Tossing, turning, and staring at the ceiling? We’ve all been there at one time or another. Thirty percent of adults have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep on any given night. If sleeplessness is a regular pattern in your life, you know the downsides all too well. A poor night of sleep can lead to grogginess, poor memory, and an inability to concentrate the next day.
Unfortunately, taking sleep medication isn’t a good long-term solution for most people because those drugs can be habit-forming and pose side effects. The key to getting to sleep is to relax and forget your worries, but that can be easier said than done. The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone. Relaxation podcasts can help when combined with other sleep-enhancing practices.
Embrace a Sleep-Enhancing Lifestyle
It would be hard to overstate the benefits of sleep. Sleeping well can help you maintain a healthy weight, improve concentration, maximize athletic performance, prevent chronic diseases, and improve immune function. But don’t panic if you don’t sleep as well as you’d like.
You may be getting more sleep than you think. Many people underestimate how much sleep they get. In sleep lab studies, some patients who took 10 minutes to fall asleep thought it took them an hour. And some patients who insisted they didn’t get any sleep actually slept quite a bit.
Plus, even if you don’t get enough sleep, you can improve your chances of sleeping well. Paradoxically, you may want to start by improving your mornings. Studies suggest spending time outside in the sunshine first thing in the morning regulates cortisol, serotonin, and melatonin rhythms all day.
You may also want to go easy on caffeine after noon. In one study, when middle-aged people drank 300 milligrams of caffeine before bed, it took them 66 minutes to fall asleep and they ended up getting two fewer hours of sleep. In another study, drinking caffeine even six hours before bedtime interfered with sleep. It may also be a good idea to skip a nightcap, too. Alcohol reduces the time it takes to fall asleep, but it interferes with your body’s sleep cycles, which can leave you feeling more exhausted the next day.
In addition to the above sleep-enhancing practices, a relaxation podcast may be just the thing to help you forget your worries and relax. While most podcasts are designed to keep you riveted and engaged and activate your entire brain in the process, relaxation podcasters strive to capture your attention just enough to keep you from thinking and/or worrying but not so much that you stay awake.
Institute a Calming Bedtime Routine
For the best chances of a good night of sleep, combine a relaxation podcast with a calming bedtime ritual. Go to bed at the same time each night. Dim the lights 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, and take a few minutes to write down any worries and make a to-do list for the next day. Then curl up with a relaxing podcast. You may need to try a few podcasts before you find the one that helps you drift off. Try one of these popular picks.
If you long for someone to tell you a long, meandering, nonsensical bedtime story, Drew Ackerman (a.k.a. Scooter) created your dream podcast. In his words, he uses “lulling, soothing, creaky dulcet tones; pointless meanders; and superfluous tangents” to help you relax and drift off to sleep.
In this offshoot of Sleep With Me, Drew Ackerman devotes his rambling, nonsensical storytelling to Game of Thrones recaps. Somehow, he manages to turn the riveting, action-adventure television fantasy into boring, meandering, sleep-inducing tales.
If reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, Of Mice and Men, or another classic ever put you to sleep, imagine how sleepy you’ll be when Otis Gray reads them to you in a deep, soothing voice. (Plus, if you don’t fall asleep, at least you’ll catch up on some classic literature.)
Katherine Nicolai is on a mission to use her relaxing voice and storytelling ability to help you turn off your brain and fall asleep. “Let me tell you a bedtime story. It’s a simple story, in which nothing much happens, you feel good, and then you fall asleep,” she writes.
For some people, listening to someone whispering can trigger Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, a pleasurable, tingling, and relaxing sensation in the scalp or spine. If you’re in that camp, Sleep Whispers may be the sleepy-time podcast for you. The host calls himself Whispering Harris, and he’ll lull you to sleep by rambling and whispering stories, poems, fables, and articles.
New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Triesman is not explicitly trying to put you to sleep in The New Yorker Fiction Podcast, but it may do the trick anyway. Triesman has a silky, smooth voice, and she invites famous literary authors to read short stories written by other famous literary authors. What better way to relax at the end of a long day?
By committing to sleep-enhancing daytime practices and embracing a calming bedtime ritual including relaxation podcasts, you’ll improve your chances of getting the Zzs you need to feel great and improve your health.