AfterPod — Sleep Listening

Lie back and relax. Allow me to do the talking… just listen. It’s OK if you fall asleep, I’ll keep speaking. You’ll hear me.

People can enjoy listening to podcasts WHEN and WHERE they like. Freedom to choose is at the root of podcast popularity. Even so, we live lives of circadian rhythms and fall into regular routines shared by others.

When we group behavior by time and place, we gain a different perspective:

A study cited in Westwood One’s State of Podcasting provides some insight about when and where audio consumers listen to podcasts. In this series of articles, we examine common behaviors. This article is about only ONE.


Almost a third, 29% of podcast listening happens from 7pm to 6am (1900–0600) and most of that before midnight. We anticipate several listening behaviors occupying this segment, one of which is the “sleep listener”.

This may sound strange…


A small segment of the total podcasting audience has fallen into a routine of starting to listen to a podcast as retiring for the night… and letting it run.

Some disciplined listeners use a sleep timer to stop the podcast after a period of time… many do not, allowing the podcast episode to play (and, perhaps, an entire playlist).

Some listen using the phone’s little speaker, some a nice Bluetooth speaker/alarm, and some… sleep headphones. (Partners.)

We could examine this from numerous directions in great detail, citations and all, but will only take a quick pass at this time:


The convenience of podcasts allows us to do other things at the same time. This also establishes an inherent distraction.

During the early evening hours, from 7pm-10pm or so (1900–2200), the podcast listener is most likely active… preparing a meal, doing household chores, and so on. Listening, but doing other things, too.


At some point in the evening, we decide to go to bed, maybe around 10pm (2200–2400)… which normally triggers a nightly bathroom routine of brushing teeth and such. We can start a podcast and, when finished with personal care, take it to bed with us.

At times, we treat our smart phones as a “business device” and other times as a “personal device”. Some may turn the phone off or park it in another room, others have it by their sides at all times.

Including in bed.

Many households have a lamp on a stand next to the bed. Now, it also has a phone charging plug and the phone rests not far from our ears.

So, the listening continues… it sometimes takes a while to drift off.

Like many in the past who used to watch the old Johnny Carson show on TV when going to bed, some people regularly listen to the radio… or an audiobook… or a podcast.


When we are FIRST falling asleep… in that space between consciousness and darkness… do we hear spoken word? Understand it?


I’m actually convinced this is one of the BEST (albeit short) times for audible information to penetrate the mind.


When we are lightly sleeping, do we hear spoken word? Understand it?

I think so… somewhere in the front-fading-to-back of our minds.


If we’re really, really asleep… REM sleep or whatever… do we hear spoken word? Understand it?

Maybe not… yet, if this is about the subconscious mind, DOES it truly ever stop processing external inputs? I don’t know.


While some have upside-down work schedules accounting for their atypical behavior, a slice of the population suffers from some kind of sleep disorder. Overnight radio talk show hosts could probably tell us stories…

Podcasts have become the new audio remedy for the sleep-impaired.

If you are new to this series examining web media and podcast consumption, you may want to read the first article, which establishes much of the foundation for these views, or the second one that begins to forth our intent to purposefully (and positively) modify podcast consumption behavior.

Once again, I truly appreciate the time you spend reading and thinking about my writing. If it leads to some positive action on your end, then it will have done its job.


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