Sleeping with Podcasts
November 7, 2014 10:14 AM   Subscribe

For the past couple years I have gone to sleep with podcasts on (usually sports or news podcasts) and find it really difficult to go to sleep without a podcast on. I have tried sound machines and they do not help. No matter how long I sleep, I generally wake up feeling fatigued, and can have brain fog or feel tired and am tired throughout the day. I have never been a particularly great sleeper, but I am at a place that I need to address the fatigue. I am going to go get checked by a sleep doctor in a couple months (switching insurance and travel schedule), but in the meantime I am assessing things I am doing that may cause the fatigue. Does anyone sleep with podcasts on? Could this be an issue? My thought is maybe my brain is semi-engaged because I am listening to the conversation. Total guess, but thought I would reach out and see if anyone else has dealt with this. Thanks!
posted by frednorton to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you leaving the pocasts on all night? Some podcast players have a sleep timer and if yours doesn't you might be able to route it through an aux input to a stereo that has one. I used to go to sleep with the radio on, but on sleep timer.
posted by Jahaza at 10:16 AM on November 7, 2014

Response by poster: I just let the episode play out (either 30 mins or an hour) and then it shuts off.
posted by frednorton at 10:18 AM on November 7, 2014

An hour of podcast is probably not hurting your sleep quality. It could be apnea or a vitamin deficiency or something else entirely. But while you wait for the sleep doctor appointment, you could try working on sleep hygiene: turn off overhead lights and screens at about 9pm for a 10:30-11 bedtime, use your bedroom only for sleep, block out any ambient light that gets into your bedroom at night, don't drink caffeine after about noon.

(Source: I have been treated by a couple of sleep doctors. The sleep hygiene stuff helped my sleep quality a lot.)
posted by clavicle at 10:32 AM on November 7, 2014

Have you tried listening to music instead? I like to fall asleep to acoustic guitar music. It turns itself off after an hour or so.
posted by mareli at 10:33 AM on November 7, 2014

Response by poster: Im thinking it is apnea, but (i) hoping its not, and (ii) thinking this a good time to address all possible avenues.
posted by frednorton at 10:34 AM on November 7, 2014

Do you use headphones or have it playing next to you? Is the screen off/covered? If you have headphones on, you may be waking up in the night when you get tangled in them which might be throwing your overall sleep cycle off. I do this but don't have a problem getting right back to sleep, and am well-rested in the morning.

If the screen is on, the light might be messing with your sleep, convincing your body it's earlier than it actually is. This is something that bothers my husband; if I'm reading my iPad when he's sleeping in the dark next to me, it often messes with his sleep later in the evening, so I try to avoid it.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:42 AM on November 7, 2014

In a question from a couple of months ago you said,
The eye bags in question are not black or red, but rather they are I look like I am hungover all the time. Beyond the way it looks, I can feel the pressure under my eyes and it makes me think I am tired.
I have sleep apnea and if I sleep without my breathing mask on and have bad apnea events I get a sensation of pressure under my eyes both during the night and the next day.

It's a good thing you've got a doctor's appointment; one other thing you could do is get hold of a recording pulse oximeter (borrow one, or they can be bought in pharmacies and department stores these days for less than $100) and wear it all night to see if your blood oxygen dips, which might be a sign of apnea events. Definitely keep the doctor's appointment in any case, though.

(I'm not any sort of medical professional, and sleep apnea can lead to really serious health problems as you've probably been told.)
posted by XMLicious at 10:50 AM on November 7, 2014

I generally sleep with podcasts, audiobooks, or music. My feeling is, if it helps you sleep, go for it. With that said: I am a lifelong insomniac, and my quality of wakefulness hasn't gotten any worse since I began going to sleep with headphones on. Were things previously better for you?
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:51 AM on November 7, 2014

I also sometimes sleep with podcasts, and I have found that if I forget to set the sleep timer and the podcast runs all night, my quality of sleep is quite poor and I tend to get woken up in the middle of the night by the podcast. If I run a podcast for 30 minutes to an hour, however, there's no issue and my sleep quality is no better or worse than if I don't run a podcast. I find some of them helpful for keeping my mind just interested enough that I'm not keeping myself up thinking about other things, but not so interested I want to stay awake to listen more, which is why I go back to them.

YMMV, of course.
posted by sciatrix at 10:57 AM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nothing matters until you get the sleep study. Millions to billions of people fall asleep to talking-noise (TV/radio/podcasts/audiobooks/meditation tapes/awake family members/neighbors/etc), and it is rarely mentioned as a sleep hygiene issue except for flickering TV light where applicable.

It's my guaranteed knockout drug. The Audible app on 15-minute timer = Lyn passed the hell out in 90 seconds. It's amazing. I have tried using a book or podcast as white noise for several hours and it does grizzle my sleep quality badly and several hours is more lost sleep than I can afford, but a few minutes is not going to ruin the entire night.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:07 AM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I listen to a few minutes of audiobook (I set the timer for 30-45 minutes but only because if the sound goes off too soon that can wake me up) as I go to sleep most nights (with headphones) and although I sometimes wake up when I get tangled in the headphones, overall it doesn't seem to have much impact on my sleep quality.

For simple things to try: I just got blackout curtains for my bedroom and immediately noticed an increase in my sleep quality.
posted by mskyle at 11:34 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

We are sometimes a bit wired to go to sleep and listen to a podcast, but its not often. Weeks will go by where we don't need it, but then suddenly in one week we may listen to one 4 nights in a row (perhaps if we're traveling and sleeping in a new place)... they are usually about historical figures or events, BBC stuff. So unless you are listening to exciting stuff, I would think that you have other stuff going on that is keeping you awake.

But I also give myself the freedom to listen without falling asleep (though I always do) because listening to something calming and relaxed with your eyes closed and your body relaxed, IS STILL REST. Sometimes not putting any preassure on myself helps a lot.

We also realise that we sleep in phases, so if we wake up wide awake at 3 in the morning, we just do what we need to do (have a snack, go pee, say hello) and go back to rest again.

(ps- many family members of mine have had sleep apnea and been helped a lot by treatment)
posted by catspajammies at 12:17 PM on November 7, 2014

I have a monastic sleep schedule - in bed early, up at 2 or 3.

WTF with Marc Maron is a 3 a.m. staple chez moi. I'll be checking out Serial next. My overall health is excellent.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 1:12 PM on November 7, 2014

I do this every night, pretty much, have done for years, and it helps me a lot.
posted by smoke at 1:16 PM on November 7, 2014

I also sleep with podcasts. I have trouble sleeping without some sort of background noise, and it's infinitely better than the TV. The biggest annoyance I have with sleeping with podcasts is I have to actively choose something I don't care about much about, because I'll never actually hear it. The other side effect is that certain voices now trigger the "you should be sleeping" mode of my brain. I doubt I could hear the guys from 'Stuff you should know' without yawning, regardless of where I am.
posted by cgg at 1:25 PM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think there may be separate issues here.

The needing-podcasts-to-fall-asleep issue is likely a matter of needing to be distracted from your own thought stream in order to release/relax into sleep. That's a sign of stress. I'd suggest lifestyle changes, and/or exercise and/or meditation (ideally all three). But, meanwhile, you have a solution, so I'd call it a feature rather than a bug.

It IS possible the podcasts droning on while you're asleep might interfere somewhat with your sleep. But if they're cutting off 30-60 minutes after that point, there's a limit to that interference. So I don't see a big problem there. Still, you may want to consider using a podcast app with a sleep fadeout timer that reduces this spillover time (most apps include this...maybe see if the one you're using does).

As for the fatigue, that sounds like a sleep problem, and many (if not most) sleep problems are caused by stress. So we're back to that. I think addressing the stress might fix a lot of stuff.

But meanwhile, I can't imagine a reason why you'd want to wean yourself from going to sleep to podcasts. It's just a harmless dependence/habit, like reading or warm milk. What's the biggie? Be glad you have something that works for you!
posted by Quisp Lover at 1:57 PM on November 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have a book called Sound Sleep, Sound Mind. Among other things, it talks about racing thoughts interfering with sleep. The author - a sleep physician - notes that many people who can't fall asleep because of racing thoughts in fact have sleep apnea (or its cousin UARS, upper airway resistance), and the racing thoughts are the body's way of trying to keep awake in order to not smother while sleeping.

I had, among other symptoms, racing thoughts and ruminations keeping me from sleeping, and needed to be "soothed" to sleep - and a sleep test revealed severe sleep apnea. A CPAP gave me a whole new lease on life. I still listen to podcasts, but they don't give me disturbed sleep as long as they are timed to go off after about an hour or so. I just have to pick something rather droning and boring.

So if your podcast is only about an hour or so it shouldn't be wrecking your whole night's sleep. You might well have a sleep issue that a sleep test will reveal.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:14 PM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks to all for the responses!
posted by frednorton at 10:24 PM on November 8, 2014

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