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Why You Need to Start Listening to Sleep Stories

by BetterSleep
Sep 13 • 9 min read
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A study of more than 11,000 adults in 12 countries found that the world is not getting enough sleep. Common reasons include stress and anxiety due to work, finances, or relationship troubles.

But what should you do if racing thoughts keep you awake at night? Some people turn to meditation, others to relaxation techniques, soothing music, and reducing blue light exposure in the evenings.

Another option is listening to bedtime stories. While listening to fairy tales and short stories might feel a little childish, they’re slowly becoming a more popular way to relax and drift off for adults.

How Do Listening to Bedtime Stories Help You Sleep?

Bedtime stories are purposefully designed to help you fall asleep and can even be a shortcut to dreaming. This is because we rarely think about the words being read to us; instead, we paint a picture in our minds of what is happening.

In the REM (rapid eye movement part of our sleep cycle), our dreams are at their most intense and are in pictures. Switching on our brain’s imagination before dozing off with bedtime stories can help us prepare for a restful night.

Do Bedtime Stories Work for Adults?

Bedtime stories for adults are delivered calmly and soothingly, relaxing to listen to. As kids, we took comfort from a parent’s voice telling us a story that took our little minds away from the thoughts of ghosts under the bed.

The same goes for adulthood – the only difference being that our minds are steered away from our stresses and troubles, which calms racing thoughts and can help us to sleep.

These bedtime stories are also prepared so that they have no real climax. Narratives only engage the listener enough to distract them from constant thoughts and not enough to wake them up and get excited.

Why Might Listening to Stories be Better Than Reading Them?

Firstly, the light can be turned off when listening to short bedtime stories. This encourages the sleep hormone melatonin to get released, which signals your brain to get ready to doze off.

Secondly, having a bedtime story read to you is a more passive activity than reading yourself. This means you can relax, let your mind wander, and fall asleep much easier.

Hearing is the last sense to shut down and the first to come back in the morning. By listening to a book, you’re ready to fall asleep without the need to put a book down or turn off the light.

Furthermore, listening to bedtime stories takes you back to your childhood, when you felt safe, calm, and relaxed, listening to your parents reading to you.

While it might have been many years ago, your brain will remember this and allow you to feel similar sensations as you did when you were a child.

What Are the Benefits of Bedtime Stories for Adults?

Listening to bedtime stories is similar to having white noise in the background. The voice in the background is calmly telling the story in a non-jarring tone which can be incredibly relaxing.

We often have so much chatter in our minds that we need something to help us shut off our thoughts. The benefits of listening to short bedtime stories include:

Encourages Relaxation

Sleep disorders affect up to 70 million Americans yearly, with 33% - 55% suffering from chronic insomnia. Most of us may occasionally experience sleep disturbances, finding it hard to fall asleep after a busy day.

Listening to bedtime stories is a way to relax and unwind as part of a healthy bedtime routine.

Calms Racing Thoughts

Have you argued with your partner that plays over in your mind? Or you can’t stop thinking about that new, exciting business idea?

According to a 2020 study, humans have over 6,000 thoughts a day. This is roughly 6.5 thoughts a minute! And, we can’t just switch them off when we want to go to bed.

Listening to a bedtime story allows you to focus your mind on the story’s narrative. This distracts you enough from those racing thoughts, helping you be lulled to sleep.

Fall Asleep Faster

Listening to bedtime stories could be the answer if you’re the type of person who lies awake for hours before dropping off. Stories can help you shift down a gear and give you something to focus on apart from mind chatter. As the story unfolds, you start to imagine what’s happening in the pictures, which prepares the mind for sleep and dreaming.

Promotes a Healthy Bedtime Routine

There are many parts to a healthy bedtime routine, including having a set time to go to bed, avoiding the blue light from screens, and finding a way to relax.

Some people choose to listen to soothing music or a guided meditation, but another option is a bedtime story. Lie on your bed, listen to a calm voice telling stories, and enjoy being lulled to sleep.

Grow Cognitive and Emotional Intelligence

Adults, like children, experience cognitive and emotional intelligence growth while listening to short bedtime stories. One study looked at participants’ brains while they listened to literary narratives. Empathy skills, language skills, and sense-making skills all improved over time.

What Are the Benefits of Reading Bedtime Stories to Kids?

Reading short bedtime stories for kids is a perfect opportunity to spend more time with your little one, but they’ll also enjoy many more benefits. Here are five advantages worth knowing about:

Contributes to Brain Development

Many studies have shown that reading bedtime stories for kids enhance brain development. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that higher reading exposure led to heightened activation in the area of the brain that supports language processing.

Lowers Stress Levels

Kids can experience stress from a young age. Learning how to lower stress levels early will only help them later in life.

Reading short bedtime stories to your child allows their mind to wander away from busy thoughts and into an adventure. And, being cuddled up in bed, with their parents’ soothing voice, helps to lower cortisol levels, which also aids relaxation.

It Sparks Imagination

Wizards, fairies, monsters, and unicorns are all found in children’s short bedtime stories. Books transport young minds to new worlds, sparking their imagination.

Storytelling teaches children about the world and opens the creative mind to what is possible. Encouraging kids to use their imagination lets them see that anything is possible.

Encourages a Healthy Bedtime Routine

Making short bedtime stories part of the nighttime routine, like brushing teeth, will pave the way for a good night’s sleep. Several studies have shown that a bedtime routine positively affects a child’s mood and sleep development. With a routine, your child will know it’s time to wind down and get ready for bed.

Helps Improve Mental Wellbeing

Exam stress and competition for places at school can have a detrimental effect on children’s well-being. Children who are more engaged with reading and writing have been shown in a study to have better mental health than those who weren’t. So, sharing bedtime stories and encouraging them to read themselves is extremely beneficial.

What is the Best Bedtime Story for Adults?

Losing yourself in a fantasy world is one of the best ways to prepare the brain for sleep. With the rise in popularity of online reading apps, there are many places to find short bedtime stories, including apps, podcasts, and YouTube.

Here are 10 of the best stories for adults on the BetterSleep app:

  1. The Flight of the Pegasus

    On one magical afternoon in the English countryside, a young girl encounters a beautiful pegasus. Follow along with the story as you drift off into a peaceful slumber.

  2. The Pocket Dragon

    Benjamin is a young boy who loves his computer games. After being sent to a cottage in the countryside by his mother and father. he feels a little lost. That is until he discovers a toy dragon in the woods that is so lifelike. Find out what happens while dropping into deep relaxation.

  3. Into the Neon Garden

    This is an immersive bedtime story where you are a travel writer on a brave quest to find the most beautiful location on earth. After meeting a stranger, you hear about a magic garden. The search is not easy, but your curiosity takes over and compels you forward.

  4. Quest for the Sleep Amulet

    A wizard teacher is stricken with insomnia. An apprentice much search far and wide through enchanting forests and spellbinding lakes to find a magical amulet that is the cure.

  5. Tuscany’s Secret Castle

    While backpacking in Italy, three friends come across a secret castle. Before now, it’s had no visitors for 200 years. Let your mind wander along with this trio to see what they unearth.

  6. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

    This timeless tale will help you drift off into a dreamy slumber. See what happens to the poor woodcutter as he stumbles upon a cable filled with riches.

  7. The Fisherman and the Genie

    A poor fisherman discovers a lantern in the sea, which transforms his life forever. Get lost in his surreal journey and meet the mischievous genie whos been trapped for 1,800 years.

  8. The Legend of Mount Fuji

    Take a journey to Japan’s highest peak, listening to the legend of Mount Fuji. Find out what secrets it holds as you get lured into a deep sleep.

  9. ASMR - Whispered Sleeping Beauty

    We all know the story of sleeping beauty, but having it whispered into your ears triggers an automatic sensory meridian response (ASMR). Listen with headphones for spine-shivering tingles.

  10. Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp

    Fall into deep relaxation listening to the tale of Aladdin and his wonderful lamp. Follow along as he outsmarts a wicked wizard and tames sultans and genies.

What Are the Best Online Bedtime Stories for Kids?

No two children or toddlers are the same. Some kids will love fairy tales filled with wizards and strange monsters, while others will prefer hearing about a beautiful princess, friendship, and curious animals.

The good news is that many stories suit all types of inquisitive minds. Here are five of the best short bedtime stories for kids on the BetterSleep app:

  1. Gizmo the House Cat

Gizmo, the cat, is a friendly feline accustomed to indoor living. One night he sneaks out of the apartment to go on an adventure around his neighborhood which is full of surprises! 2. A Unicorns Tale

Talia the unicorn has been tasked to fly a sack of moonlight across the Land of Serenia. Follow along with this tale as she spills a little moonlight and has to call on friends to help her finish the delivery. 3. The Busy Blue Jay

Jakie is a busy blue jay, always amusing her friendly caregiver. Listen in as she performs tricks and antics that’ll send you into the land of sweet dreams. 4. The Queendom of Ilysia

Elena meets the beautiful Queen of Ilysia on her travels and discovers that the prince is being held captive by a fierce dragon. The queen’s army is too scared to save him, so she has to muster up the courage to do it herself. 5. The Time Traveler

Is time travel possible, or does it only exist in a dream? Find out as you listen in to the story of a scientist dabbling with mysteries of the past and future.

Trying a Bedtime Story App

BetterSleep is a popular app with 55 million downloads and allows you to create a personalized experience for more restful nights and energized days. Choose from a range of soothing sounds, meditations, and stories for sleep, including fairy tales, fantasy short stories, non-fiction, sci-fi, and bedtime stories for kids.

Still Struggling to Sleep? Here Are a Few Extra Tips

If short bedtime stories are not working for you, there are many other ways to improve sleep health. Here are some extra tips to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Set a Regular Sleep Time

Waking up and going to bed simultaneously each day helps regulate your circadian rhythm and help you fall asleep faster. By adjusting to a schedule, your mind will know when to wake up and switch off.

Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is a well-known stimulant that promotes alertness. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, drinking it too late in the day could make it hard for you to fall asleep. In the evening, try drinking a soothing camomile tea that promotes sleepiness and relaxation.

Practice Meditation and Mindfulness

Stress and a racing mind are the common reasons why people find it hard to fall asleep. Meditation and mindfulness practices are extremely helpful in relaxing the body and calming the mind and have been proven in studies to have a positive effect on sleep health.

Listen to Calming Music

Soothing music can help relax your mind and body so it can drift off at bedtime. Research has even shown to help those suffering from chronic insomnia. Listen to soothing sounds on the BetterSleep app today.

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