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Home arrow Health arrow Mental Health arrow Calm vs Headspace: Battle of the Meditation Apps

Calm vs Headspace: Battle of the Meditation Apps

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: September 25, 2023
9 min read 1169 Views 0 Reviews
clock 9 eye 1169 comments 0

Certain apps focus on improving your mental health. Can either Calm or Headspace assist you on your mindfulness journey?

Calm vs headspace

How do we vet brands and products? Learn more.

There are many meditation and mindfulness apps that could improve your mental health.

You can find ones that clear the mind and promote good sleep. Practicing mindfulness is one way to prevent negative thoughts from returning. Of course, not all apps will work to reduce mental stress, but there are some that have helpful features. 

Calm and Headspace are two possible candidates. Both offer guided meditations, sleep improvement exercises, and educational content that can boost your mental state. Finding the right meditation app for your health could be worth it, so which one offers the best mindfulness exercises?

In this article, we compare Calm and Headspace to see which is more effective.

Which Is Better for Mindfulness Meditation: Calm or Headspace?

Calm is a better option due to the wide variety of features. It has great mood-tracking tools, sleep stories, yoga classes, daily reminders for meditation, and a greater deal of customization. Both beginners and more advanced users can use this app when taking professional mindfulness classes or reading fun educational content.

Headspace is also a great app that is a bit more structured and less flexible than the Calm app with a high focus on learning. You can progress through the meditation courses gradually, discovering more mindfulness techniques and exercises. Yet, this mobile app will be more beneficial for users looking to learn and wanting to gain social community benefits.

Both apps can serve as a great assistant in your mindfulness practice. Ultimately, it’s up to your specific goals to choose the app that best suits your needs.

Calm vs. Headspace: Head-to-Head

Comparison Winner: Calm

Simple interface

Daily reminders

Mood tracking and sleep stories

Professional classes

Regularly updated content

Fun educational material

Desktop and mobile versions

Free trial for web and app users

More advanced courses

Kid-friendly meditation

Encourages consistency

Several physical exercises

Buddies section boosts the feeling of community


No community

Long audio recordings

Quite expensive

Too repetitive

Meditations can be short

No free content

What Is the Calm App?

calm logo
Our rating:
  • Calming exercises to improve your emotional state
  • Sleep audios narrated by famous celebrities
  • Personal guidance for practicing mindfulness
Learn More

Calm is a mindfulness meditation mobile app that contains calming exercises, breathing techniques, and sleep music with narrated stories. You can use these features to reduce stress or try the meditation experience when clearing the mind of negative thoughts. 

A study found that soothing music promotes improvement in sleeping patterns. The Calm app was designed to make you fall asleep easier. Plus, kid-friendly meditations are great for helping parents settle their children, especially when they don’t have time.

There are other features like meditation packs, daily meditation practice, breathing exercises, and sleep stories narrated by A-list celebrities. So, if you like autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), this app will benefit your mental well-being.

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    Beginner-friendly interface
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    Regular app updates
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    Daily meditation reminders
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    Several mood-tracking features
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    Master classes taught by experts
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    Soothing recordings for better sleep
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    No social communication
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    Nature sounds might be distracting for some
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    Sleep stories are long

What Is Headspace?

headspace logo
Our rating:
  • Courses on mindfulness
  • Educational content about meditation programs
  • The reading material covers deep sleep
Learn More

Headspace is a mindfulness-based smartphone app that makes meditation seem less intimidating. The creators want people to enjoy daily guided meditations, guided audio tours for sleep, short workout sessions, ambient music, and other calming mental exercises.

Research has shown that implementing mindfulness into your daily routine can reduce paranoid thoughts. Headspace was made to support calmer thinking and help with other feelings like grief, depleted motivation, low self-esteem, and poor concentration. 

The app requires you to create an account before using any of the premium features. You can then navigate educational articles, mini-meditations, sleep hygiene topics, and stories that make you 14% less stressed in 10 days, according to their official website. 

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    Daily reminders for mindfulness practices
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    Simple progress-tracking features
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    The Buddies tab allows other friends to join
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    Designed for iOS and Android devices
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    Workout classes taught by Olympians
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    The content is easily accessible
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    Expensive subscription
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    Some repetitive features
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    Auto-renewal costs more money

Similarities of Calm and Headspace

You can use both Headspace and Calm to improve your confidence, mood, and overall mental well-being. Here are the similarities between the two mindfulness apps:

#1 Provides meditations

One of the main features of Calm is the Daily Calm meditation courses. You’ll get a new 10-minute meditation to try every day. This is supposed to reduce anxiety symptoms, promote better focus, ease depressive episodes, and reinforce emotional gratitude. 

Dedicated meditation sessions are also the main feature of Headspace. Each session is guided, and you’re able to choose from topics that center around depression, low self-confidence, and anxiety. The single programs are great for quick relief before big work presentations or job interviews.

Studies show that these calming methods are a great way of treating anxiety and reducing high stress levels. 

#2 Helps you to sleep better 

Calm is well known for its soothing sounds, songs, and playlists, which are designed to help you fall asleep better. Research shows that listening to music can improve sleep quality, while also increasing the amount of deep sleep that you get. 

The Calm app also offers sleep stories narrated by A-list celebrities.  Most of these stories are designed for people who suffer from negative sleep-related symptoms like chronic fatigue, poor focus, and anxiety at night.

Similarly, Headspace has a collection of 45-55-minute guided audio recordings and sleep meditations that help to prevent disturbances throughout the night. It’s believed that sleep radio can soothe the mind effectively and encourage your brain to rest.

#3 Physical activity

Calm Body sessions are a collection of 10-minute gentle stretching exercises that are designed to release tension in the body and recharge your mind. From morning wake up and afternoon reset to evening wind down and stretch, each of the 8 sessions promotes mindful movement. 

Research proves that morning and evening stretches could relax the mind, especially during times of intense stress. 

Headspace’s Move Mode also focuses on training your body and mind, to strengthen your mental and physical well-being simultaneously. Guided by expert trainers, you can choose from low-to-medium impact workouts and cardio exercises to get your heart pumping, or rest day recovery meditations for the mind.

Differences Between Calm and Headspace

Although both were created to improve your mental health, each app has unique features that cater to every user’s unique goals, abilities, and preferences. We’ve rounded up the main differences between Calm and Headspace below:

#1 Suitability to beginners

Beginners can use Headspace when figuring out what they like. There are plenty of single meditations that improve your focus, motivation, and confidence, as well as a 10-day Basics course that teaches the essentials of meditation.

In contrast, not everyone will have the knowledge to use Calm properly. Many features promote consistent practice with daily meditation, which can be difficult to integrate into a routine packed full of work, family, friends, and other commitments.  Because of this, beginners may struggle with taking each step at a time, and may therefore be put off from buying the app. 

#2 How to get started

With Headspace, you can download the app for free, sign up, and you’re then ready to view the meditations library. To unlock the actual meditations, you’ll need to start a free trial, which automatically converts to a premium subscription once this period is over. Calm’s sign-up process is slightly different.

Before diving into the app’s features, you’ll be asked what the app can help you with, from improving sleep quality and reducing anxiety to boosting your focus or working on yourself. This allows Calm to create a personalized experience for you, which you can access with a free 7-day trial before upgrading to premium, or by using the limited free content. 

#4 Free versions offer different levels of accessibility

Calm’s free version provides a variety of meditation options, including timed meditations, day 1 of all multi-day meditation programs, one breathing exercise, and a sleep story. Once your free trial is over, these features will remain unlocked.

Headspace works slightly differently. You’ll have access to their whole library of content during the free trial, but once this ends, you’ll have to purchase a subscription to continue your mindfulness journey.


The cost of each app could help you decide which subscription is best. You should also think about the long-term prices and how it affects your budget. Below are the costs of Calm and Headspace, including other pricing plans you might consider getting. 

Calm is free to download and has a 7-day trial for anyone purchasing premium. Once the trial has ended, you can pay $69.99 a year or $14.99 a month. A lifetime membership costs $399.99 for those who don’t want monthly payments. 

The Headspace app is also free to download with a trial and limited features. You must pay $12.99 per month with a 7-day trial or get 14 days free while paying $69.99 annually.


Which is better for beginners: Calm or Headspace?

Beginners can use Headspace to find quick meditation videos and mindful workouts that focus on improving their mental health. That doesn’t mean the Calm app is unsuitable, as it still contains plenty of actionable and educational content.

Is Calm Premium worth it?

Yes, Calm premium is worth it for people who need guided meditations and courses for dealing with anxiety. There are many features that focus on self-improvement, high stress levels, sleep quality, and panic episodes that require breathing techniques.

Are meditation apps helpful?

Meditation apps are helpful for those wanting to improve their mental health in the long term. These dedicated apps may also be a great form of digital therapy. Features like guided meditations, soothing audio, and breathing exercises will hugely benefit your life.

Is Headspace free?

Headspace is free to download and contains a free trial with limited features. You need to pay for a premium subscription to access the entire library. It’s worth testing the free features beforehand to determine whether Headspace is a suitable mental health app.

Calm and Headspace vs. Alternatives 

Comparison Winner: Sensa

Custom exercises to suit your needs

Daily lessons

Personalized workout plans

Quick relief techniques to reduce stress

Reading material for beginners

Easy daily tasks

Tips for building healthy habits

Simple interface

Regular updates

The sleep stories are recorded by celebrities like Harry Styles

Daily reminders about meditation

Master classes taught by experts

Easy mood-tracking features

Suitable for iOS and Android devices

Daily reminders to help you practice more meditation

Progress tracking

The Buddies feature allows other people to join your journey

Simple content accessible to everyone

Workout classes taught by professional Olympians


Paid app

No audio or videos

You can’t add friends on the app

Sleep stories can be too long

Nature sounds are distracting

Quite expensive

Some features can be repetitive

Auto-renewal subscription may cost more money

How We Tested Calm and Headspace 

Testing Headspace and Calm ensures you choose the right meditation app. You can determine which app closely relates to your personal goals. We reviewed the benefits, pros, and cons before rating Calm and Headspace based on the below factors. 


A high-quality app will always do well in the current market. Most of the quality stems from the user interface and overall system. Both of these apps don’t have many users reports when it comes to bug-related complications or confusing meditation courses. 


You can only judge the effectiveness by testing apps yourself. There are several positive reviews that state the benefits of each meditation app. Learning how to meditate by listening to sleep audios and guidance videos is a great way of clearing your mind. 


The high price point of each app can put people off buying the subscription. You may have a budget when it comes to purchasing premium subscriptions. Both apps cost $69.99 a year, so keep this in mind before choosing your preferred mobile app. 

Brand reputation

Both brands are passionate about providing customers with the best experience. Headspace wants to “improve health and happiness,” while Calm focuses on “life-changing meditation that aims to help people sleep, relax, and focus.” 

A Word From an MD

There are some people who don’t get along with apps. This might be due to the limited features or lack of personal connection during times of stress. You may be one of those people who need real-life therapy to calm the mind and practice mindfulness meditation.

Although they offer many benefits, popular meditation apps aren’t always necessary for supporting emotional wellness or helping you sleep better. Consider going for morning walks or short runs to relieve anxiety. Regular exercise is one way to improve your long-term mental health, while journaling apps can help with self-discovery.

Just remember to consult with your doctor or therapist if any mental health concerns worsen. A medical professional is there to support your journey. They might offer a good meditation practice or mindfulness techniques that cater to your personal needs.


So, is Headspace or Calm better for your mental well-being? 

These two popular meditation apps have unique features that could cater to your personal goals. Calm is more focused on physical exercise and sleep, while Headspace uses educational content to teach beginners about the benefits of meditation.

If neither of these two apps quite tick your boxes, or you’d like to compare some more apps to get a more well-rounded view, then check out the 15 best mental health apps of this year.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: September 25, 2023
9 min read 1169 Views 0 Reviews
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