As the low, gravelly voice of Drew Ackerman — or Dearest Scooter as he’s known to fans — greets listeners for the latest episode of the Sleep with Me podcast, one thing becomes clear very quickly. It isn’t like other podcasts. While other podcasts work hard to engage listeners, this one is designed to help you tune out, turn over, and get some sleep.
As a lifelong insomnia sufferer, Ackerman relates to his listeners’ struggle to fall asleep, and he attempts to send them off into dreamland with a bedtime story, or as he describes it, “a conversation with someone that goes on a little too long.” The soothing tone of his voice, combined with the meandering nature of each episode, helps many people fall asleep. Although he acknowledges that it’s not a magic bullet that will help everyone, the 2.3 million people who download the podcast every month seem to be happy with the results.
The Sleepless Nights That Started It All
When asked about the inspiration for Sleep with Me, Ackerman remembers the sleepless nights he spent as a kid. “I never forgot that feeling of anxiety and pain of not being able to sleep.” One of his friends turned him on to the comedy radio show “Dr. Demento,” and although the show didn’t put him to sleep, it did help him deal with the pain and anxiety of not being able to sleep.
Later in life, he revisited those memories as he started listening to podcasts, and he wondered if bedtime stories for adults could make them sleepy. As a child who shared a bedroom with his brother, Ackerman always loved telling silly bedtime stories. To silence his strong internal critic, he used the pseudonym Dearest Scooter to overcome his own self-critical nature and create a podcast that feels like a best friend beside you in “the deep, dark night.”
What to Expect When Tuning In
In the first five to six minutes of every Sleep with Me episode, you hear the theme song, show credits, and commercials. As Ackerman acknowledges, it’s essential to front-load the business end of things in a podcast designed to put you to sleep. The podcast progresses to a 12- to 14-minute introduction with Ackerman explaining that he wants to “create a safe place where you can set aside whatever’s keeping you awake — thinking, physical feelings, emotions. Whatever it is, let me distract you from it.”
Those words go to the heart of why Sleep with Me works for so many people. Ackerman notes, “Our brains are structured for narrative. For some people, sounds work well. For others, especially those prone to anxiety or overthinking, they’re already telling themselves a story in their heads. This gives them the opportunity to stop listening to that story in their brain and listen to this other, kind of boring story where there’s no personal stake for them.” That’s often all it takes to help listeners drift off to sleep.
“Our brains are structured for narrative. For some people, sounds work well. For others, especially those prone to anxiety or overthinking, they’re already telling themselves a story in their heads. This gives them the opportunity to stop listening to that story in their brain and listen to this other, kind of boring story where there’s no personal stake for them.”
Sleep with Me airs three episodes every week: Sundays are typically devoted to television recaps, Tuesdays feature made up stories, and Thursdays focus on reading written stories. On average, most podcasts last about an hour, although Sunday episodes often last a little longer because Ackerman feels many people may need a little extra distraction before starting the new work week.
Dearest Scooter is also always willing to share his own tips and tricks for enjoying restful sleep, such as spending the hour before bed meditating, journaling to express feelings and reading to wind down.
Does It Work?
When asked if the podcast’s boring, meandering stories are indeed the secret to its success, Ackerman chuckles good naturedly. “Being boring gives the listener permission to stop listening, and it takes the pressure off the listener. When you can’t sleep, you already have this internal pressure caused by worrying about getting up for school or work, chronic pain, or overthinking. I want to put them at ease, make them feel welcome and let them know that I’ll be there, even if they can’t fall asleep.” By focusing on the calm, meandering stories, you quiet your inner thoughts and inner critic.
Sound machines do the trick for some people, and Sleep with Me works great for others. The one thing Ackerman wants everyone to know is this: “You deserve a good night’s sleep, whether this podcast gives it to you or not.”