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The Most Calming TV Shows To Watch When You Need To Relax

The pandemic affected some of our most cherished go-to binge shows and with such an uncertain grip taking hold of the world, many people have since turned to nostalgic programmes from years gone by. 

Netflix reported a surge of 16 million new sign-ups during the first lockdown in the UK, and Disney+, which launched the day after lockdown was announced, is estimated to have attracted 1.6 million subscribers in its first month. 

MattressNextDay analysed some of the best-loved programmes from the 80s, 90s and 00s, using a tempo tracker to see which programmes would be most relaxing to watch. We took regular readings of clips from the shows and worked out the median beats per minute (BPM) between the lowest and highest results. 

So if you’re looking for your latest TV binge, whether it be something to help reduce anxiety, something to make you laugh, or something to help you simply switch off from the daily stresses you’re facing, we have everything you need to pick your ideal programme. 

From Teen Comedy To Sci-Fi Thriller - The Top Programmes To Relax You

Sometimes looking for programmes to release tension and relax you after a stressful day can be a difficult choice. A high-speed thriller is probably not going to decrease your heart rate. In fact, it’s likely to have you on the edge of your seat. 

We took the minimum and maximum BPM from each of the programmes on our list and worked out the median BPM. The lower the number the more likely it is to relax you as it doesn’t have a fast pace that could increase your heart rate.

Place.ProgrammeWhere to Watch itMedian BPM
1stBlossomYou Tube105
2ndThe CrownNetflix107.5
3rdBeverly Hills 901210Youtube108
4thCurb Your EnthusiasmNow TV, Sky Go108.5
5thThe Golden GirlsAmazon and Google Play to Buy109
6thTrue BloodNow TV, Sky Go109.5
7thVeronica MarsAmazon, Starz Play110
8thDynastyNo streaming option111
9thAnne With An ENetflix111.5
10thDarkNetflix112

*Where more than one programme had the same median BPM, we only placed the one with the highest UK search volume in the list as it was deemed more popular. 

Blossom takes the number one spot. This programme gave Mayim Bialik (better known now for her role as Amy in the Big Bang Theory) and Joey Lawrence (an actor and R&B singer) their big breaks in television - both are still successfully working in the TV industry. 
The Crown however, came second. The latest series charts the rise and fall of Charles and Diana, as well as Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister. 73 million households have watched the drama about the British monarchy since it began in 2016.

A Year In Review - The Shows That Have Kept Us Calm In 2020

PlaceProgrammeMedian BPM
1stThe Crown107.5
2ndAnne With An E111.5
3rdDark112
4thThe Haunting of Bly Manor112.5
5thThe Queen’s Gambit113.5
6thTiger King115
7thUnorthodox115.5
8thSchitt’s Creek116
9thOzark119
10thSelena119.5

When it comes to current shows popular on Netflix in the past year, The Crown does makes it to No.1. Lauren Archer, a marketing professional from Gateshead is a huge fan of the programme. She says, “I adore it and have just started watching the whole thing again during lockdown 3.0. It's total escapism. There's something about the fact it's all based on a true story and that you can ‘Google as you go’ that makes it so addictive. It's a tonic for the madness of our current situation and a show I'll no doubt watch again and again over time."

From Sun, Sea And Sex To Medical Dramas And Spy Thrillers - These Are The WORST TV Shows To Watch If You Want To Relax

PlaceProgrammeWhere to Watch itMedian BPM
1stSelling SunsetNetflix138
2ndSex and the CityNow TV, Sky Go137.5
3rdThe Dukes Of HazzardAmazon Video to buy136.5
4thCobra KaiNetflix136
5thLostPrime Video135.5
6thCharmedAmazon Video to buy134
7th30 RockNow TV, Sky Go133
8thERAll 4132.5
9thMad MenPrime Video132
10thDiff’rent StrokesAmazon Video to buy131.5

If you’re looking to relax and wind down at the end of a day, then these are not the shows for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking to escape into drama and excitement, then these shows could give you just what you need. 

In our research, the shows with the highest median BPM, and therefore less calming to watch, were also those with dramatic and sometimes complicated storylines. The stars of Selling Sunset, a reality TV show about selling prime real estate in Los Angeles, are often described as cutthroat, with arguments a regular feature. No wonder then that this took the number one spot for the worst programmes to help you relax. 

Surprisingly, Mad Men also makes the list. Not known for its action or upbeat dialogue, you might not expect it to score so highly in BPM, but it’s also a show with some dark and seething storylines. Depicting an age where sexism, racism and many other ‘ism’s’ were rife, the show can sometimes be a difficult watch. 

Nostalgic Programming Calms The Nervous System More Than New Shows

Some of Netflix’s most popular programmes in 2020 have not garnered the same interest as those nostalgic programmes which we’ve collectively yearned for this past year. The Umbrella Academy averages 9,900 searches per month and Star Trek’s newest incarnation, Discovery, has 74,000 searches on average per month. 

Compare that to the likes of Dynasty and Gladiators at 90,500 or Only Fools and Horses and Gossip Girl at 110,000 and you can see that the pull for familiar shows has been strong. This is because of the calming effect that watching something familiar to you can have on the nervous system. 

Lauren Rosenberg, a therapist and mental health expert explains: “Feel-good emotions such as happiness and joy which manifest when we re-live nostalgia and fond memories from the past are known to stimulate the release of endorphins, which can reduce heartbeats per minute and in turn instil feelings of calm and contentment throughout the nervous system.

The emotional brain's response to the re-lived enjoyment and positive reaction toward our favourite TV repeats can evoke both conscious or subconscious memories of a past era of happiness and security. Laughter when viewing old comedy or entertainment TV stimulates physiological changes including taking deeper breaths, which can increase the body's vascular circulation and heartbeat, boosting both physical and emotional wellbeing with a surge in positive energy.

The calming benefits of nostalgic TV can also enable us to subconsciously revisit unresolved fears, phobias or problems associated with the portrayed era and stimulate the mind to reprocess and clear out irrelevant, past emotions or negative energy.”

From The Golden Girls To Thirtysomething - The 80s Shows To Help Create Calm

PlaceProgrammeWhere to Watch itMedian BPM
1stThe Golden GirlsAmazon and Google Play to Buy, Streaming on Hulu109
2ndDynastyGoogle Play111
3rd MoonlightingYoutube111.5
4thSt ElsewhereAll 4114.5
5ththirtysomethingAmazon to Buy115.5

Two out of the top three most searched for 80s TV programmes were also ones with the lowest median BPM. The Golden Girls was a heartwarming hit about the friendship between four women in their later years. The irony that most of the action unfolds in the living room, kitchen and occasionally a bedroom set is not lost on the pandemic experience. 

The characters were played by seasoned pros who could nail comedic timing while giving real and honest performances and the central theme of female friendship and its strength to get you through anything, is one that has carried many a show over the years, including Friends, Sex and The City and Cagney and Lacey - all of which appear on our full list. 

From Blossom To Doogie Howser M.D - 90s TV To Help You Kick Back

PlaceProgrammeWhere to Watch itMedian BPM
1stBlossomYoutube105
2ndStar Trek Deep Space NineNetflix107.5
3rdBeverly Hills 90210Youtube108
4thSweet Valley HighYoutube112
5thDoogie Howser M.DYoutube114

Star Trek has seen many spin-offs over the years, but the most relaxing is 90s classic, Deep Space Nine, making it to 2nd place on our list of relaxing 90s TV shows. The original Beverly Hills: 90210 also made it to the top 5. Thirty years after its debut, it has seen a noughties remake and most recently, a reboot starring the original cast.

The reason this, and other shows are popular, whatever the tempo, could be because we’ve seen it before. Watching something where you know what the outcome is, is a welcome relief in times of uncertainty. 

Lauren Rosenberg agrees. “The familiarity of nostalgic programming may trigger past feelings of comfort and escapism as we re-live the memories and sensations of happy past times, allowing us to find release or relief from stressful situations in our day to day life such as the emotions of dealing with lockdown. This can induce a calming effect by helping to rebalance our emotions by lowering stress and anxiety levels, as well as creating what most of us know as a relaxing, warm, fuzzy contentment.”

Noughties Never Looked So Good - The TV Shows Soothing Our Souls

PlaceProgrammeWhere to Watch itMedian BPM 
1stCurb Your EnthusiasmNow TV, Sky Go108.5
2ndTrue BloodNow TV, Sky Go110
3rdVeronica MarsAmazon Starz Play110
4thEntourageNow tv, Sky Go111
5thSpacedNetflix, Prime Video, All 4113.5

The noughties is a mixed bag, with shows like True Blood, Entourage and Spaced appearing in the top five of lowest BPMs. 

Curb Your Enthusiasm takes the top spot for the noughties, and with a respectable search volume of 49,500 in the UK on average per month, what’s most surprising is that the search volume has increased 173% from the previous year. 

The show first aired in 2000 and is still going strong. The world has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, but Curb Your Enthusiasm stays pretty much the same, which is perhaps where its charm lies.

Noughties Cult Hit ‘Spaced’ Has Increased 174% In UK Online Searches In 2020

The comedy that catapulted the careers of Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost has seen the biggest increase of average monthly online searches over a year, with a 174% surge on the previous year. 

With only two series made, airing between 1999 and 2001, the sitcom managed to encapsulate the spirit of Gen X at that time. For many, this peek back into a more carefree existence has been one of comfort and escapism. 

Danielle Mowbray, 40, from Newcastle explains, “at the start of the first lockdown my husband and I re-watched Spaced. It was like being back at university. I recognised so many characters, quotes and scenes that were part of our university days, where we both met and studied film.” She goes on to say, “If you’ve never had an epic, pretend, slow motion gunfight in the street after a night out, well, you’re missing a treat.”

Friends Is The Most Globally Searched For TV Programme In the Past Year.

When it comes to wide appeal, Friends knocks everything else out of the park with a massive average monthly search volume of 6,120,000. Running for 10 years between 1994-2004, the American sitcom has become one of the most popular TV series in history. Viewers found the characters relatable and there were multiple celebrity cameos. 

There’s no doubt that the past year has been stressful for everyone in some way, but taking the time to find things that help you relax and give you comfort is not only helpful, it’s necessary. Escaping into other worlds through the TV is a great way to help wind down and rest.

For more ways to seek out comfort, check out our advice section. With useful tips for your health and wellbeing, finding your way to a better sleep has never been easier. 

*BPMs are estimations and used for demonstration purposes only. 

Methodology: MattressNextDay analysed some of the best-loved programmes from the 80s, 90s and 00s, to see which ones have gained in popularity over the last year. We looked at search volume figures globally, and in the UK and USA as well as using a tempo tracker on at least three clips from each programme. The tempo tracker records beats per minute (BPM), so we noted down the minimum and maximum BPM’s from the clips we reviewed and took the median BPM. From this, we can see which programmes might be the most relaxing to watch. 

Our list of programmes came from a number of sources, amalgamated, including www.ranker.com and www.imdb.com.

The programmes from Netflix that we chose to analyse for more recent years including 2020 were amalgamated from lists that appeared in Esquire, Radio Times and Wired. 

For top 5 or 10 lists, if there was more than one programme with the same BPM, we only included the one with the highest UK search volume as it was more popular. 

All streaming options were correct at the time of publication. 

Author: Lucy

Lucy is a copywriter, trend spotter, and our resident sleep expert! Lucie has been with the team since 2018 and her articles cover a sweeping array of subjects from general product care, the latest bedroom design trends, ways to promote healthier sleep and jargon-busting explanations to help you understand what goes into our products. Do you have questions for Lucy & the team? Call one of our sleep experts today!