Combatting my insomnia through ‘Sleep with Me’
Having insomnia in college is a special kind of lonely. By 4 or 5 in the morning—when the sound of people laughing the hallway dies down—the intense silence sets in.
Insomnia is not an issue often addressed by the health educators who frequently tout the benefits of sleep on cognition and performance. In fact, all the effort poured into encouraging college students to get to bed early instead of cramming/partying/Netflix-ing all night only makes me feel worse when I’m up at 4 a.m., unable to sleep.
Even though this curse can go weeks without striking me, almost all of my friends have had similar experiences since coming to college, instances of inexplicably being unable to do the laziest, most natural, mundane task in the world. The typical techniques my parents, equally poor sleepers, have taught me—to count backwards from 100, to try deep breathing, to read a book, to think of a calming scene, etc.—only draw my attention to my inability to sleep, worsening the situation. Sometimes, this all happens the night before a big exam, quiz, interview or other consequential event, but often, it occurs for seemingly no reason at all.
Recently, during one of these sleepless nights, I had the idea of playing a podcast about microbiology to lessen the heavy silence in the room. And it worked. As I tried to understand the intricacies of the complex information I was hearing, I was also forgetting that it was that awful time in between being really late at night and really early in the morning.
Soon after, I recounted my brilliant discovery to my friends. My freshman year roommate one-upped my suggestion, introducing us all to “Sleep With Me, the Podcast That Puts You to Sleep.” Produced every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, with over 600 previous episodes available, the show describes itself as “a silly bedtime story podcast for grownups to take your mind off of whatever is keeping you awake.”
A few days after learning about “Sleep With Me,” I developed a horrible cold, and after hours of trying, accepted that there was no way I could possibly fall asleep. With exceedingly low expectations, but figuring there was no harm in trying, I put on an episode of the show called “Kayak Cruze.”
In the episode, the show’s narrator, Scooter, floated down a river and described everything he saw along the way. I don’t really remember much of the episode, but I know it put me quickly into a weird half-asleep trance before I actually passed out. When I woke up about an hour later, the next episode, “Game of Thrones Drones,” a slow, winding, recap of the most recent “Game of Thrones” episode, was playing. I turned my phone on silent and fell asleep peacefully for the rest of the night.
The first 20 minutes or so of each episode are occupied by ads and other messages, all voiced both monotonously and warmly by Scooter. Then, the show goes into a long winding introduction, and finishes with a long bedtime story. Each episode is over an hour in total, but the ads alone are sometimes enough to lull me off to sleep.
After my first experience with “Sleep With Me,” I struggled to figure out how it worked so much better than melatonin. The goofy, nonsensical stories aren’t always inherently relaxing. One episode I listened to was all about how Cinderella’s evil step-mom actually turned into a swimming pool of lentils after the movie ended.
But “Sleep With Me’s” special power isn’t just how readily the slow paced gibberish fades into the background or the way it simulates a dream-like haze. Scooter puts it best in the show’s trailer: the podcast is “kind of like a friend in the deep dark night, there to talk you off to dreamland.”
The episodes, as Scooter also describes in the trailer, are designed to “keep you company” during your loneliest moments. Scooter constantly reasserts his message of empathy throughout the show’s intro.
“I hope if you’re having trouble sleeping, I can help. I’ve been there. That’s why I make the show.”
Feeling like there’s a friend in the dark suddenly makes the dark, feel, well, not so dark. “Sleep With Me” is available during your next sleepless night, and the one after that, on iTunes, SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, iTunes and http://www.sleepwithmepodcast.com.