7 Adult Bedtime Stories to Help You Fall Asleep Fast
Remember falling asleep to bedtime stories as a kid? While most of us have already outgrown the practice, experts continue applauding it for helping quiet the thoughts that typically keep us awake. If you’re one of the many adults who have trouble settling down before bed, you may want to resume the tradition. After all, a good story can distract from frustrations that occurred throughout the day. If you’re curious about how adult bedtime stories can help you get to sleep faster, read on below. We'll introduce you to some of the most popular stories available and where to find them.
How Can Bedtime Stories Help Adults Fall Asleep?
The mind is always hard at work. From thoughts about work, tomorrow’s to-do list, and other occurrences that took place throughout the day, it’s not easy to switch things off before bed. Instead of turning to medications to help you doze off, experts are starting to embrace a more holistic approach.
Dr. Christine Won, an associate professor at Yale School of Medicine and the Medical Director of Yale Center for Sleep Medicine, is one of the most outspoken advocates in favor of the practice. In an interview with the New York Times she explains, “A bedtime story works by detracting the mind from self-sabotaging thoughts and worries, which allows the body’s adrenaline to come down so the brain can transition into the sleep state.”
In other words, bedtime stories for adults can help us fall asleep by pulling our attention away from the typical stressors. It can also stimulate the relaxation response, a physiological shift that takes place when the body is no longer in fight-or-flight mode.
Additionally, bedtime stories can help establish a cognitive night routine, build character-building associations, and instill deeper positive psychological effects on our emotions.
Reading at Night vs. Audio Books
If you haven’t tried bedtime stories because you’re afraid that reading from your tablet or reaching exciting cliffhangers can keep you up, then you can always consider audiobooks.
Think about it: listening to a story entails less energy and commitment than staying up and reading a book. It's also easier to tune out audio narrations than with a paperback. Plus, listening to a calm, soothing voice in a dark room is a pretty great way to prime yourself for sleep.
These kinds of diversions offer relief to our busy brains by reducing cortisol levels, thereby reducing anxiety and stress.
So, the next time you find yourself counting sheep, try tuning into a bedtime story instead. If you don’t know where to start or what kind of stories to look for, then you’re in the right place. In the next section, we give a rundown of seven of the best bedtime stories for adults.
7 Free Bedtime Stories for Adults for Better Sleep
These stories are great to fall asleep to. They aren’t so exciting that they’ll get your adrenaline pumping, however, they’re interesting enough to divert your mind. Consider the following classics the next time you find yourself tossing and turning in bed:
1. Alice in Wonderland
A long celebrated classic by British writer Lewis Carroll, “Alice in Wonderland” has occupied center stage in children’s literature for a long time. A young girl, Alice, falls asleep in a meadow and dreams that she is falling down a rabbit hole while following a talking figure with a pocket watch. Adventures, discovery, and intrigue soon follow. This whole story is seen through the eyes of a curious, young girl. Enjoy a glimpse of her world, full of fantastic creatures and unusual characters, before drifting off into your own special dreamland. You can find the entire story for free on YouTube. The recording lasts just short of three hours.
2. A Scandal in Bohemia - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
“A Scandal in Bohemia” is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first short story and your ticket to a good night’s rest. While his stories frequently incorporate mystery and intrigue, the writer’s flowing narration and lengthy descriptions can also help put you to sleep fast.
In “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Sherlock Holmes is hired to prevent King Wilhelm of Bohemia’s former flame from publishing compromising photos. Along with his sidekick, Dr. John Watson, Sherlock is again and again bested by the beautiful Irene Adler. Hands down, it’s one of the best bedtime short stories to fall asleep to.
3. The Book of Martha
“The Book of Martha” by Octavia Butler is a careful and thought-provoking exploration about belief, creating a perfect world, and humanity. In it, God gives a woman named Martha the responsibility of making people less destructive. Martha experiences resentment and fear as she tries to accomplish the difficult task.
4. Hills Like White Elephants
“Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway is masked in metaphors and implications. This gives our adult minds enough fodder to dig into, distracting us from the kinds of thoughts that keep us up at night.
This short story is basically a conversation between an American man and a young woman waiting for the train to Madrid. Their thoughts and interactions are fascinating and listening to bedtime short stories like these can help calm you.
5. Ghosts and Empties
Another short story, “Ghosts and Empties” follows the story of a woman who deals with anger and pent-up feelings by walking. During her walk, she observes the lives of those in her community in a bid to calm her latent existential rage.
While rage and repression hardly seem appropriate for a bedtime story, the narration takes us out of our everyday thoughts and into someone else’s world. Plus, listening to bedtime short stories about other people’s issues might help prevent us from overthinking our own challenges.
6. Bruce and the Spider
James Baldwin’s “Bruce and the Spider” is a short story that emphasizes the importance of perseverance. This story is about a king who watches a spider repeatedly try and fail to connect her web. Though the premise is simple, this is one of the best bedtime short stories for helping relax the mind before bed.
7. Kew Gardens
“Kew Gardens” is one of Virginia Woolf’s best short stories. It tells the tale of four couples, each lost in their thoughts as they pass a flower bed in Kew Garden in London. The story is told in rich detail, down to the colors and shapes of the petals in the flowers. The narration is gentle and slow, perfect for nighttime relaxation and rest. The cadence, tone, and energy of the audio narration can make a story relaxing and conducive for bedtime.
Apps You Can Explore Grown up Bedtime Stories With
With multiple apps and podcasts available, listeners can access almost any type of story from classic tales to soothing recitations, bedtime short stories, travel-related narrations, and scary bedtime stories.
Here are our favorite apps that offer a variety of soothing audio narrations:
- Calm: Wide selection of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) audio that is constantly updated
- Headspace: Guide to meditation and calming short stories
- BetterSleep: Though it’s better known for its ambient sounds and music, it also offers stories 30 to 60 minutes long
- Sleepiest: Love classic literature? Then you’ll enjoy its collection of 110 stories from renowned authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, and Emily Bronte
All these apps offer a free version, however, they’re quite limited and you’ll soon find yourself looking at their paid programs. If you want to stick to free content, you can look for bedtime stories for adults on YouTube, playlists on Spotify, and podcasts.
There are many ways to get better sleep: aromatherapy, breathing methods, white noise machines, getting a new mattress, and more. Giving bedtime sleep stories for adults provides a free and easy way to access quality sleep.
If you need that extra push to doze off, you can also try combining sleep stories with a supplement like Sandland Sleep. Our sublingual tablets use CBN (cannabinol), a hemp-derived ingredient, to help you stay and fall asleep faster.
Yes, bedtime stories for adults can help people unwind by creating associations to new factors that trigger rest. They relieve our busy brains by shifting our attention to something peaceful, serene, and nostalgic.
Good bedtime stories are relaxing. Classic fairy tales like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood are popular choices. That said, it all comes down to the individual, so if one genre doesn’t work for you, try something else.
Insight Timer has a great collection of free sleep stories. You can also look at streaming sites like YouTube, Spotify, and podcasts.