My husband snores — loudly and often. There is not an earplug available that I haven’t tried. When earplugs ultimately failed, though, I decided to try one more sleep hack before filing for a sleep divorce — podcasts.
I purchased noise-canceling earbuds and started drifting off to my favorite podcasts. While it initially worked and I was finally sleeping through the snoring, I quickly found that the true crime podcasts that enraptured me during dog walks, carpool lines, and laundry created fever-like dreams at night. Therefore, I had to pivot and find something less terrifying and more conducive to a peaceful night’s rest.
In this article, I will dive into some of my favorite podcasts for sleeping, along with some other notable podcasts that I think could be helpful for folks looking to sleep more easily.
Should I Listen to Podcasts to Sleep?
Sleeping with a podcast playing in my ears helps me sleep even when my husband snores, so I wondered what the experts say about falling asleep to a podcast. The research on this topic is limited because podcasts are a relatively new form of entertainment. However, a 2019 report from Edison Research1 stated that more than half of the 6,000 people surveyed stated that listening to a podcast is a way to relax before falling asleep.
According to Sleep Advisor’s Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Raj Dasgupta, sleep podcasts should be considered a temporary solution rather than a long-term one. “Although listening to podcasts in bed can be helpful for the occasional night where you’re struggling to switch off, as a general rule, they aren’t great for long-term sleeping problems. Most of us sleep better in dark and silence, therefore listening to podcasts isn’t an ideal environment for sleep. It’s even possible that you might even fall asleep, and the sound of the podcast might wake you up again.”
My 5 Favorite Sleep Podcasts to Help You Dose off Quickly
1. Phoebe Reads a Mystery
This is my go-to podcast to drown out my husband’s snoring and drift off to sleep. Host Phoebe Judge’s voice is like a favorite sweater you can’t wait to slip over your head. I originally became a fan of Judge’s melodic intonation by listening to her popular true-crime podcast, Criminal.
However, as you may have guessed by the name, this podcast tells tales of crime and those who perpetuate them, and those usually don’t have a calming effect. Therefore, I was so happy when I learned about Phoebe Reads a Mystery. This podcast combines Judge’s soothing voice with more classic tales such as Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, and The Age of Innocence.
2. Nothing Much Happens
In the Village of Nothing Much, listeners are treated to calm, relaxing stories. The stories are intentionally uninteresting to prevent listeners from becoming invested.
One of my recent favorite episodes, “The Winter Quilt”, was about the making of a beautiful winter quilt that also touched on snowflakes in a car’s headlights. I found it to be really soothing and evoked that feeling of lying in a warm bed watching a snowfall outside.
3. Game of Drones: The Game of Thrones Sleep Aid
If, like me, you have trouble sleeping and miss Game of Thrones in equal measure, I suggest you tune into Game of Drones. Host Drew Ackerman uses his marvelously monotone voice to recount scenes and events from the show, adding long-winded, often irrelevant information from George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novel, A Song of Fire and Ice.
Even if you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, the podcast is marketed for sleep, and the lack of interest in the TV series may even work in your favor to help you feel more tired.
4. Boring Books for Bedtime: A Quiet Little Sleepcast
Are you still chasing the sleep you used to get when studying geology or economics in the college library? If so, I highly recommend Boring Books for Bedtime. As its name suggests, this podcast intends to help people wind down by reading “boring” books to them in a calming voice.
Examples of episode titles include “The 1945 Sears Christmas Book” and “The History of Bread”, to name a few. Of course, interests are subjective so if there’s a topic you’re actually interested in, you might want to skip that episode.
5. Drifting Off with Joe Pera
Giggling and sleeping aren’t usually actions that work in tandem. However, Drifting Off with Joe Pera merges sleeping with comedy, and I love drifting off with a smile on my face. Drifting Off features Pera and, typically, a featured guest having mundane conversations and telling easy, wholesome jokes with lulling, immersive sounds in the background.
Other Notable Sleep Podcasts
Sleep With Me
Drew Ackerman’s Sleep with Me is the sleep podcast OG. The podcast started in 2013 and has been a tried and true bedtime companion ever since. Ackerman delivers lengthy, monotone stories filled with tangents and side quests. Sleep with Me’s longstanding status gives it an authority that I think you might find comforting in your search for a great podcast for sleep.
The New Yorker Fiction
It was hard for me not to include this in my personal favorites, but I often get too invested to fall asleep when some of my favorite authors, like David Sedaris and George Saunders, read stories from other literary giants. However, this podcast can make an excellent nightly companion for those who can control their inner bibliophile.
Some podcasts are designed to help you drift off; others, such as 99% Invisible, can do it despite providing fascinating content. Host Roman Mars shares intriguing tales about how design impacts our everyday lives. Although these stories can easily pique your interest, Mars’ voice is so soothing that it is hard not to drift off.
The BBC-produced podcast Slow Radio combines whispered conversations with ambient soundscapes. At the beginning of every episode, host Verity Sharp provides an overview of what kind of calming tales await listeners. However, the combination of relaxing noises, nature sounds, and hushed voices may put you to sleep before you’re in too deep.
This aptly named podcast is hosted by Otis Gray, who uses his rich baritone voice to lull listeners to sleep by reading excerpts from classic novels by authors such as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Nathanial Hawthorne. Gray also dives into Hans Christen Andersen’s fairy tales and Agatha Christie’s mysteries for a peaceful slumber.
Additional Tips for Falling (and Staying) Asleep
According to Dr. Raj, while sleep podcasts can be helpful for temporary sleep troubles, he stresses that you should also look into other important habits and therapies for long-term solutions.
“Bottom line, is that listening to podcasts to help you sleep is not ultimately harmful, but I recommended being cautious about it, not overdoing it, and making sure you’ve checked off other areas of cognitive behavioral therapy and sleep hygiene if you’re having ongoing sleep issues such as chronic insomnia. This includes: no caffeine and alcohol before bed, limit screen time before bed, using stress management techniques like meditation, relaxation and exercise and trying to sleep and wake at the same time each day.”
Below I’ve included a list of good sleep hygiene habits to follow to help boost your sleep.
- Invest in a quality mattress – Mattresses that support your body type and enhance your preferred sleep position can significantly improve your sleep quality. For more information, check out the Best Mattresses for 2024.
- Play ambient noises – If podcasts aren’t for you, you may want to try a fan, sound machine, or apps that provide white, green, pink, or brown noise. “Ambient sound like white noise works by reducing the difference between background noise and jarring sounds that can cause arousals during sleep like a screeching car. Think of ambient sound like keeping a nightlight on while you sleep, if you turn on a light in a pitch-black room, you’ll be more startled than if your room is lit by a softer night light.” – Dr. Raj Dasgupta
- Keep cool – Regulating your body temperature so that you are not too hot or cold when sleeping could help you achieve better sleep. How hot or cold your sleeping environment is a major factor in regulating sleep, as it is closely tied to your circadian rhythm2. Although the exact temperature will fluctuate based on the person, a general rule is to keep your bedroom temperature between 60-67 degrees3 Fahrenheit (15-19 degrees Celsius).
- Go dark – A dark environment helps you sleep because the lack of light promotes the production of melatonin4, a hormone that’s secreted as the body responds to darkness to help facilitate sleepiness. Blackout curtains, shades, and sleep masks can block out light that may interfere with your sleep.
- Stick to a schedule – Going to bed and waking at the same time daily can help your body get accustomed to a regular sleep routine. Although it may be tempting to stay up late and sleep in on the weekends, it is more beneficial for you to stick to your schedule.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol – Caffeinated and alcoholic drinks can disrupt your sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that can remain in your system for up to six hours5, so it’s best to limit your caffeine consumption to just the morning or early afternoon. Although alcohol is a depressant that can initially increase sleepiness, it actually can lower the quality of sleep6 you get.
Sleep Podcast FAQs
Should I listen to a podcast to fall asleep?
Listening to a podcast can be an excellent way to drift off to sleep. For some, the podcast can calm lingering anxiety and stress from the day; for others, it may drown out a partner’s snoring or outside noises.
However, others may find it distracting. If you listen to podcasts before you fall asleep, you will want to make sure they are calming enough that you don’t become too invested in the content.
Are there benefits to listening to podcasts?
Turning podcasts on when you’re commuting on the subway, walking your dog, or cleaning the house can be a great way to be entertained or informed. Many podcasts can be soothing and could help reduce anxiety and boost your mental health as a result. As mentioned, a 2019 report found that people used podcasts as a means to help them relax before bed.1
How do I listen to podcasts?
Podcasts are available through streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and others. You can access them for free through sites like iHeartRadio, Google Play, and TuneIn.
Sosha Lewis is a staff writer for Sleep Advisor. Lewis is happy that she is able to combine her love of sleep with her love of writing.
- “The Podcast Consumer 2019: A report from The Infinite Dial”. Edison Research. Webpage accessed January 30, 2024.
- Okamoto-Mizuno, Kazue, Mizuno, Koh. “Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythms”. Journal of Physiological Anthropology. 2012.
- “What’s the Best Temperature for Sleep?”. Cleveland Clinic. 2021.
- Masters, Alina, et al. “Melatonin, the Hormone of Darkness: From Sleep Promotion to Ebola Treatment”. National Library of Medicine. 2014.
- Drake PhD, Christopher., et al. “Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0,3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed”. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2013.
- Park, Soon-Yeob., et al. “The Effects of Alcohol on Quality of Sleep”. Korean Journal of Family Medicine. 2015.