a phone with a meditation app that is emitting calming sounds and vibes into a dark space

My Bedtime Friend: The Calm App

As someone who lives with anxiety alongside insomnia and other chronic illnesses, I have looked far and wide for the best "pocket version" of meditation support I can find.

Personally, I operate best when I have something I can listen along to, rather than just something I can read or think about. For me, this boiled down to finding an app that could guide me through anxiety, stress, trying to calm down, and center myself.

In addition, when it comes to struggling with insomnia, one of my biggest challenges has been quieting my mind at night once I'm already in bed. Having a readily available app on my phone means I have access to it wherever I am trying to sleep, and I don't ever have to get out of bed or off the couch to find it.

Introducing the Calm app

Calm is a meditation, sleep, and relaxation app, available in the App Store and the Google Play Store. Calm's mission is to make the world happier and healthier. The app was developed in 2012, but I first found it in late 2013.1

I was immediately attracted to the calming exercises and breathing techniques available in varying time increments – from as short as 3 minutes to as long as 30 minutes. It felt like no matter what I needed and how long I needed it for, there was an option readily available for me to try.

Soothing voices

The app was most beneficial for me in the evenings, when I struggled to fall asleep or stay asleep during the night. I instantly felt like the voices used to narrate meditations were calm and soothing and I began to feel like, in a way, they were my distant friends during the darkness of night.

Today, the easy to navigate app features a variety of recorded meditations, sleep stories, and meditations, even utilizing celebrities like Harry Styles, Matthew McConaughey, Shawn Mendes, and Camila Cabello.

Features I like about the Calm App

Some app designs I really appreciate include:

  • The ability to track how many days in a row I use the app, how many minutes I've meditated for, and the number of individual sessions I've listened to.
  • You can set your phone or tablet to remind you to meditate, or you can open the app whenever your heart feels the need for some calm.
  • You can favorite soundtracks, so they're more easily found, and you can even download some sessions, so they're available to listen to if you're without wifi.
  • The meditation section is organized into different categories, like sleep, anxiety, stress, self-care, focus, emotions, relationships, kids, personal growth, and more. Within each category, you'll find topic-specific meditations available in both single session options or multiple session packs.

Something I particularly appreciate is the way the app is set up for both beginners and veterans of meditation, offering series like "7 Days of Calm" and "21 Days of Calm." There's also a "Daily Calm" 10-minute guided meditation updated each morning that focuses on a different wellness topic.

Parts of the Calm app I use the most

Beyond just meditations, I find 2 categories specifically helpful in my battles with insomnia: Sleep Stories and Music.

Sleep stories

In the sleep stories section, you'll find a wide range of stories that are constantly updated, and they're often narrated by some of the celebrities listed above. There are stories ranging from fairy tales to non-fiction tales, stories on travel, trains, and nature, and even some ASMR. You can find stories ranging from 30 to 90 minutes in length, and you can search by narrator or topic within the category.

Music

In the music section, there are seriously hundreds of soundtracks categorized by mood, genre, soundscapes, and artist – some for work or exercise, and many for resting or falling asleep.

What does the Calm app cost?

It's important to note that Calm is built on a "freemium" model, giving you access to daily meditations, breathing exercises, and select sleep stories, music tracks, and guided meditations without purchase. They offer a 7-day free trial to explore the full library currently offered by the app, and afterward, a subscription is $14.99/month or $69.99 a year.

If you've used Calm or another meditation/mindfulness app, have you found it supportive or beneficial for your insomnia?

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