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It’s common to feel overwhelmed and anxious. For some, these feelings might be completely unfamiliar, while others might be looking for new ways to cope with or manage existing emotions or conditions.

Whatever your level of anxiety or unrest, it can be helpful to try your hand at meditation to keep your mental health in check.

Calm is a mindfulness app for both newcomers and meditation enthusiasts alike. It can help users find inner peace and navigate life’s stressors.

Employees at Healthline have even tested it out to see if its relaxing meditations, sleep stories, and masterclasses are all they’re cracked up to be

Read on for more about what Calm has to offer, and if it’s right for you.

How we researched Calm

Before recommending Calm, we looked at the brand’s reputation, transparency, policy, and customer reviews to make sure it’s an app that our readers would find useful.

The Calm app has also been vetted by Healthline’s medical team to ensure that it meets our business standards.

Learn more about our product selection and vetting process here.

After Calm passed our vetting process, many of our employees decided to test out the app for a variety of times and reasons. Some Healthliners opted to use the platform to help calm their kiddos, while others were interested in the sleep stories or meditations.

Read on to discover more of what we thought about Calm.

Calm is an award-winning mindfulness app that’s available for iOS, Android, and desktop. Developed in 2012, Calm has over 100 million downloads and more than 700,000 5-star reviews.

The app features hundreds of calming exercises, helpful breathing techniques, and sleep stories narrated by celebrities like Matthew McConaughey and LeBron James.

Calm has many offerings, and the interface is relatively simple to navigate through. Plus, they’re constantly adding new content.

Pros

  • easy-to-use interface
  • sleep stories recorded by celebrities, like Harry Styles, Matthew McConaughey, and Bob Ross
  • app is regularly updated
  • ability to track basic statistics, like the number of consecutive days used, minutes meditated, and number of sessions
  • meditation reminders sent to your phone or tablet
  • mood tracking over time
  • kid-friendly interface
  • master classes taught by experts in the wellness field
  • real-life visuals and nature sounds

Cons

  • unable to add “friends” on the app
  • nature sounds distracting to some
  • sleep stories too long for some users
  • Calm Body has limited offerings

Many Healthline editors have tried (and loved) Calm. Here’s what they have to say.

Alina Sharon, an editor at Healthline, has been using the Calm app for a few months and says her favorite aspect is the sleep stories.

“I especially like the ones for kids,” she says. “I use [it] with my son all the time.”

However, she does find the app a little difficult to use since there’s so much content and it can sometimes feel unorganized.

Carrie Byrd, an associate editor at Healthline, says she enjoys using the Calm app to play music or soundscapes in the background while she works or relaxes. She also loves the breathing exercises, but notes that sometimes the background sounds can be distracting.

“It would be nice to have the option of feeling a light vibration when it’s time to switch your breath as well,” she says.

Senior Healthline editor Holly Ernst also noticed the Calm app not only helps her, but it positively affects her dogs, too.

“My two dachshunds are significantly calmer and more well behaved when I work due to the soothing background noise,” she says.

Melissa Lee, a market wellness editor at Healthline, says her favorite feature (and one of her favorite ways to start the day) is the Daily Calm meditation.

“Every day, there’s a new 10-minute meditation on a certain subject matter (i.e., setting intentions, compassion). The first half has you breathe and relax, while the second half consists of a guided meditation on whatever the topic is,” she says.

Calm’s sleep stories are a favorite for people who have a hard time falling asleep or are unable to stay asleep.

The sleep stories function is especially useful for people with kids. In a 2020 survey, 97% of participants found that Calm’s sleep stories helped improved their kids’ sleeping patterns.

Megan Severs, an editorial director at Healthline, finds that the “Calm Sleep Meditations help me shut my mind off so that I can fall asleep faster. I also tend to sleep longer when I’ve used the app to go to sleep. Without the app, I often wake up in the middle of the night.”

Calm is also a great platform if you’re new to meditation. Many of the app’s features aim to teach others about mindfulness and how to start accessible meditation practices.

“I was originally very skeptical about the Calm app. I am not someone who has benefited from meditation techniques in the past,” says A.L. Heywood, an editor at Healthline, who often wakes up in the middle of the night and has trouble falling back asleep.

“Without fail, the Calm app has helped me in this situation. Meditations in the Sleep series help me to quiet my mind again and have saved me many restless nights.”

It can help with focus, too. Several Healthline editors play the soundscapes in the background while they work and find that it helps them stay on task throughout the day.

Calm is also one of the more affordable meditation apps on the market. Even with the free model, there is a wide range of information and content available.

However, because there’s so much content available on the app, some find it overwhelming and not very helpful.

Free version

Calm has the option for users to access either a 7-day free trial or the free version of the app without paying for premium contact. Calm is built on a “freemium” model. Without purchase, you get access to:

  • daily meditations
  • breathing exercises
  • mood tracker
  • select sleep stories
  • several music tracks
  • some guided meditations

The 7-day free trial unlocks more than 100 guided meditations, the entire sleep story library, exclusive musical tracks for sleep and relaxation, and expert-led Masterclasses.

Paid version

After the free trial ends, access to the full library is $14.99 per month or $69.99 per year. If you pay for the year in full, it comes out to $5.83 per month, which is more affordable than other meditation apps on the market.

For teams of 5 or more, Calm offers a 15% discount. And Calm family plans are also available for up to six users at $99.99 a year.

Students can get discounted access to Calm through Amazon Prime Student. This includes a three-month free trial of the premium service and then a discounted yearly subscription fee of $8.99 a year.

Calm also offers a lifetime membership for $399.99.

Some of our testers especially love the premium features, with many noting that the soundscapes and music are particularly nice perks.

As soon as you open it, the app welcomes you to take a few deep breaths. Then, a pop-up menu asks you to select what brought you to the app so that it can tailor recommendations based on your goals.

You may receive questions like: Are you looking to increase your happiness or reduce stress? Do you want to get better sleep or reduce anxiety? All of the above?

The meditation section is organized into different categories, like stress, focus, anxiety, and relationships. Calm offers both guided and unguided meditations. The sessions can range anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes.

Calm doesn’t focus on religious or spiritual themes, but rather mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). This program teaches people to use their innate resources to help manage stress and pain.

Some MBSR techniques include:

Meditations

Calm is best known for its meditations. They’re divided up into different categories, such as sleep, beginners, work, inner peace, anxiety, emotions, and personal growth.

Each category contains topic-specific meditation packs or singles. For example, in the anxiety section, you’ll find sessions like “Panic SOS,” “Calming Flight Anxiety,” and “Letting Go into Sleep.”

Beginners are encouraged to start with the “7 Days of Calm” series, and then transition into “21 Days of Calm” to sharpen their skills.

Editorial director Megan Severs says that the app’s sleep meditations help calm her mind so she can fall asleep faster.

“I also tend to sleep longer when I’ve used the app to go to sleep,” she says. “Without the app, I often wake up in the middle of the night.”

Daily Calm

Daily Calm, updated every morning, offers an original 10-minute guided meditation that focuses on different wellness topics.

Only users with premium memberships can access Daily Calm. However, users who have a free trial can access Daily Calm Highlights, which is a collection of the most popular Daily Calm sessions.

Although Daily Calm refreshes each meditation session every day, premium users get the ability to go back and listen to previous sessions that they’ve listened to. They can access them in the history section of their profile.

Breathing exercises

Calm features six types of audio breathing exercises, including:

  • Relax
  • Balance
  • Restore
  • Focus
  • Energize
  • Unwind

The app lets you customize the volume and speed of each breathing exercise. You can also customize the length of your breathing exercise, within a 1- to 60-minute timeframe.

Sleep stories

If you miss being tucked in at night with a sweet bedtime story and a glass of warm milk, then you’re in luck. The sleep stories section on Calm is full of stories, ranging from fairy tales to nonfiction. You can even get stores that activate your autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR.

The app is constantly being updated with new stories. They’re often narrated by A-list celebrities, like Harry Styles, Scottie Pippen, and Kelly Rowland. There are even a few nap sessions for those looking for a quick snooze.

Music

The music section of Calm contains hundreds of curated soundtracks to put you at ease while working, walking, or falling asleep. The app has everything organized into six categories: focus, lullabies, relax, sleep, soundscapes, and nature melodies.

Calm also plays background music as you scroll through the app or start a session. It’s customizable, so you can choose between a calming aquascape, rain on a window, a campfire, and more. You’re able to easily adjust the sound level.

Calm Masterclass

Calm’s Masterclasses are short courses taught by mindfulness experts and esteemed professionals like Shawn Achor, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Ryan Holiday.

Masterclasses focus on a wide array of topics, like breaking bad habits, embracing stillness, conscious parenting, and discovering happiness. Each Masterclass comes with a free introductory video, but only paying subscribers have access to entire courses.

This offering is great for anyone looking to dive deeper into the world of mindfulness. This educational component is what sets Calm apart from their competitors.

Calm Kids

Calm offers meditations, sleep stories, and music designed for children of all ages. Kids can learn to meditate with Thomas the Tank Engine, listen to soothing lullabies, or fall asleep to classic stories like “Peter Pan” or “The Velveteen Rabbit.”

Calm has a children’s offering for kids as young as 3 years old. They say their sessions equip children with the proper tools to handle whatever life throws their way. Additionally, 2016 research suggests that mindfulness instruction can improve psychological functioning, lower some of the negative effects of stress, and reduce trauma-associated symptoms in some children.

Severs says that she uses the kids’ meditations when her 6-year-old is in a funk.

“I put it on in the car on our way to school,” Severs says. “Not only does he enjoy it, but it helps him reset his mood, setting him up for a better day at school.”

Calm Body

Mental and physical health are intrinsically linked, according to 2018 research. Calm Body can be beneficial for your overall well-being.

There are currently eight Calm Body sessions on the app. Each session is a 10-minute movement designed with mindfulness in mind. You can choose from:

  • “Morning Wake Up”
  • “Afternoon Reset”
  • “Mindful Warm Up”
  • “Mindful Cool Down”
  • “Evening Wind Down”
  • “Morning Stretch”
  • “Evening Stretch”
  • “Back Care”

Calm offers a ton of meditations and sleep stories narrated by a variety of people. Some instructors include mental health and mindfulness advocates like Tamara Levitt, Calm’s Head of Mindfulness, and Jay Shetty, a popular podcast host and New York Times best-selling author.

Calm also has mental fitness, masterclass, and sleep stories instructed by well-known celebrities, such as:

  • LeBron James
  • Harry Styles
  • Matthew McConaughey
  • Idris Elba
  • Sophia Bush

However, some of these meditations are only available for premium customers.

Calm may benefit individuals looking to gain the skills and knowledge to deal with daily stress or anxiety.

Calm is a science-based mindfulness app that can be used by beginners and experts alike. If you are looking to find more peace in your daily life, or if you’re simply looking to add new tools to your mental health toolkit, then it might be worth giving Calm a shot.

The more regularly you use the app and its many features, the more you might notice positive mental health benefits.

Newcomers can start with courses like “How to Meditate” to get acclimated to the practice. Experts can play around with the “Less Guidance” section, where they’ll find a meditation timer, lightly guided meditations, and open-ended meditations with bells.

Statistics on time spent meditating can help you track your progress on the app.

Getting started with Calm is pretty straightforward.

For the free version:

  1. Download the app.
  2. Select your primary reason for joining from the list.
  3. Create an account with your email, Facebook, Apple, or Google account.
  4. Sign up for a free trial or click the “X” in the top left corner if you want to bypass adding your credit card information.
  5. Set notification preferences by choosing “Allow notifications” or “Maybe later.”
  6. Click how you heard about Calm or bypass by choosing the “X” in the top left corner.
  7. Browse the free version of the app. You can upgrade at any time by clicking “Unlock Calm Premium.”

For the premium version:

  1. Download the app.
  2. Select your primary reason for joining from the list.
  3. Create an account with your email, Facebook, Apple, or Google account.
  4. Click “Try free & subscribe” and then input your credit card information and give the app permission to continue. You’ll get 7 days free, and then you’ll be charged $69.99 annually unless you cancel.
  5. Set notification preferences by choosing “Allow notifications” or “Maybe later.”
  6. Click how you heard about Calm or bypass by choosing the “X” in the top left corner.
  7. Browse the app.

Calm can help soothe negative thoughts and emotions and can be used to help lower stress, anxiety, or chronic pain.

This 2019 study involving 153 adults showed that mindfulness training done through a meditation app for 2 weeks reduced loneliness and increased social contact for its users compared with those in a control group.

A 2020 study that analyzed the perceptions of parents of children using Calm found that nearly all parents thought the app was helpful for their child’s sleep.

Another 2020 study found that, although intermittent use of the app can improve a person’s well-being, it also promoted feelings of failure if they don’t use it daily.

Calm is not a replacement for anyone experiencing symptoms of depression or moderate to severe anxiety. It can, however, be used together with psychotherapy and prescribed medication.

Keep in mind

Calm isn’t a substitute for emergency services. In the event of a mental health emergency — if you’re thinking about harming yourself or someone else — call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

There are many different types of meditation, with Calm’s primary focus being guided meditations. Generally, the activity of meditation is extremely beneficial — it’s been found to:

  • reduce stress
  • lessen feelings of anxiety
  • promote emotional health
  • enhance self-awareness
  • lengthen attention span
  • help control pain

It may even do things such as:

  • help fight addictions
  • reduce age-related memory loss

Additionally, a 2014 study found that people who meditate before bed stay asleep longer. These people experienced improved insomnia, as opposed to those who didn’t meditate before going to sleep.

Calm and Headspace are both apps designed to help you learn meditation methods, practice guided mental exercises, and improve sleep quality.

They’re both nearly the same price, too. Calm offers a 7-day free trial. When that expires, the app costs $14.99 per month or $69.99 per year. Headspace also offers a 7-day free trial and subscriptions for either $12.99 per month or $69.99 per year.

If you’re looking to decide between the two apps, you may want to consider that Calm:

  • may be better for those who have some meditation experience
  • has lengthier guided meditations and stories
  • offers less structured meditation sessions
Price (monthly and yearly)FeaturesiPhone ratingFree trial
Calm$14.99, $69.99Daily Calm, quick and easy, mental fitness, sleep stories, music4.87 days
Headspace$12.99, $69.99themed meditations, SOS section, timed meditations, group meditations, techniques and support, sleep section, movement, focus activities4.87 days

The app has a 4.8 out of 5-star rating on the App Store. Many people express feelings of satisfaction with the app’s functionality, noting that new content is constantly being released.

App users say that the sleep stories are one of the most helpful features, especially for those who have difficulty falling asleep. Many reviewers say that they would fall asleep before the story finishes, usually within 5 to 10 minutes.

Others say that the mood check-in is a soothing way of helping them express and release any overwhelming thoughts and feelings. It also helps them enjoy positive feelings and reflect upon their mood.

Although the Calm app may help improve insomnia or lessen feelings of anxiety or depression, it can’t substitute going to see a mental health professional.

Consider speaking with a professional if you’re:

  • experiencing a big life change, like grieving or family and relationship issues
  • engaging in unhealthy life habits or addictions such as smoking, drinking, or drug use
  • experiencing symptoms of a phobia
  • experiencing overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, sadness, stress, worry, or anxiety

A counselor may be able to help with family or marital/relationship issues, anger, low self-esteem, behavioral problems, loss, anxiety, or depression. A therapist (a licensed mental health professional) may provide help with similar issues via talk therapy.

You may want to consider going to see a psychiatrist (a mental health professional who can prescribe medications and provide diagnoses and treatments) if you feel you may need:

  • addiction medication
  • child and adolescent psychiatry
  • geriatric psychiatry
  • forensic psychiatry
  • pain medication
  • sleep medication

Psychiatrists can prescribe medications for a number of conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Is there scientific research behind Calm?

Calm Science, the company’s scientific research branch, is incorporated across all of Calm’s offerings. They use evidence-based strategies to improve the app. Calm’s ongoing research continues to reinforce and strengthen Calm as an innovative and scientifically grounded product that improves mental and physical health.

What is the Daily Calm Community?

The Daily Calm Community is a Facebook group open to anyone interested in discussing their mindfulness practice and engaging with the topics of Daily Calm meditations.

Most of the members in the group are Calm subscribers who listen to the Daily Calm. However, they welcome anyone who would like to join, especially people who have yet to use Calm.

Is the Calm app worth it?

The Calm app may be a great investment if you frequently deal with feelings of anxiety or stress. The app’s wide variety of guided meditations, sleep stories, and music may help you feel more relaxed.

However, it’s not necessary to purchase the premium version if it’s not in your budget. The free version offers tons of helpful meditations that are just as beneficial as the paid ones.

Calm is a great one-stop shop for anyone looking to improve their mental well-being. The app teaches users how to reduce anxiety and stress, sleep better, and check in with their emotions.

If you want to give Calm a try, get started here.


Iman Balagam is a writer based in Houston, Texas. When she’s not laughing at her own jokes, or buying overpriced chia pudding, she can be found reading fiction novels, catching a spin class, doomscrolling through TikTok, or waiting for her delayed Spirit flight to board. You can see more of her work on her website.