Best Sleep Apps: Bedtime Stories
Like me, many adults have fond childhood memories of falling asleep as one of their parents read them a bedtime story. Parents reading bedtime stories to children as part of a bedtime routine is common and thought to improve both language skills1 and sleep2 in children.
Thankfully, bedtime stories aren’t only for kids anymore! There are plenty of sleep apps with free bedtime stories for adults available to stream or download. If you’re trying to improve your sleep, you’ve probably already worked to create a relaxing bedroom environment. Now, learn about incorporating bedtime stories into your nightly routine to create the ideal situation for sleep.
Although there’s plenty of research about how noise negatively affects sleep, there isn’t any focusing on how listening to recorded bedtime stories might positively impact adult sleep. I experimented with bedtime stories for adults firsthand to determine what might work best. Learn what I found when I tried the most popular paid and free sleep apps that provide bedtime stories for adults.
Calm offers bedtime story recordings ranging from 25 to 40 minutes in length, providing plenty of time for you to fall asleep before the story ends. Their stories are read by a variety of readers, including celebrities like Matthew McConaughey. Although Calm doesn’t name how many bedtime stories they offer, browsing through the app suggests they have at least 100 stories available.
The bedtime stories offered by Calm fall into a variety of categories:
- Popular Sleep Stories
- Celebrated Voices (stories read by celebrities)
- Sleep Stories for Kids
- Celebrating Earth
- Fiction Sleep Stories
- Non-Fiction Sleep Stories
- Nature Stories
- Refreshing Nap Stories
- ASMR Stories
You may also view Calm bedtime stories by narrator, which is useful if you find a specific person’s voice to be particularly soothing. I enjoyed the voice of Tabitha Brown, a vegan social media star I follow whose familiar deep voice instantly calmed me. Most stories, including hers, are paired with subtle, calming background music.
Every Calm sleep story I tried felt almost surprisingly relaxing, making it difficult to pay attention to the story’s details or plot. I became tired almost immediately, and couldn’t stay awake for more than five to ten minutes after pressing play. The wide variety of meditation recordings were also nice to have available during stressful daytime moments.
Calm is compatible with most Apple and Android devices, including Apple Watch and Apple TV. Those wanting to use a computer or an incompatible device can access all of Calm’s features from a browser.
Calm offers a seven-day free trial, although you must create an account or sign in with your email address or Facebook account to access it. After the trial ends, Calm costs $70 per year. The app bills automatically, so if you don’t want to pay, be sure to cancel before the free trial is up! If you cancel the subscription, some free features continue to remain available, including a small selection of sleep stories.
Moshi is a sleep story app geared toward children, which becomes immediately apparent upon opening it by the plethora of bright colors and cartoon figures. Of course, there’s no rule saying adults aren’t allowed to listen to children’s stories!
The app organizes stories into those for daytime and nighttime. Nighttime stories run a bit longer, ranging from about 15 to 30 minutes. Most stories are narrated by people you likely haven’t heard of, but there are stories read by actors Goldie Hawn and Patrick Stewart. Nighttime stories are broken into these categories:
- Falling Asleep
- Night Wakeups
- Fairytale Fans
- Adventure Seekers
- Littler Listeners
- Older Listeners
- The Whole Family
- Most Popular
- Moshiphonic Journeys
- Phillipa Alexander
- Female Narrator
- Will Huggins
- Male Narrator
- Guest Narrator
I tried out multiple stories in the “Older Listeners” category, such as “YoYo’s Sunset Chill Out Lounge.” Although the Moshi bedtime stories are read slowly and accompanied by soothing background music and sounds, I didn’t find them incredibly relaxing. I was able to fall asleep while listening, but the narrators’ voices weren’t as deep as those in other apps, and the audio quality didn’t seem as crisp. Some adults might enjoy Moshi, but personally, I would reserve it for kids’ use.
Moshi is available for Apple, Android, and Kindle Fire devices. One subscription allows you to access content across three different devices, making it a good choice for families.
Like Calm, Moshi offers a seven-day free trial that you must create an account to access. After the trial ends, you may pay $60 per year, or $13 per month, to continue accessing the app. After seven days, the subscription bills automatically, so be sure to cancel if you only want to use the trial and not pay.
In addition to their guided meditations, popular app Headspace also offers bedtime stories, which they call “sleepcasts.” The sleepcasts are all 45 minutes long each, and they feature simple fictional stories. The app offers over 50 sleepcasts.
Headspace sleepcasts pair a narrator’s voice with ambient sounds, such as rainfall or wind, which are related to the story’s topic. Unlike many other sleep apps, Headspace gives you the option to control the volume of the ambient sounds independently of the narration volume, so the background sound may be as loud or louder than the narration, quieter, or even silenced.
I tried a few different sleepcasts and found the ambient sounds to be distracting. They sounded fuzzy and not as crisp or realistic as the background sounds in other apps, like Calm. Listening to the voice alone relaxed me and allowed me to fall asleep faster than listening to the narration and ambient sounds together.
Some Headspace sleepcasts are more like guided meditations than stories at their start. In these sleepcasts, the narrator instructs you to breathe and relax, reflect on your day, pay attention to specific body parts, or visualize a specific scene before they tell a story.
Headspace is available in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, and works with any compatible devices.
Although there is a free version of Headspace, the sleepcasts are locked within it. To access sleepcasts, you must enroll in either a seven or fourteen-day free trial of Headspace Plus. Once the trial ends, you are billed either $70 per year or $13 per month. Billing occurs automatically once the trial ends, so be sure to unsubscribe if you don’t want to be billed.
Although BetterSleep, previously known as Relax Melodies, is primarily known for its expansive music library and ability to allow you to compose your own ambient tunes and soundscapes, the app also contains bedtime stories. Most stories in BetterSleep range from 30 to 60 minutes in length. The app also offers playlists that contain multiple stories, or a combination of stories and music recordings. Playlists run about two hours or longer.
Like Headspace, BetterSleep’s stories contain both narration and background sounds with independently adjustable volume. I listened to the “Starship-28” stories, but didn’t find them as relaxing as stories in other sleep apps. Although science fiction and fantasy-themed stories aren’t my cup of tea, some sleepers might like that BetterSleep offers many of them. With this app, you can explore many adventurous fairy tale-like bedtime stories about mermaids, druidesses, pirates, dragons, and genies.
You can find BetterSleep in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
The free version of BetterSleep gives you access to two bedtime stories. To unlock the full library of 80+ stories, you must try a seven-day trial. After the trial ends, a full-price subscription costs $60 per year. Sometimes the app offers discounts, so keep an eye out if you want to snag this app on sale.
Unlike meditation apps that offer bedtime stories, the Slumber app is solely dedicated to sleep. It offers four categories of options:
- Sleep Meditations
- Soothing Sounds
- Calming Stories
- Children’s stories
The Calming Stories category contains bedtime stories for adults. The stories range from around 15 minutes to an hour in length and come with the ability to loop tracks, so they replay once they end. Slumber stories are available in the following collections:
- Stories from the Jewelry Shop
- ASMR Sounds and Triggers
- Trains and Boats
- Story Stitches
- Travel Stories
- Back to Sleep Meditations
- The Hypnos Conundrum
- Nature Stories
- Dragon’s Fire
- Sleepy Bedtime Tales
- Dream Stories with Dan Jones
- Cozy Stories for Fall
- The Winter Collection
I listened to one of Slumber’s train-themed stories and found it relaxing. Slumber offers the ability to add or change the background sounds played with a bedtime story. I found some background sound options distracting, such as the white noise of “Snow storm” and the chirping of “Crickets.” On the other hand, I felt relaxed by the subtle crackling of “Fire” and “Rustling leaves.”
Available for both Apple and Android devices, Slumber offers a free, seven-day trial. After the trial ends, you have a few payment options: $8 per month, $40 per year, or $250 for lifetime access. Charges occur automatically, so be sure to unsubscribe if you don’t want to pay.
Sleepiest is a bedtime story app that is especially appealing to sleepers with a literary bent. With over 110 bedtime stories available, Sleepiest offers tales of well-known characters, such as Sherlock, Robinhood, and Doctor Doolittle, and authors, such as Jane Austen and Emily Bronte.
Most Sleepiest stories appear to fall between 20 and 30 minutes in length, though I saw some as short as 13 minutes and as long as 42 minutes. Feeling nostalgic, I opted to listen to stories reminiscent of my childhood — The Velveteen Rabbit and The Secret Garden. The narrator’s British accent and gentle tone felt comforting, and I fell asleep quickly while listening, even though I felt genuinely interested in the stories.
Sleepiest contains some features not offered by other bedtime story apps, such as the ability to set a timer that turns off the sound, or an alarm to wake you back up. Perhaps most interestingly, the app also offers sleep data tracking, a feature not usually found in these types of sleep apps.
Sleepiest is available for all Apple devices, but not currently available for Android. To try Sleepiest, you must create an account and register for a seven-day free trial. After seven days, the cost is $50 per year or $10 per month. These charges occur automatically, so be sure to unsubscribe if you don’t want to pay up.
Like Sleepiest, Sleep Cycle offers advanced features like sleep tracking and alarms. Because Sleep Cycle is primarily a sleep tracking app, locating the bedtime stories can feel difficult if that’s your primary goal. First, you must answer a few questions, such as when you want to fall asleep and wake up. You can’t bypass this feature and go straight to listening to stories.
The bedtime stories fall under “Sleep Aid,” a tool that helps you fall asleep at a designated time, along with music, soundscapes, and guided meditations. Sleep Cycle offers 13 stories ranging from 23 minutes to over an hour long.
I found a story called “The forest” particularly calming. The Scandinavian narrator’s accent and slow, quiet speaking manner instantly relaxed me, calling me to sleep. The narration felt like more of a description of a forest combined with a guided meditation than an actual story with characters and a plot, however. Soft, subtle background sounds add to the calming effects of this recording.
Sleep Cycle is available for both Apple and Android devices.
Sample Block Quote
Nam tempus turpis at metus scelerisque placerat nulla deumantos sollicitudin delos felis. Pellentesque diam dolor an elementum et lobortis at mollis ut risus. Curabitur semper sagittis mino de condimentum.