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Sleeping like a baby shouldn’t be a problem these days, as we have so many helpers.
Here’s the deal though:
Not all of them are worth our attention.
So, to save you from disappointment, we have selected the top 10 sleep apps. Each of them has something helpful and effective to offer, which can be a big boost on your way to better, healthier sleep.
Backed up by sleep experts and doctors, the Moshi app would work for any restless kid (or adult who loves cartoons, because why not?). Sharing original and beautifully illustrated stories (accompanied by relaxing melodies), the app works to help users settle down and drift off quicker. Most stories are quite short (between 15-20 minutes). It’s a perfect amount of time to help your little one calm down without dragging on for too long. The Moshi also shares guided meditations, white noise sleep sounds, and soothing instrumental music. The app is free with a limited amount of content, but you can also buy a yearly subscription for $40 and enjoy a wider variety of available stories and sounds.
Designed to help you sleep better and more soundly, this app combines a sleep tracker, nature sounds, a gentle alarm, snoring recording, bedtime reminders, and more. The Sleep as Android can help you monitor and learn more about your sleep. It’s a great option for someone who wants to recognize their sleep patterns and make adjustments accordingly. The app works with wearable trackers (smartwatches), so you can combine it with other devices for more precise results. And here’s the best part: the Sleep as Android is free (but offers in-app purchases).
Looking for a more personable option? The Sleepstation got you covered. Designed by sleep and health experts (and backed by science), this app shares improvement programs that are meant to help users fight their insomnia. You will get personalized sessions and remote support from a team of experienced sleep experts, coaches, and doctors. The Sleepstation allows you to communicate with your “curators” privately, provides sleep reports, and shares effective tips and techniques that are meant to help you start sleeping better based on your personal data. Of course, such a personalized approach isn’t free, and the cheapest plan the Sleepstation offers costs around $129.
Use it alone or with your kids, the choice is yours. The Sleepiest would work for anyone, really. This app offers free sleep sounds, bedtime stories, and meditations to help users fall asleep fast and in the right state of mind. You can pick your favorite stories and the app will memorize your choice, so you can always go back to your most soothing options. You can also get a Premium version for $10 a month or $50 a year and enjoy unlimited “sleep-aid” content. And here’s the best part: you can create your perfect sleep melody by combining multiple sounds available in the Sleepiest library.
If you are aware of the potential damage blue light can cause to your sleep quality, you are definitely going to enjoy using the Twilight app. It’s a simple filter that would block the blue light on your device, thus keeping your natural melatonin regulation intact and your sleep schedule normal. You can also harmonize your phone screen with the sun cycles to achieve a more natural, easy-to-follow sleep and wake schedule.
Looking for another way to chill before bed? Consider the Lightning Bug, an app that has a ton of relaxing sounds to offer. You can choose among white noise, ambient melodies, nature sounds, and more. You can also enjoy sound visualizations, which some users perceive as a form of meditation (a good escape technique when you don’t want to let any intrusive thoughts in). It is a free app that even includes an alarm and can substitute multiple other applications for no price at all.
This isn’t your regular sleep tracking app. The Sleeprate uses the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi) to help users start sleeping better. This app goes beyond simply relaxing you before bed. It uses AI algorithms and scientific methods to offer real, working pieces of advice and sleep training. So, if you want a more serious approach to your sleep, the Sleeprate is the way to go. And here’s a nice bonus: the app is compatible with wearable devices for increased convenience.
As the developers note, insomnia does not have to be an epidemic. And they seem to be doing everything in their power to fight that nasty “disease”. The founder, Debby Sibert, being a semi-professional musician, wanted to offer users high-quality music to relax before bed. The thing is, many other apps use low-quality sounds that often seem “mechanical” or “tinny”. However, with the Ultimate Sleep Solution app, you won’t notice anything like that. You can choose among 30 different sounds (some of which were selected with babies in mind, so you can even use the app to calm your little one down).
If you want to start sleeping better, fall asleep faster in the evenings, develop healthy habits, wake up easier, and learn more about your sleep, this app could be your perfect match. The app will track your sleep habits, offering extensive reports and advice on adjusting your routines. It will also offer a sleep pattern that should work for you the best. Additionally, the Sleep Theory will use gentle reminders to keep you on track. You can also enjoy the soothing sounds and ASMR to fall asleep faster, combined with a smart alarm in the morning for effortless rising. Seems like it’s an all-in-one kit for anyone who wants to improve their life and sleep quality.
Yes, that’s exactly what you think it is. Restflix is a streaming service that offers relaxing sounds and binaural beats to help you put your mind into a calmer state before bed. You can also enjoy calming visuals (which, by the way, mimic the relaxed heartbeat to make your body unwind). The whole experience can feel almost meditative, as some users note. Plus, the service uses only high-quality sounds, so it really is worth the price (sorry to disappoint you if you thought it was free).
What to Look for When Choosing the Best Sleep App
Aside from your personal preferences and sleep-related goals, there are certain factors that can be real deal-breakers when trying to pick the most suitable sleep app. These factors include:
- Ease of use. Basically, you don’t want a sleep app that will require you to go through a hundred steps to track your sleep or set a smart alarm. You probably don’t want an application that uses unnecessarily complicated settings, making you spend too much time every time trying to figure them out. A quick note: many users also prefer sleep apps that allow sleepers to place their phone on the nightstand rather than on their bed. However, if you are worried about sleeping next to your device, there is another trick to try. You can simply turn the Airplane mode on and enjoy your restful slumber.
- Effectiveness. If a sleep app doesn’t share any pieces of advice concerning what you should do with the data, it’s pretty much useless. I mean, let’s say you have found out that you’ve been getting less deep sleep. What are you supposed to do with that information? A good sleep app has to put this data into context. It should give you certain guidelines and a direction for your future actions. So, it’s better to give your preference to those sleep apps that give you advice based on your data, send reminders to go to bed earlier, or share some helpful tips that might contribute to your sleep quality.
- Interpretation of the results. Again, no one really needs overcomplicated graphs and statistics. A good sleep app should be easy to “read”. If you don’t make too much effort trying to interpret the data, you will be more likely to understand the nature of your sleep better. Consequently, you will have more chances to find effective solutions to your sleep-related issues.
- Accuracy. Precision is key when it comes to sleep tracking. Of course, most apps can’t guarantee extremely accurate results (for instance, your bedtime down to the minute), but many are as close as possible. To find a reliable option, you can look at other users’ reviews and see how satisfying their experience was. You can also try to pay more attention to your sleep and wake routines and see how the sleep app “catches” them. However, the truth is, you won’t get 100% accurate results. The app will give you the next closest data, so to say.
How Exactly Do Sleep Apps Work?
Seems like we are offered all the help we need to start sleeping better.
I mean, the number of available apps seems overwhelming sometimes. But why are they so popular? And how exactly do they work?
Let’s start with the main types you can come across on the app market. Generally, all sleep-related applications can be divided into 2 large groups: pre-sleep relaxation and sleep tracking.
The first group includes apps that work like white noise machines. They play relaxing sounds, music, ASMR, or even literal white noise to help users block out any other disturbances (including loud neighbors or even your racing thoughts).
The second group of sleep trackers can help users monitor their sleep. Such apps typically share helpful insights and pieces of advice on how to improve one’s sleep based on their findings. Additionally, many of them include smart alarms (my favorite feature, to tell the truth). Using the data they receive when tracking your sleep, such apps try to wake you up during the light stage, which makes it considerably easier to get up in the morning.
Of course, there are also applications that combine all of the above: relaxing sounds, meditation, sleep journals, tracking, alarms, and more. But the number of truly good ones is a bit limited, unfortunately.
Now, when using the second type (sleep tracking apps), users often wonder:
Are they effective? How precise are those trackers and how do they work?
Well, most sleep monitoring apps base their reports on the following tracking options:
- Sound. Most sleep trackers use your phone’s microphone to monitor how much you move during the night. Basically, when there’s minimal to no movement (or sounds), the app can assume that you are sound asleep. If it notices you “fussing around”, it assumes you’re in a light sleep stage. While this approach isn’t the most accurate one, at least it allows sleepers to leave their phones on the nightstand instead of taking them to bed.
- Movement. If you pair a sleep tracking app with a fitness tracker, a smartwatch, or any other wearable, it can use the accelerometer in your device to monitor your movements during sleep. Relying on the accelerometer can’t always deliver exceptionally precise results. That’s why most apps that work with wearables combine that with monitoring the heart rate.
- Heart rate. Again, if you use a wearable device, it can help an app monitor your sleep better. And since our heart rate changes during sleep, this tracking method can provide relatively accurate results, especially when combined with sound and movement monitoring.
- Sonar. This one is a bit more advanced method (and not every smartphone is compatible with this type of tracking). In this case, the phone’s speakers emit sound waves that are inaudible to human ears (thanks to the special frequencies). These waves deflect off your chest and the phone’s mic picks them up. As you sleep, your breathing changes, and so does the movement of your chest. This means the deflected waves can change as well. The app uses its algorithms to analyze the waves and to get a picture of your sleep, including its stages and quality.
A quick note: while research suggests that sleep apps can be quite beneficial when it comes to managing your habits, reaching certain goals, and monitoring your sleep (thus, learning more about its quality), they aren’t likely to help severely sleep-deprived users (1). Therefore, if you feel like insomnia is taking over your life, consider getting professional help instead of turning to sleep apps.
Why Use a Sleep App, Really?
While sleep applications aren’t a panacea for your sleepless nights, they do offer a ton of benefits. Here are just a few examples for you:
- white noise apps, nature sounds, meditation, ASRM, and other types of such sleep apps can do a great deal for your stress levels and anxiety (2)(3). Listening to soothing sounds or meditating before bed can help you wind down and fall asleep easier, even after a stressful day;
- sleep tracking apps can help you assess your habits and learn what you should change to start sleeping better;
- they can also help you determine how many hours of sleep you really need and what amount of rest would make you feel the best;
- sleep apps can encourage you to stick to a healthier sleep routine, which may result in improved well-being and sleep quality;
- those apps that use smart alarms can make it easier for you to get up in the mornings, which consequently may help you become more productive;
- many apps share helpful info and insights that you can use in your daily life to introduce some healthy habits.
- Diana Yates (April 12, 2017). Study of sleep apps finds room for improvement. Retrieved from https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/486860
- Mohammad Javad Amiri, Tabandeh Sadeghi, and Tayebeh Negahban Bonabi (November 15, 2017). The effect of natural sounds on the anxiety of patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5688625/
- The University of Nevada (n.d.). Releasing stress through the power of music. Retrieved from https://www.unr.edu/counseling/virtual-relaxation-room/releasing-stress-through-the-power-of-music