We live in a world of podcasts. At any time of day we can plug in our headphones and listen to true crime reporting, daily news recaps, wild events in history, Hollywood gossip, or thoughtful encapsulations of our culture and the world around us.
Podcasts can draw us in without the need for screens and hold our attention with suspenseful storytelling or fascinating interviews.
These five podcasts are none of those things. In fact, they were created with the express intent of being so boring that your mind wanders and you drift off to sleep.
Nearly half of us use podcasts to unwind before bed, according to a 2019 study of over 6,000 people in the U.S. But if you’re one of those people who gets antsy trying to fall asleep to meditations, are irritated by soundscapes, or keep getting sucked into stories that are just too darn interesting, here are our top recommendations for boring podcasts to help you breathe deep and drift off.
Podcasts and sleep hygiene
The rub with podcasts is that we use our phones to help us nod off. Be careful about exposing yourself to too much bright blue light before you settle in. If you’ve got another method of listening to your podcasts, be it Alexa or Siri or another way, try it first.
“Listening to podcasts or audiobooks can be a good way to unwind, but ideally you should do so on a device other than your phone. It’s far too tempting to listen and then start scrolling through emails or social media,” explains Wendy Troxel, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND Corporation, a scientific advisor for SleepFoundation.org, and author of Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep. “Our phones are our primary connection to our waking lives, so it is best to disconnect from phones about an hour before bedtime.”
Our top five favorite boring podcasts for sleep
Boring Books for BedtimeStretch out, pull your blanket over you, and snuggle up with Sharon Handy, the velvet-voiced host of “Boring Books for Bedtime.” Each episode is a thoughtfully selected reading of an old public domain book. Every subject, from history to horticulture, philosophy, and (my favorite) readings from old Sears & Roebuck catalogs, is wonderfully soothing and wonderfully boring. Handy even includes gentle binaural soundscapes in the background.
Night FallsLike a lilting Scottish accent to lull you to sleep? Host Geoffrey tells delightfully whimsical (yet boring) tales that are meant to slow your heartbeat and send you off to dreamland. Each bedtime story comes with a brief meditation to get you in the mood to settle in and nod off. If you like a podcast that’s atmospheric and transporting, this is a good choice. Enter a magical garden, take a trip to Mars, or drift off in front of a crackling fire.
Picture it: a childhood bedroom in the dark. You’re on the bottom of a bunk bed and your best friend is on the top bunk. And before nodding off, the two of you are just talking quietly about… things. Ideas that go nowhere, thoughts about the universe, silly meanderings. Hosts Patrick Marber and Peter Curran share their streams of consciousness with wonderful guests, including Cate Blanchett, Rhys Ifans, and Jane Horrocks, to whisper about the random deep thoughts that only surface when the lights are off. Short and sweet and delightfully intimate.
The Office ASMR
Are you a fan of “The Office”? Have you seen every episode over a dozen times or fallen asleep in front of the TV to the (sort of) soothing sounds of Michael Scott, Jim, and Pam reporting to work at the world’s dullest office? “The Office ASMR” is your sleep brain on “The Office.” What’s going on with that watercooler? That’s a lot of paper. What are human resources people really thinking? You can picture the episode in your mind while listening to the host’s random musings about the Scranton branch. In a few minutes you’ll be as sleepy as Stanley Hudson.
Tales by the Fireside
Imagine you’re in your sleeping bag next to a cozy campfire. The wood is crackling, the air is crisp, and your favorite uncle is telling you classic bedtime stories and sagas to help you fall asleep. Listen to “Sinbad the Sailor,” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and other quirky classics and odd selections to put you in a state of utter coziness. There are episodes for adults, kids, and the entire family to unwind to. All you need are the s’mores.
Lindsay Goldwert is the content director for Stripes. She's written for the New York Times, Refinery 29, and others. She lives with her husband and cat in New York City.
Looking to connect with a community of women who know what you're going through? Check out The Hot Spot!