A mid-tempo electronic and house song with acid, ambient and techno influences, "Bedtime Story" has an underlying skeletal synth melody influenced by minimal trance music.
The track was a departure from Madonna's pop-R&B-based outputs in favor of unconventional and electronic music.
The song was a moderate success, reaching the top ten in the record charts of United Kingdom, Italy and Australia.
The track missed the top 40 in United States, while peaking at number one on the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart.
"Bedtime Story" was performed at the 1995 Brit Awards in London with Madonna wearing a silver Versace dress and a long wig, becoming one of the 30 best moments of the awards show history according to Marie Claire.
A remixed version of the track was used as a video interlude on her Re-Invention World Tour in 2004.
"Bedtime Story" is written in the key of G minor and has a moderate tempo of 108 beats per minute.
Peter Galvin from The Advocate found that the song "calls to mind the Ecstasy anthem 'Rescue Me'".
Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine praised the song, claiming that it had unfulfilled potential and that it "could have been the next 'Vogue'".
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic, in a review for the parent album, wrote that "Bedtime Story" was among the "best songs on the album" and that it "slowly works its melodies into the subconscious as the bass pulses"
Larry Flick from Billboard noted that "It is easily among Madonna's boldest and most experimental pop singles" with "trippy and cutting-edge trance dance rhythms".
Matthew Rettenmund wrote in his Encyclopedia Madonnica that the song was a "total curve-ball" because of its inclusion on the album. He also believed that releasing it as a follow-up single to the commercially successful "Take a Bow" diminished its potential.
If "Bedtime Story" would have been able to reach the top 40, Madonna could have become the third woman in the "rock era" with the most top 40 hits, behind Aretha Franklin and Connie Francis.
In the United Kingdom, the song entered the UK Singles Chart at its peak of number four on the week of February 25, 1995. It left the top 20 two weeks later, eventually spending nine weeks on the charts.
In Australia, the song debuted and peaked at number five on April 9, 1995, where it stayed in that position for three weeks.
The music video for "Bedtime Story" was directed by Mark Romanek over a course of six days at Universal Studios, Universal City, California.
James Steffen, author of The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov, found that some of the imagery in the video were directly lifted from the 1969 Soviet film, The Color of Pomegranates, including the scenes showing a bare foot crushing grapes over a slab inscribed with Arabic, and a scene showing a bishop's crosiers falling into hand. Steffen also noted that Romanek's influences for the video included the works of Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky, including Stalker (1979) and Nostalghia (1983).