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10 Podcasts to Help You Sleep

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Despite having a busy job, an energetic toddler, and a painful 5:30 a.m. alarm, I’m no stranger to insomnia. Fortunately, I’ve noticed a growing number of podcasts aimed at putting me to sleep. Below are a few of my faves, which range from simple meditations to grownup bedtime stories to droning tones.

WEE-HOUR WEIRDNESS

1. Sleep With Me: A Sleep Inducing Podcast
If Ben Stein’s famous Ferris Bueller's Day Off teacher droned on for an hour, it'd make a great episode of Sleep With Me, an odd little podcast that never fails to make me drowsy. In each episode, the narrator delivers meandering, stream-of-consciousness monologues in a monotone that recalls the most boring teacher you ever had. Even if I’m interested in a topic—like his recent ep about the Spanish-language version of Breaking Bad—I’ve never managed to stay awake through the whole thing.

2. Game of Drones: The Game of Thrones Sleep Aid
Hosted by the same guy who narrates Sleep With Me—he goes by “Scooter”—Game of Drones operates under the same concept, only all episodes are related to HBO’s hit series. And while it may seem impossible to make such a bloody, action-packed show sound so boring, rest assured, Scooter’s analysis does just that.

SLEEPYTIME SPIRITUALITY

3. The Daily Meditation Podcast
If your sleeplessness results from stress or anxiety, you may want to check out Mary Meckley’s podcast, in which she offers short, guided meditations. While each has a general theme (gaining confidence, releasing anger, etc.), all are delivered in calm, quiet tones suitable for bedtime enjoyment.

4. Meditation Minis
Looking for a way to calm down before you turn out the light? Chel Hamilton’s podcast may do the trick. Episodes last about 10 minutes and take listeners through relaxing meditations about work, health, and, yes, sleep. Rather than immediately launching into the meditation, each episode starts with announcements from the host and a short intro that describes the exercise to come, which is why I prefer to start the podcast before I get under the covers.

5. The Duncan Trussell Family Hour
I usually can’t listen to comedians when I’m trying to fall asleep, but Trussell is one exception. While he makes me laugh—particularly with his surreal, twisted ads at the top of the show—his voice calms me and often provides a picturesque portal to dreamland. Trussell and his guests often discuss art and spirituality at length, and I listen to many eps multiple times, regardless of whether they lull me to sleep or not.

6. On Being
“As if the guests aren’t interesting enough, her voice alone is transcendent,” Molly Ringwald once tweeted about this podcast. And she’s right: Each week, host Krista Tippett offers smart and well-crafted interviews with scientists, thinkers, artists, and others. Her approach settles my nerves and usually teaches me a few things to boot.

SHH… IT’S STORYTIME

7. Welcome to Night Vale
I adore this popular storytelling podcast, and I find its offbeat tales of conspiracies and small-town strange occurrences can help me wind down after a crazy day. (Listen again the next morning during your caffeinated commute, and you’ll discover all sorts of details you missed.)

8. New Yorker Fiction
This podcast delivers fictional tales from all sorts of esteemed writers: T.C. Boyle, Patricia Highsmith, Vladimir Nobokov. And sure, you can listen anytime, but I find they can serve as excellent bedtime stories. 

9. The Great Detectives of Old Time Radio
Don’t get me wrong: I love the old stuff. But Americans had much longer attention spans back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and I find vintage radio programs often send me to slumberland. Adam Green updates his podcast daily with cool detective tales (Philip Marlowe and Dragnet among them).

TWILIGHT TUNES

10. Deep Energy 2.0: Music for Sleep, Meditation, Relaxation, Massage and Yoga
The title says it all: If voices keep you awake, look for a podcast that omits them, like this one. Each hour-long mix includes ambient sounds to induce sleep (or accompany your best downward-facing dog). The only episode I’d suggest you avoid is the latest one with spooky Halloween-y music, which might induce a haunted nightmare.

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15 Podcasts That Will Make You Feel Smarter
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It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the podcast options out there, but narrowing down your choices to the titles that will teach you something while you listen is a good place to start. If you're interested in learning more about philosophy, science, linguistics, or history, here are podcasts to add to your queue.

1. THE HABITAT

The Habitat is the closest you can get to listening to a podcast recorded on Mars. At the start of the series, five strangers enter a dome in a remote part of Hawaii meant to simulate a future Mars habitat. Every part of their lives over the next year, from the food they eat to the spacesuits they wear when they step outside, is designed to mimic the conditions astronauts will face if they ever reach the red planet. The experiment was a way for NASA to test plans for a manned mission to Mars without leaving Earth. The podcast, which is produced by Gimlet media and hosted by science writer Lynn Levy, ends up unfolding like a season of the Real World with a science fiction twist.

2. STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW

Can’t pick a topic to educate yourself on? Stuff You Should Know from How Stuff Works is the podcast for you. In past episodes, hosts Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark (both writers at How Stuff Works) have discussed narwhals, Frida Kahlo, LSD, Pompeii, hoarding, and Ponzi schemes. And with three episodes released a week, you won’t go long without learning about a new subject.

3. THE ALLUSIONIST

Language nerds will find a kindred spirit in Helen Zaltzman. In each episode of her Radiotopia podcast The Allusionist, the former student of Latin, French, and Old English guides listeners through the exciting world of linguistics. Past topics include swearing, small talk, and the differences between British and American English.

4. PHILOSOPHIZE THIS!

Listening to all of Philosophize This! is cheaper than taking a philosophy class—and likely more entertaining. In each episode, host Stephen West covers different thinkers and ideas from philosophy history in an approachable and informative way. The show proceeds in chronological order, starting with the pre-Socratic era and leading up most recently to Jacques Derrida.

5. MORE PERFECT

In 2016, Radiolab, one of the most popular and well-established educational podcasts out there, launched a show called More Perfect. Led by Radiolab host Jad Abumrad, each episode visits a different Supreme Court case or event that helped shape the highest court in the land. Because of that, the podcast ends up being about a lot more than just the Supreme Court, exploring topics like police brutality, gender equality, and free speech online.

6. SLOW BURN

The Watergate scandal was such a important chapter in American history that it has its own suffix—but when asked to summarize the events, many people may draw a blank. Slow Burn, a podcast from Slate, gives listeners a refresher. In eight episodes, host Leon Neyfakh tells the story of the Nixon’s demise as it unfolded, all while asking whether or not citizens would be able to recognize a Watergate-sized scandal if it happened today.

7. LETTERS FROM WAR

Instead of using a broad scope to examine World War II, the Washington Post podcast Letters From War focuses on hundreds of letters exchanged by four brothers fighting in the Pacific during the period. Living U.S. military veterans tell the sibling's story while reflecting on their own experiences with war.

8. LEVAR BURTON READS

Just because you’re a grown-up doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the soothing sound of LeVar Burton’s voice reading to you. The former host of Reading Rainbow now hosts LeVar Burton Reads, a podcast from Stitcher aimed at adults. In each episode, he picks a different piece of short fiction to narrate: Just settle into a comfortable spot and listen to him tell stories by authors like Haruki Murakami, Octavia Butler, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

9. BRAINS ON!

Brains On! is an educational podcast for young audiences, but adults have something to gain from listening as well. Every week, host Molly Bloom is joined by a new kid co-host who helps her explore a different topic. Tune in for answers to questions like "What makes paint stick?" and "How do animals breathe underwater?"

10. SCIENCE VS

There’s a lot of misinformation out there—if you’re determined to sort out fact from fiction, it can be hard to know where to start. The team of “friendly fact checkers” at the Science Vs podcast from Gimlet is here to help. GMOs, meditation, birth control, Bigfoot—these are just a few of the topics that are touched upon in the weekly show. The goal of each episode is to replace any preconceived notions you have with hard science.

11. FLASH FORWARD

No one knows for sure what the future holds, but Flash Forward lays out the more interesting possibilities. Some of the potential futures that host and producer Rose Eveleth explores are more probable than others (a future where no one knows which news sources to trust isn’t hard to imagine; one where space pirates drag a second moon into orbit perhaps is), but each one is built on real science.

12. HIDDEN BRAIN

What motivates the everyday choices we make? That’s the question Shankar Vedantam tries to answer on the NPR podcast Hidden Brain. The show looks at how various unconscious patterns shape our lives, like what we wear and who we choose to spend time with.

13. PART-TIME GENIUS

The fact that it’s hosted by Mental Floss founders Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur isn’t the only reason we love Part-Time Genius. The podcast from How Stuff Works wades into topics you didn’t know you were curious about, like the origins of Nickelodeon and the hidden secrets at the Vatican. Each episode will leave you feeling educated and entertained at the same time.

14. ASTRONOMY CAST

It’s a big universe out there—if you want to learn as much about it as possible, start with Astronomy Cast. Fraser Cain, publisher of the popular site Universe Today, and Dr. Pamela L. Gay, director of the virtual research facility CosmoQuest, host the podcast. They cover a wide range of topics, from the animals we’ve sent to orbit to the color of the universe.

15. SCIENCE OF HAPPINESS

The Science of Happiness podcast from PRI is here to improve your life, one 20-minute episode at a time. Science has proven that adopting certain practices, like mindfulness and gratitude, can make us happier—as does letting go of less unhealthy patterns like grudges and stressful thinking. With award-winning professor Dacher Keltner as your host, you can learn how to incorporate these science-backed strategies for happiness into your own life.

S-Town Podcast Is Being Turned Into a Movie

S-Town, a seven-part podcast from Serial and This American Life, has all the trappings of a binge-worthy story. It all started when a man from the tiny town of Woodstock, Alabama asked a reporter to investigate a local man from a wealthy family who allegedly boasted he had gotten away with murder.

As for what happens next, “someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man's life,” reads the 2017 podcast’s synopsis, without giving too much away.

Now, that riveting story is being turned into a movie with This American Life’s participation, IndieWire reports. Participant Media acquired the rights to the S-Town podcast, and negotiations are underway to get playwright Samuel Hunter and director Tom McCarthy on board. McCarthy is perhaps best known for directing and co-writing 2015's Oscar-winning Spotlight; he also co-wrote Up and was an executive producer and director for the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

S-Town was downloaded over 10 million times over a period of four days after its release, and it received a Peabody Award for the radio/podcast category, according to IndieWire. Just last month, HBO and Sky announced they would be releasing a documentary series about Adnan Syed, the focus of the first season of the Serial podcast, which is developed by This American Life.

In case you missed S-Town when it premiered, you can go back and listen to it here.

[h/t IndieWire]

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