Sound is one of the most important factors in getting a good night’s sleep.
Soothing sounds—sea breeze, rainforest muzak—will help ease you into rest, while abrasive noises (the nocturnal activities of your roommate, for example, or a neighbour having an all-night rave) is a surefire way to prevent it.
Which is why it’s no surprise that the latest trend in sleep techniques is sound based. Dubbed ‘Slow Lit’, it’s the notion that by listening to soothing, soporific literature you’ll go to sleep faster and have a more peaceful rest while you’re at it.
It’s not as simple as turning on a podcast and closing your eyes, though. There’s a whole industry of authors who have written stories specifically designed to help you sleep.
Phoebe Smith, described as the “JK Rowling of slow lit”, is one of them. Her story Blue Gold has been downloaded via the Calm app more than 15 million times. Narrated by Stephen Fry, whose melodious British accent could send even the most stubborn insomniac to sleep, it tells a simple, soothing story of wandering through some lavender fields in Provence.
Smith was first approached by the founder of mindfulness app Calm to rewrite some of her travel journalism into more slow lit-friendly forms in 2017. “I thought, ‘Should I be really offended that he thinks my writing has the effect of boring people to sleep?’” Smith told The Guardian.
But she tried it anyway, and has since penned 15 pieces for the Calm app, most of them based around her travels through Europe and Asia.
Slow lit works by helping ease our mind from the frantic stimulation of our day-to-day lives into the calm of night, Smith explains. “To prepare for sleep we need to create a transition time, so that rather than stimulating our minds with TV or emails or social media, we allow them to unwind. We seldom do this. It’s no wonder that so many of us struggle to calm our racing minds and nod off naturally. Sleep stories are designed to aid this transition,” Smith told Whimn.com.au.
Alongside Smith’s stories, the Calm app has some 120 slow lit pieces designed to help you nod off. Some of them are travel-based non fiction, like Smith’s pieces, and some of them are easy-listening fairytales and fables. There’s plenty of choice, so you can find the story that works for you.
But there’s also slow lit to be found outside Calm, too. There are a number of podcasts whose purpose is to tell stories that will help you relax and switch off. The insanely popular Sleep With Me hosted by Drew Ackerman—downloaded 1.3 million times every single month—is just one of them.
Each episode of Sleep With Me features Ackerman drawling his way through an original story, each one more outlandish than the next. The episodes often run up to two hours long and the tales that Ackerman tells have plenty of twists and turns in their plots to sustain the runtime. Sometimes, the stories are based on existing pop culture properties, like his popular Game of Drones series, which recaps episodes of the HBO show in a humdrum, sleep-inducing way. The rest of the time, Ackerman reads out fantastical dramas he has written himself.
But most of Sleep With Me’s millions of fans never actually hear the full story. According to Ackerman’s feedback, most people fall asleep in the first 20 minutes of his podcast, which is when Ackerman is giving his introduction and explaining the concept of the series. The same is true for Smith, with most listeners nodding off at the 20 minute mark and never making it to the end of her 40 minute stories.
It doesn’t mean that Smith or Ackerman write half-hearted endings to their tales, though. On the contrary, Ackerman says he makes sure to bring his stories to a conclusion, which he believes is crucial to helping his listeners fall asleep.
“I think, even though they never listen,” he explained to The New Yorker, “the fact that the story is in some way complete is the thing that makes it work.”
If you are concerned about your health, wellbeing or sleep, your first port of call should be your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan.
If you found this interesting, this is why sleeping well in 2019 should be your only resolution, and why linen pillowcases are great for your face.