Sleep With Me is the podcast that will send you to sleep instantly

Drew Ackerman is the sort of guy you do everything you can to avoid sitting next to at dinner parties.

And if you do get caught next to him, you're in for a very long night.

What's more, he knows it.

"Yeah you probably wouldn't wanna sit next to me. I tend to go off on tangents" says Ackerman

He's not wrong. His interview transcription has been robustly edited for concision. "I'm over-curious and over-verbose," he says. "It comes from nervousness - I think: I gotta fill this space, or my social anxiety will kick in."

Whereas most podcasters craft episodes to grip listeners, having them hanging off their every word, Ackerman is being billed as the world's most boring podcaster - yet he's getting three million global downloads weekly.

It took me three goes to get through even half an episode, because each time, it sent me to sleep.

He even bores himself - he has fallen asleep more than once editing his own episode.

"You don't have to please me by paying attention," he offers generously. "There's low expectation and low pressure - and that makes me accessible."


His podcast being described as boring is actually the biggest compliment you could pay him: "I'm always glad when people call it that; it's the best way to describe it."

It'll literally bore you to sleep.

It's not self-loathing; far from it - it's confidence in his own ability. Ackerman transformed his character flaws - "awkwardness, social anxiety, being tangential and boring" into what he now calls his "superpower."

That's because Ackerman is the host and creator of the deceptively excitingly titled podcast, Sleep With Me.

Its popularity could be because it's aimed at a spectrum of listeners - from "anyone wanting to be distracted at bedtime" to those who "dread going to bed" - all designed with the goal of encouraging sleep. Only a small percentage, however, are hardcore insomniacs. They're perhaps the only ones who make it all the way through: "They're not sleeping" Ackerman says. "They're listening because they can't sleep."

He knows this because it's something he himself has battled. The 45-year-old former librarian from California remembers tossing and turning at 4am in the bedroom he shared with his brother. "It was lonely" he says. "I'd stay up all night worrying about school." 

As an adult, he tried everything to combat insomnia - counting sheep, wine, medications, meditation sleep audios. 

What makes this podcast unique is Ackerman tells plodding bedtime stories, but for adults. His idea came about because existing sleep podcasts weren't hitting the mark for him: "I'd listen to ocean noises but then I'd start noticing where it pauses or loops and that'd wake me," he says.

He wants to challenge the badge of honour attached to functioning on little sleep. "It's not weak to prioritise sleep" he says. "There's an expectation to figure out insomnia alone - especially for men."

Ackerman's stories are told in finite detail and in a calming, mellifluous voice, less animated than the one he speaks to me in now.

An Australian special episode has recently been released called the Australia Sleepy Slang tour, taking listeners on a guided tour of the nation using colloquialisms unique to Australia.

Early listeners had already requested he omit snakes and spiders, the fear awakening their senses.

In it, he pretends to speak directly to Australia's landmarks such as asking the Sydney Opera House: "You're pre-cast concrete, right? My favourite cousin, Kevin, is in the cement business and those are the two things I get mixed up - concrete and cement." 

Gentle "giggling" is encouraged - a method of distraction from the more serious stresses and anxieties of listeners.

In other episodes he does TV recaps such as Doctor Who, focusing on "all the inane details - posters on walls, potholes in roads, pondering "who's responsible for those - it it the council?"

I could go on, but I want you to finish reading this column.

Such ego-free self deprecation is evident when he describes his podcasting work: "I don't expect you to listen. It goes against the social convention of active listening. You can check out at any time."

Furthermore, if people get into a sleep routine and therefore stop listening to his podcast altogether, he's also pleased: "That's the highest compliment - it worked, you moved on, you settled." 

Four in 10 Australians aren't getting enough sleep and a report this year put the financial cost of this widespread exhaustion at $26.2 billion a year, leading to a government sleep health awareness inquiry.

One recommendation could be a live performance of Sleep With Me in the Opera House. 

"You've hosted a podcast before," Ackerman says in his Australian episode. "One day I'd like to perform within you. That sounds strange to say but you're an icon."

You might avoid him at the dinner party. But you'd probably pay good money to sit in front of him at our nation's top performing arts centre.

Twitter: @garynunn1