The Rise and Rise of Sleep Apps With Built-In Bedtime Stories

Drift off smoothly with the help of your phone.

(Savanevich Viktar /

When we were children, we used to ask our parents to read us a story at bedtime. A warm blanket, the loving voice of our caregivers, and a dreamy tale were all we needed to fall into a deep and pleasant sleep. 

Now, with the help of technology, this old-fashioned but proven method of falling asleep through stories has taken a new leap. It has become the secret behind the current success of audio stories and sleep aid apps aimed to help adults sleep like a baby and even tackle insomnia

The demand for audio stories alone has seen major growth in recent times. The market size of the audiobook publishing industry, valued today at 1.1 billion dollars in the US,  grew by 10.6 percent per year on average between 2016 and 2021, Ibis World, a global research consulting company details.

But what spurred this remarkable trend? First of all, one in three adults doesn’t get enough sleep at night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — the national public health agency of the United States — reveals. What is even more alarming is that according to research, more than 30 percent of adults struggle with chronic insomnia. This common sleep disorder has only become more prevalent during the COVID-19 global pandemic, with a study showing increases in internet searches for the word “insomnia”.

In addition, as more people gain access to the internet and to digital devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets, the demand for digital resources that promote quality sleep, like apps, podcasts, and audiobooks, is rising. 

And most importantly, these resources really work. Bedtime stories, which date back to prehistoric times, are particularly effective at encouraging deep sleep. According to research conducted by the Instituto D’Or de Pesquisa e Ensino (IDOR) and the Federal University of ABC in Brazil, storytelling increases oxytocin levels. Also called the “love hormone”, this hormone helps to reduce cortisol, a hormone released during stress.

There’s also something special about how these stories are written. They are crafted to inspire the listener's imagination, yet relaxing enough to make her drift off before she can make it to the end!

“There’s a paradox to sleep, in that it comes when you’re not trying,” Dr Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist in San Francisco specializing in insomnia, told The Guardian. “When you try to sleep, your mind monitors your efforts, which then keeps you awake. So, doing something calming before bed — like listening to a sleep story — that’s designed to help you let go, will prepare you for sleep.”

The benefits of good sleep are invaluable considering that rest plays an integral role in our health and wellbeing. A good night’s rest boosts the immune system, strengthens the heart, promotes a better mood, increases productivity, and even improves memory,, a nonprofit healthcare organization, details.

Story apps and audiobooks aren’t the only apps that have proved to be valuable tools helping people rest. Other apps offer relaxing sounds, such as white noise, music, and nature sounds while there are apps that provide sleepers with guided meditations and mindfulness practice. An additional type of app is the sleep tracking app. This collects data as people sleep in order to provide insights into sleep patterns. And some can even wake sleepers up at the right time in their sleep cycle for improved rest.

Stories, music and meditation make people experience sensations and thoughts that transport them, momentarily to other worlds and places that allow them to relax. So if you are suffering from insomnia or you are simply looking for new ways to help you nod off, start downloading sleep apps and audiobooks, and soon enough you will find yourself drifting in dreamland in a way you might never have experienced before. 

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