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We’ve all tossed and turned at some point, trying to get relaxed and fall asleep.
And there seems to be just as many promised multimedia solutions for restlessness before bed as there are people who experience it: music, TV shows, movies, and podcasts.
So, here are our recommendations for the top seven podcasts to help you get to sleep, plus a few podcasts about sleep science.
- Apple Podcast rating: 4.5 stars (over 9,000 ratings)
- Also available on: Google Play and Soundcloud
- First aired: 2013
This podcast from Public Radio Exchange (PRX) advertises itself as a bedtime story that gets more boring as it goes along.
Narrator Drew Ackerman, who goes by the title “Dearest Scooter,” relates a variety of tedious subjects in a monotonous and detailed narrative style that’s purposely designed to cause your mind to wander from the actual subject matter of his tale and drowse off.
Many episodes are about 60 to 90 minutes each. This is plenty of time to slowly but surely tune out.
White noise is one of the most common aural sleep aids used by people who can’t sleep.
This podcast collects 30- to 60-minute clips of many relaxing and comforting sounds, from heavy thunderstorms and crackling campfires to household noises, like keyboards clacking and dishes clanking.
It also invites its listeners to share their favorite sleep sounds and have them featured on an episode. So, even though this podcast is relatively new and doesn’t have too many episodes as of this article’s publication, there’s tons of imaginative potential for future episodes.
There’s even an episode called “Captain’s Cabin,” which envisions what it might sound like to kick back inside a pirate ship out on calm seas.
- Apple Podcasts rating: 4.7 stars (over 28,000 ratings)
- Also available on: Google Play and more
- First aired: 2002
Radiolab is a renowned public radio show that originated at WNYC Studios. It covers an incredibly wide range of human interest stories.
Leading you through each episode are hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. Their chemistry compels their deep dives into diverse topics, all with a childlike curiosity guided by a stated investment in seeking the truth at the heart of befuddling or controversial stories.
Jad and Robert talk with numerous experts throughout each episode. Episodes all follow a similar and predictable format that can be calming and reassuring.
- Apple Podcasts rating: 4.7 stars (over 23,000 ratings)
- Also available on: NPR, Google Podcasts, and more
- First aired: 1998
The long-running National Public Radio (NPR) news quiz “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” is a current events call-in game show so famous for its devotion to its weekly show format and revolving door of comedian guest panelists that host Peter Sagal has made jokes about its listeners at home falling asleep before the show ends.
Nearly every show features the same set of games, which include “Bluff the Listener” and “Listener Limerick Challenge.” Many regular panelists are trained speakers with big personalities. Their delivery styles toe the line between hilarious and soothing.
You’ll likely get both a good laugh and a deep snooze in between the guests’ absurd banter on world events and the show’s clockwork schedule.
You may remember the name of this call-in podcast’s titular host from his “Bill Nye, the Science Guy” days.
The nostalgia of Bill’s voice alone may be enough to relax many millennials and Gen Xers who grew up with his show in the ’90s (and many of their parents, too).
But this podcast is also a good one for science and information junkies. Bill and co-host and science writer Corey Powell interview experts in topics like antibiotics, neuroscience, and astrophysics in an attempt to make esoteric scientific fields seem fun and approachable.
After a while, the conversation and complicated subject matter may lull you right to sleep.
- Apple Podcasts rating: 4.6 stars (16,000 ratings)
- Also available on: Spotify, Soundcloud, and more
- First aired: 2019
This one’s advertised as a podcast about “the art and craft of storytelling.” “The Moth” features a single storyteller in each episode. They’re tasked with telling any story they want to a crowd of engaged listeners, with only one requirement: Tell it live and don’t use any notes.
The results are hilarious and emotionally intense — often all in the same episode. The topics ranges from humorous anecdotes about pregnancy to dark memories of war.
Episodes run anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour. Some episodes feature multiple guests telling individual stories.
- Apple Podcast rating: 4.7 stars (over 2,600 ratings)
- Also available on: BBC and Soundcloud
- First aired: 1998
The sound of a British accent can be soothing and stimulating. And discussions about complex academic topics may be so boring that counting sheep sounds exciting by comparison.
“In Our Time” is that perfect nexus. It’s hosted by distinguished radio personality and academic Melvyn Bragg. He’s still making the podcast rounds well into his 80s.
Bragg gathers a panel of three experts, typically from institutions in the United Kingdom, on a specific topic. He then leads a powerful, heady discussion that tends to leave no theoretical stone unturned.
The topics can get pretty out there. There are shows on everything from how echolocation works to the Great Irish Famine.
And the panoply of accents can be tickling enough to clear your mind and let the understated intellectual chemistry of the show’s guests carry you off into a deep slumber.
And now, here are a few podcast episodes that provide a better understanding of the science around sleep and circadian rhythm, plus lifestyle tips you can use to make yourself sleep more deeply and consistently.
- “Challenges and Perspectives in Obstructive Sleep Apnoea,” a 30-minute episode from the European Respiratory Journal for those wanting to learn more about the sleep disorder
- “Sleep Better with Help from Science,” a series of four episodes from NPR’s “Life Kit” about how to use tips from sleep research for higher quality and more consistent sleep
- “Science of Sleep,” an episode from BBC talk show “The Infinite Monkey Cage” that features two experts on sleep science and a discussion on insomnia
- “Dr. Matthew Walker on Sleep for Enhancing Learning, Creativity, Immunity, and Glymphatic System,” an episode from “Found My Fitness” in which famed biomedical researcher Rhonda Patrick interviews UC Berkeley neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker