In the past, I’ve recommended podcasts about great stories from history, laugh-out-loud funny podcasts, and profound podcasts to really make you think. This time, I’m recommending podcasts that don’t ask you to do any kind of mental gymnastics or engage much at all – podcasts where you really can just listen. My goal with these is to encourage rest and relaxation; if you have any trouble with insomnia or winding down before bed, one of these podcasts might be helpful to you.
Phoebe Reads A Mystery is a good podcast for restful enjoyment. It’s exactly what it sounds like: the host (Phoebe) reads a chapter a day from a mystery novel. The focus is mostly on classic or historical mysteries, which makes for a cozy and relaxing story experience, without too much angst or drama.
Check out some of the books featured on Phoebe Reads A Mystery if you want to read along, including Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie, Turn of the Screw by Henry James, or Dracula by Bram Stoker.
Nothing Much Happens is a podcast of “bedtime stories for grownups”. It seeks to relax the mind, keep it from wandering, with simple stories in which, you guessed it, “nothing much happens”. The goal is to transition easily into sleep with a feeling of peace. This one is available only on Apple Podcasts or Google podcasts and is supposed to be a great one to fall asleep to. The stories don’t have much plot to speak of, but focus on soothing everyday tasks like spending time with friends, morning and evening routines, etc.
If you love the concept but prefer books, try The Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon, about why reading aloud is so powerful, or see our Gentle Reads Libguide for books with similar themes and effects.
If you’re looking for a different, more humor-based approach, you might prefer Sleep With Me hosted by Drew Ackerman. It uses a rambling storytelling style to distract its listeners, giving their minds something to focus on while lulling them to sleep. Its content is drawn from many corners of pop culture, including superheroes, fairy tales, TV shows like Star Trek, and gumshoe detective stories.
For books of subversive bedtime stories for adults, try The Wild Swan by Michael Cunningham or Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner.
However, on the flip side, if you’re just plain tired of being talked at (which is fair) you might like Slow Radio from the BBC. This podcast focuses on unstructured sounds, such as music, nature sounds, people chatting, and much more. It’s a good opportunity to slow down and pause, being more aware of all the sounds in the background of our lives.
For another relaxing, talk-free sound, try any of our great classical or jazz music CDs like Inspiration by Sheku Kanneh-Mason (a cellist) or Time by Jess Gillam (a saxophonist); you might also try New Age music like To The Evening Child by Stephan Micus.