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The Calm app offers soothing meditations, courses, and bedtime stories. Find out about its many pros and a few important cons.
Maybe you’re brand new to meditation, or you’ve tried many times to establish a consistent practice to no avail. Or, you’re a longtime meditator looking for some variety. Maybe your brain starts buzzing right at bedtime, and it takes you forever to fall asleep as you toss and turn.
Whatever your situation, you may be wondering if the Calm app, with its guided meditations and sleep stories, is right for you. As countless meditation apps saturate the market, it’s tough to know which one is best.
Could Calm be your ticket out of sleepless nights and into calmer days?
Launched in 2012, Calm was founded by entrepreneurs and friends Michael Acton Smith and Alex Tew. With its meditations, courses, and bedtime stories, the app aims to help you sleep more, stress less, and live better. Tamara Levitt, head of mindfulness, creates and voices all the meditations.
A few studies have examined Calm’s benefits. For example, in a 2019 study in 88 college students, Calm reduced stress and improved mindfulness and self-compassion skills.
In a survey study published in 2020, almost all (97%) of 1,537 parents whose children used Calm reported that sleep stories improved their kids’ sleep. Also, most parents noted that Calm’s other components helped their kids’ sleep.
Note that some of the researchers involved in the above studies work for Calm and have declared potential conflicts of interest.
Calm offers a wide array of tools, all of which are available with a paid subscription. You can access a free 7-day trial with limited access after putting in your payment information.
Other than English, Calm is available in Spanish, German, French, Korean, and Portuguese.
Here are some of Calm’s standout offerings:
- The Daily Calm is an original 10-minute meditation. A different one appears every day on the home screen.
- How to Meditate is a 30-day program for beginners.
- Meditations include calming anxiety, fostering focus, easing depression, and practicing gratitude.
- Scenes is a selection of soothing sounds and images — lakes, waterfalls, crickets, sunsets, and pouring rain.
- Masterclasses are courses on wide-ranging topics from world-renowned experts, including radical self-compassion by mindfulness teacher Tara Brach, creative living by author Elizabeth Gilbert, happiness by researcher Shawn Achor, and peak performance by Olympic Gold Medalist Jason Kidd.
- Calm Body includes morning and evening stretches and warm-up and cool-down exercises to help you move your body mindfully.
- Sleep Stories include more than 100 bedtime stories to help you fall asleep faster and are narrated by celebrities including Matthew McConaughey, Kelly Rowland, and LeVar Burton.
- Music is a mix of calming soundscapes and exclusive music from artists, such as Moby and Ellie Goulding, which help you focus, relax, or sleep.
Calm offers mindful tools for kids, too, including Sleep Stories like “TheVelveteen Rabbit,” soundscapes, and lullabies. Calm’s meditations for kids are available in these age categories:
- 3–4 years
- 5–6 years
- 7–10 years
- 11–13 years
- 14–17 years
To access all of its features, Calm offers an annual subscription for $69.99. Sometimes, you can score a 40% discount and pay $41.99 for a yearly membership. You can also purchase a lifetime subscription for $399.99.
The Calm app offers excellent benefits, but it also has several potentially frustrating drawbacks.
What’s great about the Calm app?
For many people who are new to meditation, sitting in silence may be intimidating and uncomfortable. You’re not sure what to do or where to start. Plus, your mind likely can’t stop racing.
The Calm app does a great job of educating you about mindfulness and providing accessible practices.
Its informative, user-friendly courses from mindfulness experts also can help you improve important areas of your life, including sleep and parenting.
What’s more, Calm has a beautiful, soothing aesthetic and interface with images of natural landscapes, such as mountains, oceans, and forests. It truly embodies its name and the practice of meditation.
Calm may appeal to individuals who want structure with their practice and want more flexibility with its guided and unguided meditations.
What are the downsides of the Calm app?
As with Headspace, one of Calm’s main downsides is that you have to enter your payment information when signing up. Some users report being charged the annual membership after canceling within the trial period.
In addition to the cancellation issues, users report that customer service can be unresponsive, and the app automatically renews your subscription without warning.
Calm’s other downsides essentially boil down to personal preference. For example, some people may not like the instructor’s voice or prefer different voices for the meditations.
Instead of finding the interface calming, you may find it boring, preferring Headspace’s brighter, more cheerful aesthetic with its illustrations and animations.
Also, the daily meditations are about 10 minutes long, so if you’re pressed for time or just beginning to meditate, you may be tempted to skip it. Still, some shorter meditations are available in different areas of the app.
Similarly, like any new tool, Calm requires commitment. You have to use it regularly to reap the rewards and get your money’s worth. Depending on the season of life you’re in, that may be more (or less) difficult.
Calm can be particularly useful for people with sleeping issues due to its extensive library of bedtime stories, soothing music and soundscapes, and gentle evening exercises.
The app can also be a great tool if you’re yearning for quality alone time that doesn’t take much time.
If you find yourself excessively doomscrolling, replacing your social or news apps with Calm can be truly restorative. You can still check your phone from bed, but at least you’re caring for your mind (and body) with calming meditations and bedtime stories.
Because Calm offers guided and unguided meditations, it’s equally useful for beginners and longtime meditators. Because new content is added regularly, you have the opportunity to deepen your practice — and let’s be honest, avoid getting bored.
To help you decide whether Calm is right for you, consider your goals and intentions around using it. For example, begin by asking yourself these questions:
- Why am I using Calm?
- What do I hope Calm will help me with?
- Do I think I’ll use it daily?
- What features most resonate with me?
Whatever your relationship with meditation (or lack thereof), Calm can help you create a daily mindfulness practice and care for yourself overall.
The app’s soothing vibes and ambient sounds provide a genuine respite from today’s cacophony of bells, whistles, and depressing headlines.
Calm, however, comes with some drawbacks, including poor customer service, without-warning auto-renewals, and difficulty canceling. Also, the app’s interface might not resonate with you.