It probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that far too many people aren’t getting the sleep they need—according to a report by the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 3 adults are not getting enough sleep. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night can lead to poor performance at work and increase your chances of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, mental distress, and a number of other serious health issues. There are a number of simple steps that you can take on their own to improve your sleep (not eating late at night, going to sleep at the same time every night, for instance), but sometimes we need a little extra help to break bad habits. Today more and more people have started using sleep apps that help improve sleep both at night and during the “power naps,” which can help energize them during the day.
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WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Sleep apps focus on not only how to help you get to sleep, but also what happens after you nod off, and what took place during the day to set the groundwork for your night’s sleep. A number of apps can be activated during the day, to track your exercise, activity, and what you eat, in order to see if your waking life is keeping you from getting enough sleep. A more or less standard feature is an “intelligent alarm clock” that tracks your sleep cycle and wakes you during your lightest sleep phase, so that you wake up feeling refreshed.
Many sleep apps provide statistics to track your sleep progress over time. They can also be activated to provide you with advice about steps to take during the work day to help improve your sleep, as well as sessions with life coaches who give advice about healthy living.
In addition, many sleep apps include soothing acoustics and relaxation audio that combines elements of hypnosis to lull you into deep relaxation, and hopefully, sleep.
One thing to keep in mind though – the jury is still out about the effectiveness of sleep apps. Many professionals have cast doubt on their ability to match up to the analysis or assistance that can be provided by a professional lab, and advise that sleep app users take the advice with a grain of salt.
Helpful Features of Sleep Apps:
Intelligent alarm clock
A standard feature on many apps is an “intelligent alarm clock,” which is programmed to wake you up during your lightest sleep phase. The feature is available on both Sleep Cycle and Pillow iOS, among others. How does it work? Like other features of sleep apps, it uses the phone’s microphone and accelerometer to track your breathing and your movements in bed to see when you are in deep or light sleep phases. Simply place the phone on your bedside table, on your mattress or under your pillow and switch the app on.
For many of us, the main hurdle is simply getting over the hump and falling asleep. Maybe your mind starts racing once your head hits the pillow or you just have concerns and anxiety that won’t help you fall asleep. Since you can’t make any progress improving your sleep if you never actually drift off, a number of apps help put you in a relaxed, ready for slumber state.
With Relax Melodies, you have access to 52 free sounds and melodies to create all different types of chilled-out atmospheres as you wind down. It comboines the melodies with a series of five day programs and single sessions covering subjects such as “deep sleep,” “stress and anxiety relief,” and “naps,” among others. You can also take it along for your yoga class to help you get in the right state of mind. According to Pzizz, the company uses “effective psychoacoustic principles to create beautiful dreamscapes that will help you fall asleep fast, stay asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed.” With the app you can access over 100 billion different sound sequences, and also fully customize the soothing voiceover that plays with any melody.
With NASA-developed technology, Sleep Genius’ relaxation program uses acoustically modified music to help you relax and release tension as you drift off. There’s also a power nap option, to help you maximize that little window of time you have to catch some Zs.
Now that you’ve actually fallen asleep, once you wake up you’re probably going to want to know how you did. With many different apps you are provided with comprehensive statistics about your sleep, including how long you slept, how deep, and how much you moved. With Sleepbot, you can access graphs of sleep data going back 6 months. You can see an overview of your sleep length, sleep patterns, and wake times and see how you’re progressing over time. With Sleep Time, you’ll receive “sleep insight reports,” which give you a complete overview of your sleep, day-by-day and week-by-week.
Fitness app integration
What we do during the day can have a big effect on what happens at night. Exercising regularly and maintaining a regular fitness regime can pay big dividends when it comes to your sleep cycle. Many apps will integrate with your fitness apps in order to determine where and when you could work a little harder during the day so you reach a deeper sleep at night. Sleep as Android integrates with a number of wearable heart rate monitors and smartwatches from a number of mobile providers. The data accrued by the devices during the day is shared with Sleep as Android and the results utilized by the system. With the right wearable, it can also detect snoring and send you a little nudge to your wrist.
Help during the waking hours
Sometimes we need a little advice to help develop better habitats. On Sleep Better - which is fully integrated with Apple Health - you can enter in all types of daily habits and variables, including how much coffee or alcohol you drank, your stress level, and if you got any exercise. The app takes these details and figures out how they are affecting your sleep and where you should change things. On MotionX 24/7, you can track your heart rate, daily steps and calories burned and set up alarms to let you know when you’ve been idle for too long. The app is developed with “medical class tools” according to the company, and uses the data gained to better calibrate sleep plans for users.
Even if you don’t have small children or a high-powered career, it can be hard to get a full night’s sleep. We’re bombarded by distractions on our cellphones and on TV, and sometimes we are our most thoughtful just as we hit the pillow at night. With a little help you can figure out where your sleep can improve and how to get there. A sleep app can be a great way to learn about your body and your sleep cycle, and gain the relaxation tools that help you get some shuteye.