If you’re someone who spends the night tossing and turning and constantly glancing at the clock, perhaps it’s time to enlist some help falling asleep. Forget plain white-noise machines and check out the future of better sleep: apps. Several new phone apps on the market are promising to help users catch more zzz’s through everything from meditation and calming exercises to emitting soothing light.
As sleep researcher at NYU Langone Health Rebecca Robbins, PhD explains, “Sleep onset is actually a process and a soothing bedtime routine is a great way to help quiet the mind, relax, and ease in to sleep.” Apps like the ones below can certainly help with that. However, she also issues an important word of caution on how to best utilize your phone when it comes to sleep, reminding new users that “smartphones emit blue light, which can interrupt the sleepy phase of our circadian rhythm. If you are using an app to help you fall asleep, make sure that the brightness is set to a warmer hue, which has less damaging effects for our sleep.”
Try out these 10 sleep apps to shorten the time between when your head hits the pillow and when deep sleep begins.
This sleep app blends science and audio engineering to create “Dreamscapes,” or specialized sound sequences layered with voice narrations designed to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. The sequences work along with your natural sleep cycle and take into account everything from progressive muscle relaxation to slowing the heart rate through guided meditation.
A popular meditation app, Calm also has specific “Sleep Stories” to help you fall into a deeper sleep. These bedtime stories for adults are gentle tales read by well-known voices like Stephen Fry and Bindi Irwin. If you’re more into relaxing music than words, Calm also features plenty of exclusive tracks and sounds engineered to help people sleep.
No, this app won’t put you into a trance. Instead, hypnotherapist Glenn Harrold will guide you through a hypnotherapy session. The app features four free tracks (one of which is specially geared toward sleeping well), with the option to purchase many more specifically for insomnia. The tracks also feature music and sounds in specific keys and frequencies to help guide you into deeper relaxation.
This white noise and meditation app allows you to be more in control of the process. Select your favorite sounds and melodies, and adjust the volume of each for a custom mix. You can also add on meditations just for sleep. If coming up with your own mix is too daunting, you can choose from the “Community Melodies” section.
Gently drift off to the sound of a soothing story or sleep meditation. You can also customize nature sounds and use the delayed ending feature to continue the background tones for as long as you want. They even have bedtime stories for kids and you can track how your sleep quality improves over time through the app.
For a less traditional approach, consider trying a coloring book app to wind down. Coloring has been shown to help relieve stress and tension and can help calm you down before you head off to bed. With Colorfy, you can choose from thousands of pictures and patterns to color.
Remember when Robbins mentioned setting your phone to a warmer hue while using these apps? This sleep app takes that concept one step further. It projects a calming light onto your ceiling while also playing peaceful sounds. Robbins explains more on why this works, noting that “the absence of light (particularly on the blue spectrum) is what allows for melatonin to secrete and our bodies to slip into sleep. Light that has a warm hue, such as orange and red, is optimal before bed.”
Say goodbye to being jolted awake mid dream with this app. Set a time range for when you want to wake up and this app analyzes your movements in bed to wake you up during your lightest sleep phase. It also gives you detailed sleep reports about your snooze habits so you can find patterns and change your habits to get better sleep every night.
These digital “pills” use psychoacoustics to help you solve life issues — like falling asleep faster. Different audio “pills” can help with everything from calming your nerves if it’s the night before a big presentation to helping you achieve a more Zen state of mind.
A unique sleep app, Sleep With Me, by librarian Drew Ackerman, features bedtime stories for adults designed to lull you to sleep. Unlike any traditional story you’ve heard, these meandering, stream-of-conscious style tales work to calm your busy mind by hopping from one mindless and bland topic to the next.