“Can you read me a story?” will be an all-too-familiar phrase for those who have children. Even if you don’t, you’ll likely remember the tales your parents once told you in order to try and send you to sleep. Long gone are the days where drifting off was a breeze; studies show that 67 per cent of UK adults suffer from broken sleep, with 22 per cent of us struggling to actually fall asleep. So, what if the bedtime story, which certainly used to work so well, was the answer now?
The new crop of app features and podcasts suggest there's a good case for trying the story; and several Vogue staffers swear by them thanks to their convincing ability to fend off that gnawingly frustrating period between getting into bed and actually falling asleep – a time which can drastically impact how we feel in the morning.
“Sleep stories replicate the childhood experience of having a loved one open up a storybook and tell a bedtime tale,” says Chris Advansun, head writer of the Calm app's sleep stories. “They give grown-ups permission to have the same comforting experience of cosying up under the covers with a reassuring voice on hand – and they make it easy, too. We launched them after noticing that there was a big spike in the use of Calm's meditations at about 10.30/11 pm, suggesting our users were reaching for something to help them fall asleep.” These stories have reached 100 million listens in around two years.
But how does a simple bedtime story work when all else fails? “They’re an antidote to the anxiety we have from being overworked and stressed. When our heads hit the pillow at night, we’re left alone with a swirling storm of thoughts and worries which make it difficult to get to sleep. A story guides a listener out of their anxious thoughts and gently holds their attention within an audio experience, which is both calming and relaxing,” explains Advansun.
There are an array of different stories on the app to listen to and new ones added all the time. I regularly fall asleep to the dulcet tones of Matthew McConaughey in the tale ‘Wonder’, a storyline which is impossible to follow due to the onset of sleep no more than five minutes in; others love Stephen Fry’s ‘Blue Gold’ which softly describes a tour of Provence’s lavender fields and David Walliams’ ‘Sienna the Sleepy Sloth’. You'll experience softly-spoken voices primed and ready to induce you into sleep.
Meditation app, Headspace, also offers sleep meditations (or sleep casts as they call them) which incorporate soothing narration to help put your mind – as well as your body – to bed. Podcasts are an ever-expanding sleep arena, too – look to Sleep With Me and Nothing Much Happens for un-stimulating stories that help you to drop off fast. “A great deal of attention is paid to the structure of these stories because, while other storytelling involves a gradual build-up of tension and drama, these unwind slowly over time, calming the listener more as the story unfolds,” says Advansun.
And for the more mischievous sleepers, look no further than CBeebies’ bedtime stories, originally intended for children but which went viral after Tom Hardy read a story. Whether or not it aided sleep is anyone's guess. Truly, what dreams are made of.
[Via British Vogue]