“Let’s travel now to moonlit valleys blanketed with heather,” Harry Styles says to me. The pop star’s voice—just shy of songful, velvet-dry—makes it seem as if we’re at a sleepaway camp for lonely grown-ups, where he is my fetching counselor, and now it’s time for lights out.
Styles’s iambic beckoning lies within a “sleep story” in the mindfulness app Calm. Like many of its competitors, Calm has become a catchall destination for emotional well-being. In recent years, I’ve cycled through several of these platforms. Using them turns the amorphous, slightly unaccountable act of meditation into something I can accomplish, and cross off the list. That’s the forte of the modern mobile app, after all: easing the completion of a discrete task. Send an email, watch a show, order Kleenex, run at a moderate pace for 30 minutes, doomscroll yourself to sleep. There’s an app for it, and you’ll know when you’re done.