I used a ‘sleep story’ app for a week and this is how it changed my sleep quality

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I’ve been listening to Forensic Files to fall asleep for as long as I can remember—apparently it’s a weirdly common niche, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the healthiest bedtime routine.

More often than not, I have totally weird dreams about murder investigations and kidnappings and what’s more, I couldn’t help but wonder if this weird modern day obsession with true crime actually glorifies law enforcement and normalizes police misconduct in a way I don’t want to contribute to any longer than I already have.

In parallel, during the quarantine I’ve really warmed to the idea of guided meditation apps and found they’ve helped calm my anxiety and worry—so when I found ‘sleep story’ apps that claim to have similar effects I figured now was as good a time as ever to swap my true crime habit for something a little more healthy.

Here’s what went down when I listened to calming sleep stories on the Calm app in place of Forensic Files for a week—let’s just say it involved much better dreams, to say the least.

Day One

I’m not the best sleeper—I don’t suffer from insomnia by any means, but I’ve always needed a little white noise (ahem, true crime), to fall asleep. It’s weird but I actually look forward to putting in my ear buds and falling asleep to the sounds of Forensic Files reruns so the thought of listening to something at the opposite end of the spectrum was a little bit stressful… I definitely didn’t want to spend the week overtired from lack of sleep.

During the first night, I chose a story titled ‘A Rainy Day in Paris’ and listened to British actor Ramon Tikaram walk me through a day in the city of love. I listened to his honeyed voice for the entire thirty minute story and while I did feel relaxed and intrigued, I actually put Forensic Files on right after and fell asleep within the hour.

Day Two

By the second night, I was determined to exclusively use sleep stories in place of true crime, so I listened to the same Parisian story as the night before. I figured since I’ve already heard it that I would be less inclined to pay attention to every single detail, and I was right. I actually fell asleep before the story ended, probably about fifteen to twenty minutes into the recording, which is record time for me.

I also slept through the night and dreamt of future trips to France—which was really lovely considering it’s the only form of travel I’ve been able to partake in recently!

Day Three

Tonight I opted for ‘A Cruise on the Nile’ which is narrated by voice actor Alan Sklar. I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt and figured if the Parisian story influenced my dreams in such a way, perhaps a story about Cairo and Luxor would do the same.

Unfortunately, I was too intrigued by all the facts and figures around Ancient Egypt and listened to the entire 41-minute story in full. However, instead of putting on Forensic Files I flipped to the rainy day in Paris narration and fell asleep before the story ended.

Day Four

I think I finally figured out what works for me: I need to be familiar with a voice or a narrative in order for it to work as white noise. By the fourth night I fell asleep after listening to about twenty minutes of the Egypt story—and stayed asleep for the entire night. No dreams about cruising down the Nile just yet, but I have high hopes.

Day Five

I have to say, out of every wellness challenge I’ve partaken in, this one has by far had the biggest impact on my overall wellbeing. At the start of the week, I really didn’t think I would be renewing my membership or continuing to listen to sleep stories once the week was over but now I don’t see myself falling asleep any other way.

Not only do I fall asleep faster, I actually stay asleep throughout the night and wake up in a way better mood than I did when I was listening to murder investigations all night. I’ve also come to love the dreams that sleep stories seem to influence—although it doesn’t take much to improve upon nightmares about murderers and assassins, let’s be honest!