When it comes to restless nights, I generally believe that the less technology the better—after all, the unnatural blue light from our devices can interfere with our circadian rhythms and increase wakefulness at a time when we should be getting our much-needed rest. There are nights, however, when all of the chamomile and darkness don’t save me from tossing and turning. Perhaps it’s hormonal (maybe I need to take more Epsom salt baths?)… Anyway, I’m not above trying non-low-tech methods to help me doze—or at least shift my mindset to a more peaceful state. I especially love this amelodic music designed to induce sleepiness, for example.
When I heard that popular meditation app Headspace had developed poetry-filled “Sleepcasts,” I was immediately intrigued. Headspace, if you’re unfamiliar, offers an accessible, no-fuss approach to daily mindfulness via a visually simple platform that encourages you to track your meditation and ultimately create a daily meditation ritual. While I’ve tried the app myself, the habit never stuck—perhaps mediation needs to be truly unplugged experience for me.
Tuning into the occasional Sleepcast may be a different story, however. The Sleepcasts are 45- to 55-minutes long and feature “long, non-storytelling narratives, each one describing a different landscape with its own unique sonic ambiance.” The nonlinear narratives are intended to relax the listener without seducing the brain into becoming more alert to follow a traditionally-structured story, the kind you’d likely find in a podcast or audiobook.
Sarah Romotsky, Headspace’s health and science strategist explains, “We tested a linear narrative tour of a journey through the solar system, that went from the Sun to Pluto — but we found that people would be aware if they were still awake at Jupiter that they were running out of time to get to sleep, and that might cause them anxiety. Our idea was to create these descriptions that could be reshuffled, so a listener would not be able to use the content to judge the passage of time. One section might be at the beginning one night, in the middle the next, and at the end the next.”
Sleepcasts’ titles are both descriptive and inviting: Desert Campfire, Midnight Launderette, Cat Marina, Indigo Gallery, and Night Town. Some Sleepcasts feature mechanical sounds (Midnight Launderette—the whirring of laundry machines) while others rely on more natural sounds (Desert Campfire—crackling fire and crickets). Listens may find that they prefer one type of sound over another.
As far as the stories themselves are concerned, listeners can enjoy poetic descriptions. “It feels like being swept up in this amazing combination of words, imagery, and music,” Romotsky says. “I’ve never made it past 10 minutes.”
Those worried about facing an unpleasantly bright screen while searching for the perfect Sleepcast will feel reassured by the deep purple-blue screen and large, easy-to-navigate buttons in the app’s sleep section.
I decided to try a Sleepcast for myself one evening after reading a section in the diary of Anaïs Nin detailing the emotional horror of WWII—not exactly calming bedtime reading. Fortunately, my Sleepcast of choice, Cat Marina, walked me through a quick wind-down during which I consciously relaxed my muscles from head to toe. Next, a male voice described the feline characters living in a secluded marina. I was a bit surprised that the narration was rather coherent, if not strictly linear. I guess I had been expecting something more postmodern in structure, but I’m certainly not quibbling. I was in a deep sleep within ten minutes just like Romotsky.
While I’m still a proponent of falling asleep as naturally as possible, it’s nice to have Sleepcasts handy. In my book, they’re the sonic version of a late-night bowl of cereal and a cozy blanket.
What do you turn to when you’re having trouble sleeping? Have you tried Sleep by Headspace?
Get more like this—Subscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Alexander Mils via Unsplash, Headspace/Screenshot