Portrait of a beautiful young woman lying on sofa with headphones on and closed eyes, relaxing
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Our favorite shows, audiobooks and music to fall asleep to

The media that helps us slumber better.

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If you’re anything like me, the past year has wreaked havoc on your sleep schedule. Some of it is good — if you no longer have to commute, you’ve probably snuck in an extra hour or two of sleep in the morning, or might even sneak away for a midday nap. But on the other hand, your kids being around all the time probably have you on edge, or maybe you have to deal with frequent siren sounds outside. The antidote is audio meant to calm you down, to get you into the right headspace for a tranquil night’s rest. Everyone has their own preferences, but I’ve highlighted a few I’ve found especially helpful when I need to get myself settled down and tucked in for a good night’s rest.

Zenimation

I stumbled upon this one by accident while browsing Disney+, and it’s become one of my favorite things on the service. Each episode is basically a themed supercut of clips from animated Disney movies, with the music and voice removed to focus on the sound effects only. Think Aladdin and Jasmine swooping over the desert on a magic carpet, or Moana standing on the beach. It really lets you focus on the quality of the animation and sound design, akin to an ASMR track or straight up meditation. - KN

lofi hip hop radio - beats to sleep/chill to

This seems like a no-brainer, but the YouTube channel “Chilled Cow” makes some truly excellent playlists for your downtime. You’re probably familiar with the beats to relax/study to list, but the sleep list is a slightly calmer version that you can access on YouTube and Spotify, with new songs added in often so it stays rather fresh (though still familiar enough to not be distracting). If you have YouTube Premium you can keep the music running even if your phone screen is off, so it’s ideal for drifting off to sleep. - KN

Pink Noise and Brown Noise

Spotify has a lot of themed playlists — and I mean a lot — for every mood or ambiance you can imagine. And that includes a specific White Noise playlist which I’ve found to be useful for drowning out annoying sounds like my radiator. But for sleep I’ve found the Pink and Brown Noise playlists a lot more useful as they focus on specific types of static and blank sounds, while the regular White Noise playlist jumps around, which might leave you feeling tense. Note that to stream Spotify playlists for sleep you’ll want to be subscribed to Spotify Premium, so you don’t get woken up by annoyingly loud ads. - KN

Calm

Calm is packed almost entirely with content that can help you sleep, and if you use it regularly the Premium version is well worth the $70-a-year fee. A daily meditation right before bed can help get you in the right headspace for sleep, and the app has content of various lengths so you don’t have to worry about leaving your phone running all night — or it cutting off way too soon. Anything narrated by Tamara Levitt is sure to sooth you, and I really liked the Priscilla Ahn remixes in the music section. - KN

Classics and cozy mystery audiobooks

If you enjoyed listening to stories read to you as a child, audiobooks can almost recreate that nostalgia and whimsy. Audible provides thousands of titles for every kind of reader, or you can turn to digital library apps like Libby if you're willing to wait a bit for your chosen book to be available. I personally look for two things in a good, pre-bedtime audiobook: the right genre and the right narrator. While I love reading edge-of-your-seat horror novels and epic fantasies regularly, I typically turn to classics and cozy(ish) mysteries before bed. The former includes titles like The Great Gatsby narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal and the sprawling Sherlock Holmes series narrated by Stephen Fry (almost anything read by this Brit can soothe you into sweet dreams). On the mystery side, Betty Rowlands' Melissa Craig series is just titillating enough to keep you guessing while Joan Walker's warm voice continuously delights (Walker also masterfully narrates many of Fredrik Backman's books, as well as Lucy Mangan's pertinent Bedtime Stories for Stressed Out Adults.) - Valentina Palladino

RetroPod

There are thousands of podcasts out there, and we all have topics that send us to sleep every time. I love history, but sit me in a comfy chair with a steady voice sharing interesting historical tidbits and I’ll nod off every time. RetroPod is a show from The Washington Post, presenting capsule versions of stories appearing in print. Each segment is nice and short, so it’s great for quick naps, and maybe you’ll absorb some knowledge in the process. - KN

The Crown

My colleague Devindra Hardawar once mentioned this as his favorite show to fall asleep to — and to be honest, I was a bit offended because I happen to love it. But he isn’t wrong: This show has a lot of rich people arguing and wringing their hands, and you can easily close your eyes and not miss a lot of the action. The show also doesn’t lean on you knowing exactly what’s happening moment to moment, so it’s OK if you drift out and back in. - KN

All Creatures Great and Small

To be honest, you could probably pick almost anything from Masterpiece Theatre to fall asleep to, but this recent PBS series is wholesome enough for the whole family. It details the experiences of a Scottish veterinarian in rural Yorkshire in the 1930s. If you like shots of rolling green countryside and lots of cows (and uh, hands inside cows) you’ll find this a comforting blanket to wind down your evenings. - KN

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