MOST PEOPLE WHO are currently watching the reboot of beloved NBC sitcom Frasier, which debuted on Paramount+ last week, might be scrutinising the new show’s plotting and dialogue, trying to determine if the witty repartee between the characters is still there and perhaps pondering whether the show’s attempts to diversify its cast are clunky and strained or seamless and additive. Then there are people who will evaluate the reboot’s success by a different metric: whether or not it puts them to sleep each night.
As Claire McNear writes for The Ringer, “Falling asleep to Frasier is a habit shared by many—so many, in fact, that the pastime boasts its own subreddit, r/Frasier_Sleepers, with more than 4,200 members dedicated to snoozing through the NBC sitcom”. Among celebrities, Kate Moss likes to doze off to Kelsey Grammer and friends, as does filmmaker Kevin Smith, who hosted a Frasier podcast.
In 2017, Lili Loofbourow wrote a column titled, “Why Frasier Is the Best Show to Sleep To”, citing the series’ jazzy credits, sparkling dialogue, and confected drama. “Frasier and Niles spar in a limpid, well-off pool,” Loofbourow wrote. “Their neuroses are gentle and plush.”
On Reddit meanwhile, one user said: “Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and fumble around for the controller, so that I can tell Netflix to keep on playing”. Another added: “Just like the sound of a babbling brook surging through your condo”.
As someone who reliably falls asleep on the couch at 9pm each night watching TV, I judge shows more on their ability to keep me awake than as potential lullabies. If a show is engaging, I rarely fall asleep. I didn’t miss a second, for example, of The Bear, White Lotus, Succession or way back, Friday Night Lights, as I was so thoroughly engaged that sleep retreated from me like a nervous hyena after stumbling into a pride of lions on TikTok—another renowned sleep repellent, incidentally.
The one exception to this rule is Breaking Bad, which I found so compulsive I would often turn it on after returning home from a night out and watch at 1 in the morning, only to nod off, wake up, then rewind 10 minutes and keep going—one episode took nearly two hours, great times. When I watched BB at a decent hour there was more chance of Walter White retiring from the meth trade to live out his days in a Florida nursing home than there was that I would succumb to sleep.
So, what makes a show a good sedative? Among the sleep streaming community, recommendations fall into two categories McNear writes: network series with vast back catalogues (The Office, Friends, Seinfeld) or programs that feature a lot of ambient noise. Cooking shows and nature docos are perfect sleep agents, as are posh British accents.
Sleeping shows are, of course, distinguished from comfort shows, which are more for providing solace from emotional pain, respite from the stresses of work or the problems of the world, or escapism from daily drudgery. Sleeping shows, on the other hand, are solely for hastening your slide into unconsciousness. Here’s a few recommendations that might do the trick.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
‘Man, this is visually spectacular’ you’ll think as the opening scenes unfold. Later you’ll go, ‘This sure is visually spectacular, must have cost a bomb’. And that will likely be your last conscious thought, as no character or plot development will get in the way of your appreciation of how visually spectacular the show is, which will soon cease to be ruminative and instead become a pleasant refrain as your eyelids gently close.
The thing that makes ’80s and ’90s sitcoms like injections of melatonin is the canned laughter. Joke, laughter, quip back, laughter, dry counter, laughter. Before you know it, you’re dead to the world.
Host Ina Garten’s melodious voice never rises in volume and pitch. She rarely exclaims and the way she says “Jeffrey” in her plummy accent is aural Xanax.
Feather-light dialogue and meaningless plotlines are a must for a snooze fest, making New Girl the perfect sleep show. There’s also a decent back catalogue to keep things mildly interesting but not too engaging.
The Great British Bake Off
This show is like a snug weighted banket, enveloping you in safety and security as you watch the contestants’ creations take shape. Just watch out for the rather subversive 13th season, which could keep you up at night.
A reliable but creative procedural that will engage you for 20 minutes or so before the formulaic plotting kicks in.
Consisting of nothing but the spectacular nature photography of filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg with some trance-inducing music laid over it, Moving Art is like staring at a screensaver. You’ll fight to keep your eyes open as Schwartzberg takes you on a guided visual tour of some of the most beautiful places on Earth, from the Galapagos to Machu Picchu. Shame you might miss most of them; perhaps you’ll make it there in your dreams.
The huge back catalogue plus saturation syndication over the past two decades mean you may find yourself mouthing some of the lines before the characters say them: “The sea was angry that day my friends . . .” which means it doesn’t matter if you nod off.
Life in Color with David Attenborough
Attenborough’s earthy register and the natural beauty over which he narrates is a late-night TV tranquilliser.
Headspace: guide to sleep
Okay, so this is kind of cheating and undermines the premise of the article given that sleep is the show’s primary objective rather than a pleasant but unintended consequence of viewing. A seven-part series created for Netflix by the sleep-aid app Headspace, these animated shorts will lull your brain into low battery mode with facts about dreams, sleeping pills and meditation. And each episode, if you’re still awake, ends with a “guided wind-down”. Zzzz.