I have fond childhood memories of slowly falling asleep to the Travel Channel and the Food Network while sharing hotel rooms with my parents. The shows that filled these channels had a vaguely educational element, but mostly served as an excuse to film beautiful landscapes or culinary dishes. Nothing bad could happen when the television showcased such cheerful subjects as a colorful crayon factory or underrated tacos. Perhaps Guy Fieri’s schtick can’t be considered “calming,” but watching the smiling faces of various American diner owners isn’t the worst thing to see before falling asleep.
Fast-forward to the present day, and Netflix on a laptop serves as the late-night ritual for many. As such, I wanted to recommend a few Netflix Original shows that may help capture that old Fieri-magic.
Netflix actually has its own category called “Atmospheres: Soothing Sleep,” but those selections fall more along the lines of white noise ― something you’d just put on the background.
The below recommendations are actually good shows, they lack much drama or storylines and ultimately may guide you to sleep. I can attest from personal experience that at least a few of these work like a dream.
“Salt Fat Acid Heat”
Rundown: Chef and James Beard Award-winning food writer Samin Nosrat travels the world to show various highlights in the culinary world. This docuseries serves as a follow-up to Nosrat’s book of the same name, which touts the value of balancing dishes with artful combinations of salt, fat, acid and heat. The beautiful landscapes coupled with Nosrat’s charming personality work as a soothing one-two (whatever is the opposite of a punch).
Rundown: Natural historian Sir David Attenborough narrates this docuseries about animal life on Earth. There are incredible shots of wildlife that probably would look amazing on a big screen, but you’ll still appreciate them on a laptop. Since counting sheep supposedly helps people fall asleep, perhaps counting fish, bears and bugs will work, too.
Rundown: This show focuses on a few different homes with ― amazing interiors ― in each episode. “Amazing” has a loose interpretation here, as the homes range from millionaire paradises to a Chicago Cubs-themed man-cave (as a Chicago Cubs fan, I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing). Perhaps this will help you forget about your own lackluster apartment as you drift off.
Rundown: Various world-class chefs earn the long profile treatment. Each episode focuses on a different chef and their culinary innovations. If you watch the pastry-themed season, you might get lucky and have dreams of sugarplums ― or, at least, the Milk Bar birthday cake.
Rundown: Five guys with expertise in various fields travel the Southern states to makeover lives. The team features infectious personalities that carry the show, along with the simple joy of watching someone’s life transform for the better. Definitely a show for those who want to cry before bed.
Rundown: A group of strangers live in a home, unencumbered by the normal conventions of reality television. These people just kind of exist together, allowing you to watch without the expectation of drama (which might keep you awake at night.) Action happens only periodically, so you may find yourself nodding off regardless of whether you want.
“The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes”
Rundown: An architect and an actress tour homes with innovative designs. Strange angles, uncommon building materials and breathtaking views abound. “Dream houses” has “dream” in the name, so this must be helpful on some level.
“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”
Rundown: Author Marie Kondo adapts her tidying-themed books into a reality show centered around cleaning. In each episode, Kondo helps people pare down their possessions and then gives them a model for organizing what’s left. Watching things go to their right place obviously has a calming effect.
Rundown: Journalist David Farrier visits tragedy-themed vacation spots around the globe. It mixes the camera cliches of any travel show (shots of beautiful locations and interesting locals) with stories rooted in evil. This recommendation comes close to trolling, but I figured some people might want nightmares.
“The Toys That Made Us”
Rundown: This docuseries reminisces about popular toys from the past. Steeped in nostalgia, educational elements combine with the opportunity to simply remember some toys. This is perfect, because having dreams is just playing with toys of the mind.