Podcasts to sleep to
January 17, 2018 8:58 PM   Subscribe

I need 20-30 minutes of fairly boring content I can listen to, followed by another half hour of additional content while I’m actually sleeping.

I can line up multiple podcasts in a queue if one episode alone isn’t long enough.

I saw this was asked in 2014, but content evolves and several of those suggestions are either no longer produced or too creepy/war-oriented for me.

I used to listen to America’s Test Kitchen and The Splendid Table for this. Sometimes I’ll do Wine for Normal People or Lexicon Valley. Can’t be anything where I’ll really care about the end of the episode.

Also nothing upsetting, what with the current events and all. I’m also not ok with sci-if or religion.

I’m familiar with Sleep with Me, but that’s not interesting enough in the pre-sleeping window. New Books Network was suggested last time, that’s too boring and unreliably produced for my taste.

Thanks in advance!
posted by OrangeVelour to Society & Culture (45 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
History of English is my go-to for this. Just interesting enough, but impossible to care about. I used to listen to Lexicon Valley, so we may have similar sleepy tastes.
posted by donnagirl at 9:11 PM on January 17, 2018 [5 favorites]

In Our Time
posted by Panthalassa at 9:11 PM on January 17, 2018 [9 favorites]

I use How Stuff Works' Stuff You Should Know for this purpose.
posted by wym at 9:30 PM on January 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seconding Stuff You Should Know. Even the show's hosts Josh & Chuck have made light of the fact they know quite a few people listen to their show to fall asleep. There are years and years and years of back eposides to catch up on. Which was something I never thought possible, but I have done it and hence now actually use several of the shows from the How Stuff Works "brand" for my sleepytime podcast playlist - the full list of their shows is here.
posted by cgg at 9:38 PM on January 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Gastropod. Just interesting enough to be not boring.
posted by watrlily at 9:59 PM on January 17, 2018

I suffer from insomnia and the Sleep With Me Podcast didn't work for me either. It's hard to find a podcast that can help you drift off and stay asleep when you finally do go to sleep because most have something loud (like the gavel bangs in the Judge John Hodgman podcast) and/or abrasive (like one of the hosts' loud cackles) that can wake you up all of the sudden.

The podcasts that work best for me tend to feature someone with a soothing voice talking for at least 30 minutes without commercials. Meditation Oasis works very well for me. I just download a bunch of episodes and play them on loop. I find that I can wake up and drift back to sleep easily because the content is so soothing and I don't have to pay attention.

And a new favorite for me is LeVar Burton Reads. He has such a beautiful voice and reads absolutely wonderful stories. Even if I drift off, I just replay them the next day and enjoy them all over again. (My favorite stories so far: "The Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu and "The 1000 Year Old Ghost" by Laura Chow Reeve. Those are great ones to start off with!)
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:21 PM on January 17, 2018 [5 favorites]

National Trust Podcast - I had a period of sleeplessness recently and this was my regular chillout podcast.
posted by Artw at 10:59 PM on January 17, 2018

It's not a podcast, but as someone who suffers frequently from insomnia, I have to recommend the audiobook version of Remains of the Day. According to my iTunes app, I've listened to it several times (all 8 hours), yet I honestly can't remember a thing.
posted by invisible ink at 11:12 PM on January 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Space Show is often 90 minutes. About 3,000 shows since 2001.
posted by Sophont at 11:18 PM on January 17, 2018

If you used to listen to America's Test Kitchen, perhaps Milk Street Radio will work for you. I tried listening to it a while back and found it too soporific to hold my attention. Sounds like a perfect fit for you though!
posted by mumkin at 11:42 PM on January 17, 2018

I came to post History of English podcast but I see donnagirl got here first. It's solid for falling asleep.

Note: I have just arrived at 1066 after many years of nodding off.
posted by misery loves company at 11:57 PM on January 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

Here's what works for me (and thanks for asking this question, because I can always discover more stuff). My general tip is to choose podcasts with regular hosts and few/no guests so you're not thrown off guard by unfamiliar or annoying voices.

- In-depth movie spoiler podcasts for popular movies that I've already seen (light stuff like comic book movies, nothing that incites strong opinions). There are a bunch of these but the Empire Movie Podcast (episodes titled "Spoiler Special") puts me right to sleep: genial British voices and it doesn't have the weird transition music or odd segments that certain movie podcasts have. The hosts don't really get into fights or dwell on difficult issues, which is great for dozing purposes. Just last month I listened to the Ant-Man Spoiler Special for something like ten nights in a row. I kept nodding off midway through, forgetting everything I'd heard, and then restarting the next night with just as much mild interest. Perfection! Still couldn't tell you a single thing that was discussed during the show.

- Sports podcasts, especially for sports that I don't follow closely. I like Bill Barnwell for football and SI's Open Floor for basketball. Dunc'd On is too soporific for me but might work for some.

- Reality TV recap podcasts, particularly the "Survivor Know-It-Alls" (Rob Has A Podcast) and Amazing Race recap (Reality TV RHAP-Ups) - same host, two different feeds. He covers a ton of different shows but these are quite low-key.

Lastly I go through the entire Harry Potter series about twice a year (which includes plenty of daytime listening too). The Stephen Fry version ONLY; Jim Dale does too many wacky/jarring voices for pleasant sleep.
posted by acidic at 12:10 AM on January 18, 2018

Coders coding. You'll be out in ten flat. Here, try a screencast. What about "Reference Cycles and Ownership" or "More on ActiveResources."
posted by fritillary at 12:50 AM on January 18, 2018

Oh my god I thought I was the only person who did this!

I use a podcast that I've heard, in its entirety, dozens of times. That way there's no problem if I miss the end of it after I fall asleep (and when I get bored of listening to the first ten minutes over and over, I can just skip to minute 20 and start from there - with no confusion, because I know the first 20 minutes by heart already).

Weirdly, the podcast I use is Serial. I find Sarah Koenig's voice really soothing. At this point, I've probably listened to the first season over a hundred times. It's just a shame they didn't make a second one (!)

That particular show might or might not work for you; but I bet there is a series you don't mind listening to again and again.
posted by citands at 2:02 AM on January 18, 2018

British History Podcast. I love the show, but Jamie’s voice is so soothing! Knocks me right out.
posted by functionequalsform at 3:11 AM on January 18, 2018

I've used Fresh Air for this in the past. It always worked well except when Terry interviewed Stephen Colbert.

I also like listening to audiobooks, particularly childhood favorites like Chronicles of Narnia. I remember the larger plot points well enough that I won't lie awake wondering what happens next, but there are all these little scenes I'd forgotten about and don't find too boring to listen to.

I also use sitcoms for this. Frasier is okay, How I Met Your Mother and Friends also work okay. I've seen all the episodes before but find them juuust interesting enough to fall asleep to.
posted by bunderful at 3:21 AM on January 18, 2018

Any of the popular history podcasts: English, Britain, Byzantium, Rome. There's a History of England one with a very soothing host.

I've actually been listening to No Such Thing as a Fish as my sleep podcast, even though it's a comedy podcast. It's more droll than laugh out loud funny and the format is tiny 5-10 minute chats about exceedingly unimportant trivia which means that when I fall asleep I'm not missing anything. With the history podcasts, I quickly lose track of the actual history because I fell asleep for half of it.

Weird History is an excellent podcast that doesn't really deserve to be slept through but the host's voice is so so soothing. He's like the Roman Mars of amateur historians.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:53 AM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

On the audio book front, I can personally recommend The Silmarillion for this purpose. So boring.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:55 AM on January 18, 2018

Metafilter’s own Jordan, Jesse Go! The ramblings of two goofs always does the trick.
posted by Sreiny at 4:12 AM on January 18, 2018

My current list:

All in the Mind: Australian podcast about brain and behavior.

The Allusionist: about language.

The Big Listen: an NPR podcast about podcasts.

Buffering the Vampire Slayer: weekly Buffy recaps. They're currently about half-way through season three.

CodeNewbie: interview show for people new to computer programming.

Death, Sex, and Money: I replay this one when I'm awake, because it's too good to miss half of, but Anna Sale has a great voice to fall asleep to.

How to Be Less Old: Two Gen-Xers talk to young celebrities to try to understand youth culture.

Longform: Interviews with non-fiction writers. I have to skip some of them because they're too current-eventsy.

Nancy: pretty great LGBT-related podcast.

The Nod: bills itself as "stories of Black life that don't get told anywhere else".

Smart Podcast, Trashy Books: All things romance novel. I enjoy this one even though I don't read romance novels.

Still Processing: New York Times culture writers talking about culture.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:16 AM on January 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

The history of the crusades podcast is narrated by an Australian woman with an exceptionally soft voice. I was highly interested in the subject matter but it was literally putting me to sleep, so it might be an excellent fit. Plus, when I last listened a few years ago there were hundreds of episodes.
posted by Kikujiro's Summer at 5:17 AM on January 18, 2018

I use "In Our Time" (BBC) a lot. I actually love the show but the voices are also always quiet and thus won't wake me.

I'll listen to the same episode several times, starting in different places so I get to hear new stuff.
posted by jb at 5:58 AM on January 18, 2018

Philosophy Bites
posted by moonmilk at 6:03 AM on January 18, 2018

I find the Monocle 24 podcasts perfect for falling asleep to (sorry guys): interesting topics but nothing heavy (design, cities, food, etc.) and no weird/abrasive sound effects.

Gardening podcasts are also great to sleep to, particularly ones for regions you're not in so it's not useful information. For me, British - RHS Gardening; Australian - Roots and Shoots (host might not be sleep-appropriate, ymmv).

Some quiet CBC ones work for me too - Tapestry and Writers and Company. They can have intense topics but the hosts are so well-spoken and considerate, it sometimes just washes over me regardless.

Also n-thing the history podcasts. I used The Ancient World and Byzantium to calm my nerves before my wedding ceremony.

[I feel so bad having a 'falling asleep' podcast list]
posted by hydrobatidae at 6:37 AM on January 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

To The Best of Our Knowledge
posted by O9scar at 6:48 AM on January 18, 2018

Gardening podcasts are also great to sleep to, particularly ones for regions you're not in so it's not useful information. For me, British - RHS Gardening; Australian - Roots and Shoots (host might not be sleep-appropriate, ymmv).
Another gardening podcast that works for me is On the Ledge. It's actually specifically about houseplants, not gardening.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:53 AM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

This Week In Microbiology / This Week In Virology. The host speaks slowly and gently, and the conversation is interesting in a boring way, if you get me.

My podcast app lets you adjust the playback speed in increments of 10% -- would it help to slow down what you listen to just a shade?
posted by rollick at 7:00 AM on January 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Nthing In Our Time, but when I really need to sack out, I stream an old episode of the Pod F. Tompkast. The opening few minutes are Paul F. Tompkins doing a stream-of-consciousness monologue against a gentle piano background, and the episodes are at least an hour long. It's sop-o-riffic!
posted by kelborel at 7:28 AM on January 18, 2018

I know someone who uses the podcast Bullseye for this exact purpose.
posted by Night_owl at 7:46 AM on January 18, 2018

Philosophy Bites is my go-to fall asleep podcast. Soothing, high level, British. Zzzzzz
posted by marylynn at 7:49 AM on January 18, 2018

The History of Philosophy without Any Gaps Interesting but dense. Just talking. The intro/outro music might be a bit jarring, however, and the episodes are only 22-25 minutes long, so you'd need to sting together one or more.
posted by crush at 7:55 AM on January 18, 2018

I got 30 seconds into Matinee Manatees yesterday and was out cold. I hope it's what it says it is -- a podcast to nap to, hosted underwater by manatees -- and not planting evil subliminal thoughts in my head, because I'd have no idea.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:35 AM on January 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

I do this, too, and I am a big fan of History of English and Lexicon Valley. Here are a few others that I listen to that haven't been mentioned.

Bowery Boys - history of NYC. Because it's history, there are some upsetting episodes.

Stuff You Missed in History Class - Bits and pieces from world history. Again, some describe violent events, so I pass on those.

Foodstuff - The history and science of different foods.

Thanks for asking this.
posted by AMyNameIs at 9:41 AM on January 18, 2018

Not so much a podcast but I've always enjoyed archive.org's Insomnia Collections.
posted by Television Name at 10:27 AM on January 18, 2018

Shop Talk Live, made by the folks at Fine Woodworking. The podcasts last about an hour and a half. I love woodworking and even with that, these guys put me to sleep 10 mins in because they're SO unenergetic. It's superb.
posted by notorious medium at 10:34 AM on January 18, 2018

Damn! You MeFites are amazing! Thank you all! Here's to happy sleeping in 2018.

Another rec from me even though I don't currently have children in the house is "Mom and Dad Are Fighting" from the Slate network. Carvell Wallace, Gabriel Roth, and Rebecca Lavoie are so magic. The combination of their voices and caring but snarky attitudes do it for me every time. Check it out.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:43 AM on January 18, 2018

The Sleep With Me podcast is explicitly designed for this. A gravelly voiced dude called 'Scooter' (not his real name, or voice), talks for an hour or more about random topics in a long, ramble, roundabout way. I know a couple of people with chronic insomnia who swear by it.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:09 AM on January 18, 2018

I've been using the Mysteries Abound podcast for this purpose. Each one runs about 1:10 to 1:30, full of information I scarcely care about delivered in a soothing voice with no unexpected loud segments. (Sometimes the musical cues on something like Stuff You Should Know can wake me up.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2018

Not boring per se but I have been using The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up audiobook for exactly this many, many times. I love the soothing and upbeat narration and the voice acting is great. Plus, it's really a surprisingly fun read on its own. Just really soothing.
posted by M. at 12:07 PM on January 18, 2018

Nthing the use of an audiobook from a soothing voice about a subject matter that is slightly interesting but not completely engaging. My default audiobook go-to is Les Miserables -- I've apparently finished it a few times (58 hours!)... but not while totally conscious. I use it through my Audible app which includes a "sleep" function, so instead of just letting a soothing voice ramble for eight hours, I can tell it to shut off in an hour (or less or more as needed) and I usually don't ever recall being awake when it turns off (if I am, then my insomniac self wearily accepts that it's going to be one of those nights).

I've also picked audio books just based on who was narrating, no matter the subject, because they're a comforting and familiar voice that can reliably help me settle down the "must think of all the things" brain activity before sleep (I'm not going to recommend the "How To Train Your Dragon" series because it's probably too dynamic but I will happily sleep to David Tennant's dulcet brogue any night).

The sleep function is the main recommendation, though, since it creates a podcast-length chunk of audio from a longer source.
posted by paisley sheep at 2:00 PM on January 18, 2018

These are not podcasts, but there are lots of YouTube artists who make videos designed for this under the category of ASMR (of which there has been a great deal written online, including here). Sometimes it's goofy imaginative play, sometimes it's visualizations, sometimes it's reading from a book, sometimes it's unscripted chatter.

There are several free web-based services that will convert YouTube videos to mp3 files for you, if this is of interest. Then again, apologies if this is too far afield.
posted by juliplease at 2:50 PM on January 18, 2018

Hm, British and History seem to be themes here. So I'll add The British Museum/BBC's A History of the World in 100 Objects. Also good listening when awake.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 6:45 PM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all! I’ve built a heck of a playlist. And I’d never sleep thru Roman Mars because 99pi is too good.
posted by OrangeVelour at 8:33 PM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yay Another TWIV person. I personally like the This Week in Parasitism (TWIP). There is a podcast

called This Week In Evolution (TWiEVO)

You can find all his podcasts at www.microbe.tv
posted by kathrynm at 11:21 AM on January 21, 2018

I use many things to fall asleep to but a particular favorite is the "The Wind in the Willows" on Audible. Mole and Ratty having adventures! Very nicely read in a genuinely British voice.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:14 PM on January 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

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