17 best sleep meditation apps and podcasts to help you relax

A good night’s sleep begins the moment we begin to unwind at the end of a long day… and that’s usually long before we get into bed. Emma Oliver shares her recommendations for the best sleep-inducing meditation apps.

Woman sleeping while listening to a podcast

After an undisturbed, full night’s sleep you’ll not only be feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day, but also able to concentrate much better too.

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A lack of sleep can also affect your weight, immune system, ability to retain information and risk of heart problems. So, in other words, it’s just as important as eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.

When we don’t get enough sleep, we also sacrifice our mental health. We’ve all felt irritable after a restless night or been caught in the cycle of worrying over not getting any sleep – and of course, then preventing ourselves from getting any shut eye at all.

This often leads to negative thoughts – and if you’re already experiencing difficulties with your mental health this can amplify the problem.

Guided sleep meditation is a great way to shift your focus away from these negative thoughts, and luckily there’s lots of great resources designed to introduce you to the practice.

Even though we’re often told to stay away from our tech when we’re trying to sleep, sometimes it can be an incredibly helpful tool.

If you’re new to meditation for sleep, apps are a great way to get started – so here’s a selection of the best. We’ve covered all sorts, from sleep meditation to calm the mind, to meditation music for sleep, and deep sleep guided meditation.

If sleep meditations don’t work for you, you might want to choose a relaxing storytelling podcast instead, so we’ve highlighted some of our favourites.

17 soothing podcasts and apps to help you fall asleep

1

Slumber

Slumber (free, iOS) boasts a collection of guided meditations and sleep-inducing stories to help you drift off. Once you’ve chosen your relaxing soundtrack, adjust the background sounds to achieve your perfect sleep-inducing ambience – ensuring you get the deepest, most refreshing night’s sleep.

The free version offers you a choice of 10 soundtracks, with optional in-app purchases to access the full library. Choose from guided meditation, hypnosis, bedtime stories and ASMR.

With each soundtrack, you’ve got complete control over the volume of each sound, so you can fully tailor your experience to your own preferences. Whether you’d rather drift off to the sound of soothing ocean waves or the delicate rustle of autumn leaves, Slumber has got you covered.

2

Calm

While Calm (free, iOS & Android) is best known for its guided mediation, they also have a selection of over 100 sleep stories. You could opt for tales told by famous faces such as Stephen Fry or Matthew McConaughey, or the soothing brush strokes of Bob Ross. Induce deep sleep while practising gratitude, focus, loving-kindness, forgiveness and mindfulness.

After you’ve downloaded the app for free, you have the option to continue with your basic free version or upgrade with in-app purchases. With mindfulness programs, soundscapes, timed meditation and guided breathing exercises, you’re sure to find something that’s perfect for you.

3

Simple Habit

Begin winding down long before your head hits the pillow with Simple Habit. This is an app that was created with busy people in mind – and there’s certainly no shortage of calming meditation practices which are suitable for when you’re on-the-go. Once you’ve begun to switch off from work or school, a peaceful evening and a fantastic night’s sleep are sure to follow.

While the app can be downloaded for free (iOS & Android), you’ll need to upgrade to premium membership if you’d like to access the music, stories and ASMR. You’ll also be able to access the soundtracks offline, which is ideal for your daily commute.

Woman sitting on a bed
UNsplash/Pamela Lima

4

SleepScore

If you’re looking for a more scientific approach to improving your sleeping pattern, try SleepScore. It’s free to download (iOS & Android), and you can choose whether you’d like to purchase a premium membership.

You’ll get an in-depth sleep analysis, based on when the app detects you’ve transitioned between light, deep, and REM sleep. You can also set an alarm so that the app wakes you up when you’re in the lightest stages of sleep – helping you to feel fully refreshed in the morning.

To view your customised sleep analysis report, simply place your phone underneath your pillow and activate the app for seven days in a row. Then, receive expert-approved tips and tricks tailored just for you. For some extra help in reaching that deep sleep, you can also play relaxing sounds while the app is hard at work monitoring your sleep cycle.

5

Pzizz

For many of us, we not only struggle to get a full eight hours sleep each night but we have difficulty taking a nap too! Pzizz lets you choose what you’d like to achieve in your relaxation session – whether that’s a short nap, a restful night’s sleep or deeper focus and concentration.

Classic Pzizz is free (iOS & Android) and Pizazz Pro is available via a subscription.

A combination of music, voiceovers and sound effects will quieten your mind and lull you into a peaceful slumber. Alternatively, if you’re looking to focus and improve productivity, listen to a specific blend of sounds which bring you into a state of full concentration.

6

Relax Melodies

If you’d rather listen to white noise and calming natural sounds, Relax Melodies (iOS & Android) is for you. 52 different sounds and melodies are available in the free version, and you can combine and adjust these to produce your perfect sleep soundtrack.

A premium membership gives you access to even more, including five-day programs and guided practices.

7

Pillow Automatic Sleep Tracker

Pillow Automatic Sleep Tracker (iOS only) tracks your sleeping patterns via your Apple Watch, so you can keep your phone well away from your bed and avoid those disruptive notifications!

You’ll be able to view a detailed sleep analysis, track your mood, listen to sleep aid sounds and – if you choose to upgrade – three napping modes. Upgrading to premium is a one-time purchase for £4.99.

8

Mindifi Deep Sleep and Relax Hypnosis

Mindifi’s interface is simple yet effective – just like its soundtracks. Sessions focus on a variety of topics: muscle relaxation, nightmares, power napping, snoring, stress release and massage. Available on both iOS and Android, this app has been a hit in the US.

9

Sleepo

Sleepo (Android only) is a great option if you’re looking to access the app offline, as all 32 different sounds are available without an internet connection. It’s free to download, with in-app purchases costing £1.69 each.

Choose from a variety of realistic sounds – from thunder and heavy rain to the bustling sounds of the city. There are three different types of white noise to choose from: white noise, pink noise and brown noise. These work equally as well for sleep as they do for concentration… just try not to fall asleep at your desk!

10

Headspace

You’ve probably already heard of Headspace, but did you know that Sleep by Headspace offers sleepcasts? Using sound, visualisation and background noise, you’ll begin to wind down and drift into sleep.

You’ll be guided through various visualisations, such as walking through a beautiful garden – and these stories are constantly updated with new content.

Sleepcasts can be accessed via the regular Headspace app. This is free to download, but they also offer a subscription for £12.99 per month.

11

Sleep With Me podcast

Host Drew Ackerman has struggled with insomnia for years, so it’s no surprise that he created the Sleep With Me podcast for others with the same problem.

Each episode is an hour or two long, with Drew retelling unique tales in soothing bedtime tones. This podcast is the perfect balance between vaguely interesting and not-too-enthralling-to-keep-you-awake-all-night. All episodes are available for free on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and RadioPublic.

Bed frame
Unsplash/Holly Stratton

12

Game of Drones Podcast

Drew Ackerman also hosts this brilliant podcast for Game of Thrones fans. While the TV show is one of the most intense you’ll find, Drew recaps various aspects of the series in such a slow-paced, chatty way that you’ll drift off in no time – trust us!

Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Play Music and Radio Public.

13

The ASMR Podcast

If you’re a fan of ASMR, this is the podcast for you. In each episode, explore different triggers to help you switch off before bed. Formerly known as ‘The Auracle’, expect to hear a variety of different hosts, topics and triggers.

Popular episodes include readings of Sherlock Holmes, guest appearances from Dr Craig Richard and Hermetic Kitten. Access the podcast for free via iTunes, Pocket Cats, TuneIn or Stitcher.

14

The New Yorker Fiction

The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, also hosts their Fiction Podcast. In each episode, Deborah reads famous pieces of literature, then discusses it in depth. She invites plenty of guests – most often authors – to chat about texts ranging from the 1900s to present day. Tune in via the New York website, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or WNYC.


15

Stories from the Borders of Sleep

These shorter episodes – usually about 12 minutes long – bring you along on a journey to the very edges of your consciousness. The host, Seymour Jacklin, both writes and reads aloud imaginative stories inspired by his own dreams.

While the episodes are created and uploaded sporadically, this ensures each one is crammed with creativity and intention. Most episodes are accompanied by gentle music, barely noticeable until Seymour pauses for breath.

Listen to the podcast via their website.

16

BBC Radio 3’s Slow Radio

As a self-proclaimed ‘antidote to today’s frenzied world’, this is an opportunity to unplug your brain and focus on the calming sounds of the natural world. Choose from birdsong, content cattle, muted woodland sound or raindrops falling across the Spanish mountains, just to name a few. All soundscapes are available for free via the BBC website.

17

Nothing Much Happens

Bedtime stories certainly aren’t just for children, and Nothing Much Happens is a podcast for adults looking for pleasant, plot-less stories that let their minds drift off rather than getting tangled in complex narratives.

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From gentle woodland walks to the laid-back atmosphere the day after Thanksgiving, you’ll barely notice the transition into peaceful dreams feeling cosy and relaxed. Access the podcasts on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.