his whisper felt hypnotic, and helped me to conk out at night, overriding any internal chatter. When I rose at 4.30am to let the cat out, which usually leaves me wide awake till six, Harris gently soothed me back to sleep.


Atmosphonic: Sounds to help you sleep,

Anna revealed Atmosphonic: Sounds to help you sleep (pictured) doesn’t have a host but instead hour-long recordings of nature

There are only 18 episodes of this podcast; simply hour-long recordings of the Brighton tide or Lowestoft waves for instance. No host, no chat (if there is I didn’t stay awake that long.)

There’s an afternoon thunderstorm recorded in Hertfordshire, and morning birds from a garden in Lincolnshire.

But it’s not all nature — one episode is entitled The Old Radiator. And there are recordings from further afield, such as the sound of the fast-moving water of the Urrioafoss Falls in Iceland.

As an Englishwoman, I found Inside A Car, In The Rain, as effective as a lullaby. And this is key — what you find soporific is personal.

But whatever it is, rest assured, you will find a bedtime podcast that suits.

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