Inside The World Of Bedtime Stories For Adults

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, bedtime stories were seen as being child’s play. As you sat in bed, trying to stay up as late as possible, your parents read The Gruffalo for the thousandth time in a row. Still, night after night, despite your valiant efforts to delay your bedtime, your eyes betrayed you. Like Sleeping Beauty, you entered a deep slumber.

The Sleep Deprivation Pandemic

Sleep in adulthood is very different. For starters, it’s a harder to get. In a rat race society, sleep is often put at the bottom of the list. There’s also a lot more stress. Compared to the childhood worries of playground politics, the stressors plaguing adulthood amount to significantly more. Adding a pandemic to the mix hasn’t improved matters either. In fact, a study by King’s College London has found that two thirds of the UK population have seen their sleep worsen during the course of lockdown.

Even without a global pandemic, sleep deprivation is a widespread problem. On average, adults should aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. In reality, this figure appears to be more of a dream than an achievement. The Sleep Works report that nearly half us only manage to get six hours of sleep a night. Besides the grogginess and fatigue associated with a bad night’s sleep, there are more catastrophic consequences. From weight gain to high blood pressure, getting a good night’s sleep is central to maintaining our physical and mental health.

With the mindfulness and wellbeing movement showing no signs of slowing down, adult bedtime stories have become the latest trend to find tranquility in nostalgia.

How Do They Work?

Following a strict narrative design, bedtime stories are purposefully created to send you off to sleep. The tempo and delivery of the stories are regulated, ensuring that they are relaxing to listen to. The stories themselves lack a climax. Generally, they have no beginning, middle or end. This means that listeners are only engaged so much as to distract themselves from other thoughts. Narratives, on paper, are thus quite boring and non-eventful. As a result, this sense of monotony establishes the correct mindset for sleep. In turn, the ‘sleep paradox’ is avoided. Instead of becoming frustrated and more alert upon feeling that you cannot go to sleep, bedtime stories ensure that your body naturally enters the sleep cycle. As Dr Steve Orma notes, sleep comes when you’re not trying, and is harder to get when you do.

There is evidently a demand for these stories. Calm, the number one app for sleep and relaxation, has amassed over 50 million downloads. Initially beginning as a meditation app, its creators saw a gap in the sleep market and have increasingly diverted their resources to this arena. If that’s not enough to convince you to give them a go, celebrity endorsements from the likes of Dolly Parton, Chris Hemsworth and Idris Elba are certain to seal the deal.

Sound like something you’d be interested in? Here are three of my favourite stories, that I’m sure will send you off to sleep.

Dream With Me, Harry Styles

The latest celebrity to jump on the bedtime stories bandwagon? Singer and former boyband extraordinaire, Harry Styles, no less. When it was released, Harry’s Dream With Me harboured a great deal of attention online, with social media users erupting over the idea of Harry’s dulcet tones sending them to sleep.

Listen as Harry talks through a series of scenarios. Picture getting caught in the rain in a moonlit town or even snuggling by the fire with Harry himself. It’s all very sensuous. It’s no surprise that Calm has seen a 94% increase in app downloads following Dream With Me’s release.


Blue Gold, Stephen Fry

Holidays abroad may be off of the menu for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t create an alternate reality. In Blue Gold, Stephen Fry takes you on a beautiful journey through Provence’s lavender fields. 

If the idea of wandering through sleepy French villages isn’t enough, heighten the sleep experience by spraying a bit of lavender mist on your pillow. You’ll be dreaming of foreign escapades in no time.


The Nordland Night Train, Erik Braa

Inspired by one of Europes most remote railways, The Nordland Night Train allows you to travel across Norway’s scenic coastline. Though not a recognisable voice in the same way that Harry Styles and Stephen Fry are, Erik Braa’s tones are just as calm and soothing.

Reminding you how Norway is a blissful land where you don’t even have to lock the doors, the serenity of the night train will have you falling asleep before you’ve even found your seat.

Words by Lucy Robinson


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