A 2024 Breakdown of the Calm App: Tested and Reviewed by 6 Editors

By Staff 28 Min Read

Are the many offerings of the Calm app indeed calm-inducing or overwhelming? As we discuss the mindfulness app’s features below, our testers also share their experience.

It’s common to feel overwhelmed and anxious. Some people may be unfamiliar with these feelings, while others might be looking for new ways to cope with or manage existing emotions or conditions.

Whatever your level of anxiety or unrest, it can be helpful to try your hand at meditation to keep your mental health in check.

Calm is a mindfulness app for both newcomers and meditation enthusiasts. It can help users find inner peace and navigate life’s stressors.

Employees at Healthline have even tested it out to see whether its relaxing meditations, sleep stories, and Calm Masterclasses are all they’re cracked up to be.

Read on to learn more about what Calm has to offer, how Calm works, and whether this app might be right for you.

Calm is an award-winning mindfulness app that’s available for iOS, Android, and desktop. Developed in 2012, it has more than 100 million downloads and more than 1.5 million 5-star reviews.

This app features hundreds of calming exercises, helpful breathing techniques, and sleep stories narrated by celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey and LeBron James.

Calm has many offerings, and the interface is relatively simple to navigate. Plus, the company is constantly adding new content.

Free version

Calm has the option for users to access either a 7-day free trial or the free version of the app without paying for premium content. Calm is built on a “freemium” model. Without purchase, you get access to:

  • daily meditations
  • breathing exercises
  • mood tracker
  • select sleep stories
  • music tracks
  • some guided meditations

The 7-day free trial unlocks:

  • more than 100 guided meditations
  • the entire sleep story library
  • exclusive musical tracks for sleep and relaxation and expert-led Masterclasses

Paid version

After the free trial ends, access to the full library costs $14.99 per month or $69.99 per year. If you pay for the year in full, it comes out to $5.83 per month, which is more affordable than other meditation apps on the market.

For teams of 5 or more, Calm offers a 15% discount. Calm family plans are also available for up to 6 users at $99.99 per year.

Students can get discounted access to this app through Amazon Prime Student. This includes a 3-month free trial of the premium service and then a discounted subscription fee of $8.99 per year.

Calm also offers a lifetime membership for $399.99.

Some of our testers especially love the premium features, with many noting that the soundscapes and Calm music tracks are particularly nice perks.

As soon as you open it, the app welcomes you to take a few deep breaths. Then, a pop-up menu asks you to select what brought you to the app so it can tailor recommendations to your goals.

You may receive questions such as “Are you looking to increase happiness or reduce stress? Do you want to get better sleep or reduce anxiety? All of the above?”

The meditation section is organized into categories such as:

  • stress
  • focus
  • anxiety
  • relationships

Calm offers both guided and unguided meditations, with sessions anywhere from 3–30 minutes long.

Calm doesn’t focus on religious or spiritual themes but instead on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This program teaches people to use their innate resources to help manage stress and pain.

Some examples of MBSR techniques are body scans, walking meditations, and breathing exercises.

Meditations

Calm is best known for its meditations. They’re divided into categories such as sleep, beginners, work, anxiety, personal growth, and more.

Each category contains topic-specific meditation packs or singles. For example, in the anxiety section, you’ll find sessions such as:

  • “Panic SOS”
  • “Calming Flight Anxiety”
  • “Letting Go into Sleep”

Beginners are encouraged to start with the “7 Days of Calm” series and then transition into “21 Days of Calm” to sharpen their skills.

Healthline editorial director Megan Severs says the app’s sleep meditations help calm her mind so she can fall asleep faster.

“I also tend to sleep longer when I’ve used the app to go to sleep,” she says. “Without the app, I often wake up in the middle of the night.”

Daily Calm

Daily Calm, which is updated every morning, offers an original 10-minute guided meditation that focuses on a different wellness topic each day.

Only users with premium memberships can access Daily Calm. However, users who have a free trial can access Daily Calm Highlights, a collection of the most popular Daily Calm sessions.

Although the Daily Calm session changes every day, premium users can go back and listen to previous sessions that they’ve listened to. They can access these in the “history” section of their profile.

Breathing exercises

Calm features six types of audio breathing exercises:

  • Relax
  • Balance
  • Restore
  • Focus
  • Energize
  • Unwind

The app lets you customize the volume and speed of each breathing exercise. You can also customize the length of your breathing exercise, within a 1- to 60-minute time frame.

Sleep stories

If you miss being tucked in at night with a sweet bedtime story, then you’re in luck. The sleep stories section on Calm is full of stories ranging from fairy tales to nonfiction. You can even get stories that activate your autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR).

The app is constantly being updated with new stories, some of which are narrated by celebrities such as:

  • Jerome Flynn
  • Scottie Pippen
  • Kelly Rowland

There are even a few nap sessions for those looking for a quick snooze.

Music

The Calm music section contains hundreds of curated soundtracks to put you at ease while working, walking, or falling asleep. The app has everything organized into six categories:

  • focus
  • lullabies
  • relax
  • sleep
  • soundscapes
  • nature melodies

Calm also plays background music as you scroll through the app or start a session. It’s customizable, so you can choose from a calming aquascape, rain on a window, a campfire, and more. You can also easily adjust the sound level.

Calm Masterclass

Calm Masterclasses are short courses taught by mindfulness experts and esteemed professionals such as:

  • Shawn Achor
  • Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Ryan Holiday
  • Chibs Okereke

Masterclasses focus on a wide array of topics, including breaking bad habits, conscious parenting, and embracing stillness.

Each Masterclass has a free introductory video, but only paying subscribers have access to entire courses.

This offering is great for anyone looking to dive deeper into the world of mindfulness. This educational component sets Calm apart from its competitors.

Calm Kids

Calm offers meditations, sleep stories, and music designed for children of all ages. With Calm Kids, children can learn to meditate with Thomas the Tank Engine, listen to soothing lullabies, or fall asleep to classic stories such as “Peter Pan” and “The Velveteen Rabbit.”

Calm has a children’s offering for kids as young as 3 years old. The company says the sessions equip children with the proper tools to handle whatever life throws their way. Additionally, one 2016 study suggests that mindfulness instruction can:

  • improve psychological functioning
  • reduce some negative effects of stress
  • reduce trauma-associated symptoms in some children

Severs says she uses the kids’ meditations when her 6-year-old is in a funk.

“I put it on in the car on our way to school,” Severs says. “Not only does he enjoy it, but it helps him reset his mood, setting him up for a better day at school.”

Calm Body

Mental and physical health are intrinsically linked, according to a 2018 research article. Calm Body can be beneficial for your overall well-being.

There are currently eight Calm Body sessions on the app. Each session is a 10-minute movement designed with mindfulness in mind. The sessions are:

  • “Morning Wake Up”
  • “Afternoon Reset”
  • “Mindful Warm Up”
  • “Mindful Cool Down”
  • “Evening Wind Down”
  • “Morning Stretch”
  • “Evening Stretch”
  • “Back Care”

Calm offers a ton of meditations and sleep stories narrated by a variety of people, including mental health and mindfulness advocates such as Tamara Levitt, Calm’s Head of Mindfulness, and Jay Shetty, a popular podcast host and New York Times bestselling author.

Calm also has mental fitness, Masterclass, and sleep stories instructed by celebrities such as:

  • LeBron James
  • Kehlani
  • Maya Rudolph
  • Rob Kazinsky

However, some of these meditations are available only for premium users.

Many Healthline editors have tried (and loved) Calm. Here’s a closer look at how Calm worked for them and what they have to say.

Healthline editor Melissa Lee started using the Calm app a few years ago after she’d long grappled with anxiety. She has found it to be a valuable tool for dealing with anxiety and stress.

“… Mindfulness was always recommended to me by my therapist,” she says. “I originally only used the free version [of Calm] and wasn’t super thrilled with the available content. However, with the paid option, there’s a wide variety of meditations to listen to. My favorites are the ones for anxiety, stress, and sleep.

“I think the Calm app is an excellent option for people looking for guidance on mindfulness or winding down when they’re feeling stressed or anxious,” she adds.

“Since there are so many meditations, stories, and podcasts, I think there’s probably something for everyone on the app. But it may be a bit intimidating if you’ve never used a mindfulness app since you may not know what you’re looking for.”

Alina Sharon, an editor at Healthline, has been using the Calm app for a few months and says her favorite feature is the sleep stories.

“I especially like the ones for kids,” she says. “I use [it] with my son all the time.”

However, she does find the app a little difficult to use since there’s so much content and it can sometimes feel disorganized.

Carrie Byrd, an associate editor at Healthline, says she enjoys using the Calm app to play music or soundscapes in the background while she works or relaxes. She also loves the breathing exercises but notes that sometimes the background sounds can be distracting.

“It would be nice to have the option of feeling a light vibration when it’s time to switch your breath as well,” she says.

Healthline senior editor Holly Ernst has noticed that the Calm app not only helps her but also positively affects her dogs.

“My two dachshunds are significantly calmer and more well behaved when I work due to the soothing background noise,” she says.

Calm is a science-based mindfulness app that can be used by beginners and experts alike. If you’re looking to find more peace in your daily life or simply looking to add new tools to your mental health toolkit, then Calm might be worth a try.

Calm is also a great platform if you’re new to meditation. Many of the app’s features aim to teach users about mindfulness and how to start accessible meditation practices, and to gain the skills and knowledge to deal with daily stress or anxiety.

The more regularly you use the app and its many features, the more you might notice positive mental health effects.

Calm’s sleep stories are a favorite for people who have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep.

The sleep stories function is especially useful for people with kids. In a 2020 survey that included about 1,500 parents whose children used Calm, nearly 97% of those parents felt that Calm’s sleep stories helped improve their kids’ sleeping patterns.

“I was originally very skeptical about the Calm app. I am not someone who has benefited from meditation techniques in the past,” says A.L. Heywood, an editor at Healthline, who often wakes up in the middle of the night and has trouble falling back asleep.

“Without fail, the Calm app has helped me in this situation. Meditations in the Sleep series help me to quiet my mind again and have saved me many restless nights.”

Statistics on time spent meditating can help you track your progress in the app.

Getting started with Calm is pretty straightforward.

For the free version:

  1. Download the app.
  2. Select your primary reason for joining from the list.
  3. Create an account with your email, Facebook, Apple, or Google account.
  4. Sign up for a free trial or click the “X” in the top left corner to bypass adding your credit card information.
  5. Set notification preferences by choosing “Allow notifications” or “Maybe later.”
  6. Click how you heard about Calm or bypass by choosing the “X” in the top left corner.
  7. Browse the free version of the app. You can upgrade at any time by clicking “Unlock Calm Premium.”

For the premium version:

  1. Download the app.
  2. Select your primary reason for joining from the list.
  3. Create an account with your email, Facebook, Apple, or Google account.
  4. Click “Try free & subscribe,” and then input your credit card information and give the app permission to continue. You’ll get 7 days free, and then you’ll be charged $69.99 annually unless you cancel.
  5. Set notification preferences by choosing “Allow notifications” or “Maybe later.”
  6. Click how you heard about Calm or bypass by choosing the “X” in the top left corner.
  7. Browse the app.

Calm can help soothe negative thoughts and emotions and can be used to help decrease stress, anxiety, chronic pain, and more.

A 2019 study involving 153 adults showed that mindfulness training done through a meditation app for two weeks reduced loneliness and increased social contact for its users compared with those in a control group.

In a 2020 study analyzing parents’ perceptions of children using Calm, researchers found that nearly all parents thought the app was helpful for their child’s sleep.

Another 2020 study found that while intermittent use of the app could improve a person’s well-being, it promoted feelings of failure if they did not use it daily.

This app can help with focus too. Several Healthline editors play the soundscapes in the background while they work and find that the sounds help them stay on task throughout the day.

Calm is not a replacement for mental health treatment for anyone who is experiencing symptoms of depression or moderate to severe anxiety. But it can be used together with psychotherapy and prescribed medication.

Does meditation work?

There are many types of meditation, and Calm’s primary focus is guided meditation. Generally, meditation is extremely beneficial — it has been found to:

  • reduce stress
  • lessen feelings of anxiety
  • promote emotional health
  • enhance self-awareness
  • lengthen attention span
  • help manage pain

It may even help people manage addictions or reduce age-related memory loss.

Additionally, a small older 2014 study involving 54 people who experienced insomnia found that those who meditated before bed stayed asleep longer and had improvements in their insomnia symptoms compared with those who didn’t meditate before going to sleep.

The authors of a 2021 review also concluded that meditation apps could help improve well-being and mental health.

Calm is one of the more affordable meditation apps on the market, and even the free version has a wide range of information and content. However, because there’s so much content available on the app, some find it overwhelming and not very helpful. Below, we break down calm and its competitors, such as Headspace.

free trial = free 7-day trial offered

The app has a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on the Apple App Store. Many people express satisfaction with the app’s functionality, noting that new content is constantly being released.

App users say the sleep stories are one of the most helpful features, especially for those who have difficulty falling asleep. Many reviewers say they fall asleep before the story ends, usually within 5–10 minutes.

Others say the mood check-in is a soothing way to express and release any overwhelming thoughts and feelings. It also helps them enjoy positive feelings and reflect on their mood.

On the other hand, some Calm app negative reviews mention that most features require a paid subscription and note that there are many alternatives available at a lower price than Calm.

Although Calm may help reduce insomnia or lessen feelings of anxiety or depression, it’s not a substitute for the advice of a mental health professional.

Consider speaking with a professional if you’re:

  • experiencing a big life change such as grief or family or relationship issues
  • engaging in unhealthy life habits or addictions such as smoking, drinking, or drug misuse
  • experiencing symptoms of a phobia
  • experiencing overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, sadness, stress, worry, or anxiety

A counselor may be able to help with family or relationship issues, anger, low self-esteem, behavioral issues, loss, anxiety, or depression. A therapist (a licensed mental health professional) may provide help with similar issues via talk therapy.

You may want to consider going to see a psychiatrist (a mental health professional who can prescribe medications and provide diagnoses and treatments) if you feel you may need medication for conditions like sleep, pain, addiction, or depression. If you’re looking for mental health care services for children or adolescents, psychiatry is also an available option.

Psychiatrists can prescribe medications for a variety of conditions, such as:

  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • anxiety disorders
  • bipolar disorder
  • major depression
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Calm Science, the company’s scientific research branch, is incorporated across all of Calm’s offerings. The company uses evidence-based strategies to improve the app. Calm’s ongoing research continues reinforcing and strengthening Calm as an innovative and scientifically grounded product that improves overall health and well-being.

The Daily Calm Community is a Facebook group run by Calm that is open to anyone interested in discussing their mindfulness practice and engaging with the topics of Daily Calm meditations.

Most members in the group are Calm subscribers who listen to the Daily Calm. However, the group welcomes anyone who would like to join, especially people who have yet to use Calm.

The Calm app may be a great investment if you frequently deal with feelings of anxiety or stress. The app’s wide variety of guided meditations, sleep stories, and music may help you feel more relaxed.

However, it’s not necessary to purchase the premium version if it’s not in your budget. The free version offers many helpful meditations that are just as beneficial as the paid ones.

But if you are experiencing symptoms of a more serious condition such as depression or an anxiety disorder, you may benefit more from professional advice and support.

Both Headspace and Calm are mindfulness apps with a ton of great content. It doesn’t matter where you are in your meditation journey — either option is awesome for seasoned or novice meditators.

Your preference for Calm versus Headspace will depend on your lifestyle, goals, and budget. Both apps offer a 7-day free trial, but you must sign up for a monthly or yearly subscription to continue accessing either app.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. You can check out our in-depth comparison article of Headspace vs Calm to learn more.

Calm is free to download and provides several courses, meditation sessions, breathing exercises, and mindful tools without a paid membership. However, although Calm is free, most of the app’s content requires a subscription to access.

Calm also offers a free trial when signing up, which includes access to over 50,000 minutes of content and tools for 7 days.

Calm is a great one-stop shop for anyone looking to improve their mental well-being. The app teaches users to reduce anxiety and stress, increase happiness, sleep better, and check in with their emotions.

If you want to try Calm, you can get started here.

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