Some people have a habit of reading a little (or a lot) before they settle down to sleep. For people who have trouble falling asleep, it is a good habit to develop. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes “read a soothing book” in a list of ways to relax before sleeping. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a relaxing reading ritual prepares your body for sleep, helps you fall asleep faster, and improves sleep quality. The adult bedtime story has the same effect on grownups as Goodnight Moon has on children.
Avid bedtime readers have no problem selecting what they want to read, but if the material does not help you drift off to sleep, find a more calming story or topic. A “page-turner” novel may keep you turning pages until dawn, while a book of poetry or short essays is easy to put down when you find yourself yawning more than reading. For very short, short stories, it is hard to beat O. Henry. Jane Austen novels are good as the sentences flow smoothly and you do not have to keep turning pages to learn how the book ends.
With an audiobook, you can enjoy the coziness of being read to. British actor and presenter Steven Fry has teamed up with a meditation app Calm to create stories that calm and soothe the way to peaceful sleep. As the story unfolds, the pace of the story slows, the voice and ambient sounds grow softer, and many find that they never hear the ending.
Fry’s latest bedtime story for adults is “Blue Gold.” The book sends you off to meander through sleepy villages of Provence and through a lavender field in Southern France. As the makers at Calm say: “We challenge anyone to stay awake for all 24 minutes of this sleep-inducing masterpiece.” The book was launched along with a lavender-based Sleep Mist also available through Calm. Michael Acton Smith, co-founder of Calm, commented. “Mixing scent with storytelling is a powerful and natural new way to help racing minds drift off to sleep.”
Other sleep stories available through Calm include children’s classics, soothing short stories, and Shakespeare plays. Other options include music selected to induce sleepiness such as “Silk Waves,” “Summer Breeze” and “Star Dance.”
Numerous nature stories whisk you to Africa, Tahiti, Scotland, Antartica, Manchu Picchu, and other places you may have dreamed about. The story engages you so you forget about the problems you brought to bed and focus on interesting facts and enchanting sounds that grow slower and softer as you grow sleepier.
Dr. Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist and specialist in treating sleep disorders, says “There’s a paradox to sleep, in that it comes when you’re not trying. When you try to sleep, your mind monitors your efforts, which then keeps you awake.” He believes that having right mindset is the first step to a good night’s sleep. You need to let go and ease into sleep. Sleep stories create that mindset.
You may wish to create your own “playlist” to put yourself to sleep. Dreamy music, a favorite story or a new one that sounds relaxing and peaceful, nature sounds that you have recorded such as ocean waves, birdsong, forest sounds, psalms, and poetry. Making a sleep tape for a loved one is a thoughtful gift as you can personalize it with the receiver’s favorite sounds and stories.
You’ve always known that bedtime stories are a time-tested way to soothe the day’s cares and nighttime worries of children and send them off to a peaceful sleep. Now, adults are reclaiming this wisdom for themselves and enjoying the many benefits of a good night’s sleep.