Sheryl MacLeod loves sharing stories.
As a teacher in Taiwan, former students would ask her what stories she had been reading and wondering if they could sit in to listen to her read.
“I guess at the beginning, I didn’t realize how much they enjoyed the stories and it made me happy to hear that, so it’s something that I’ve just continued to do."
After returning to Canada, she turned her reading into a podcast with her husband Clark, but while most podcasts want to engage their listeners, this one wants them to fall asleep.
Called Sleep Tight Stories, it releases twice a week and features Sheryl reading a bedtime story, often something familiar to everyone like old fairy tales.
During the past year its audience has surged, consistently ranking in the top kids and family category on Spotify in countries like Indonesia, Taiwan and the United States and in early November, Spotify Australia partnered with the pair for a promotion.
Despite the growth, the Stratford couple didn’t start the project to make a successful business, said Clark.
“We just thought it’d be a great way for my wife and I to collaborate on something and give something away for free, something nice.”
The project has been ongoing for two years, though almost all their growth has happened since January.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started in March, it gave them an opportunity to devote more time to their effort and now they have two other podcasts under the growing umbrella of Sleep Tight Media.
Clark, who has edited hundreds of hours as producer for Sleep Tight Stories, thinks his wife is the main reason for its success.
“People ask why is this podcast more successful than others and there are a number of reasons, but I think the voice has a lot to do with that.” Sheryl thinks that has to do with her abilities as a storyteller.
“My love of stories comes through when I tell them the story and it makes them enjoy the story more.”
Sheryl MacLeod's favourite authors to read:
Sleep Tight Media
Their two other podcasts, Sleep Tight Relax and Sleep Tight Science, are newer, but also growing in popularity, and at least one might owe its popularity to COVID-19.
Sleep Tight Relax, hosted by Clark, focuses on research-based relaxation techniques and it saw a noticeable spike when the pandemic struck earlier this year.
Then, he took a break in July, he said.
“And all of a sudden emails started coming in. Things like, ‘No, please don’t stop because since I’ve started listening to your podcast I can now sleep'.”
For the MacLeods, the number of downloads or streams or top-10 lists are nice, but not the reasons to continue.
It has more to do with the feedback they receive, like the boy who wrote an email to thank them for the podcast because he was able to use it to help calm his sister when she fell and hit her head.
Visit sleeptightstories.org to find all the episodes.