Improve Your Sleep With These Apps
Insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control says. Not getting enough shuteye can lead to trouble concentrating, remembering and even operating a vehicle. Adults need 8 hours of sleep each night, but most Americans report an average of 6 hours. Luckily, technology can help.
Check out this collection of apps, including sleep trackers, sleep therapy apps and lucid dreaming tools that aim to help you get a restful night's sleep.
Sleep Cycle (Android, iOS: Free)
Sleep Cycle (Android, iOS) takes the scientific approach to waking you up after a good night's rest. Using your smartphone’s accelerometer and other sensors to record your sleeping habits, the app uses sleep cycle theory to wake you at just the right time, ensuring you’re getting optimal rest. Users set a window of time (say a 30-minute stretch) instead of a traditional pinpoint alarm time, and when the app judges that your sleep movement is just right, it will ring the alarm to wake you. In addition to the smart alarm, Sleep Cycle records your sleeping habits for tracking sleep quality over time.
Pillow (iOS: Free, with $4.99 unlock)
Pillow takes a similar approach with sleep tracking, using your iPhone or Apple Watch sensors to track your sleep duration and quality. It then offers breakdowns as to different sleep stages such as REM and deep sleep, along with heart rate recording and sleep quality assessment, in combination with Apple's built-in Health app. A smart alarm feature lets the app gently ease you to wakefulness at the best time based on your sleep activity and the time you've set. The app comes with a wealth of tracking features, and a $4.99 in-app purchase unlocks more, such as the option to export your sleep sound recordings, detailed sleep statistics tracking over time, and a power nap mode for shorter bursts of sleep.
SleepScore (Android, iOS: Free, $5.99 per month premium subscription)
SleepScore (Android, iOS) is a sleep-tracking app that takes a different approach to recording your sleep quality. It ditches wearables or the need to place your phone on the mattress to record your movement, instead using your phone’s microphone and speakers like a sonar station to record your sleep movements. From this, the app gives you a sleep score and a variety of metrics to gauge your sleep quality. You can also access tips for how to prepare for better sleep, as well as a smart alarm clock. Premium subscribers get access to longer-term data tracking and more in-depth analysis, as well as a sleep report that you can share with your doctor.
Note: On Android, the sleep sonar feature is only certified for certain phones like the latest models of the Samsung Galaxy, Note, and Google Pixel.
Headspace (Android, iOS: Free, $12.99/month subscription)
Mindfulness and guided meditation app Headspace (Android, iOS) also has a dedicated sleeping aids section, with soothing guided meditation “Sleepcasts,” wind down exercises designed to prepare your mind for rest, and relaxing music to help give you a good night’s rest. That’s all on top of Headspace’s rich library of free and premium guided meditations. Free Headspace users get a limited library guided meditations and Sleepcasts, with premium subscribers getting access to the full library with more than 40 different courses and shorter meditations.
Sleepzy (Android, iOS: Free)
Apalon’s Sleepzy (Android, iOS) is the successor to the old Good Morning Alarm Clock app, adding expanded sleep-tracking and sleep aid features, as well as a smart alarm clock that takes into account your sleep rhythms to find the optimum time to wake you up. The app uses your phone sensors (or the Apple Watch) to track your sleep, allowing you to view your sleep quality, cycles, and sleep debt over time; you can also log a Sleep Diary and set your target sleep goals. The app is free and ad-supported, with a premium subscription removing advertising and adding extended data tracking and sleep noise recording.
Sleep As Android (Android: Free, with $3.19 unlock)
Sleep As Android is another excellent sleep cycle tracker and alarm that uses your on-board sensors to track your sleep and help you wake up at just the right time. In addition to the usual smart alarm and sleep logging features, Sleep As Android offers such extras as a library of soothing sound lullabies, natural sound wake-up noises and Captcha-style wake-up tests that make sure you've properly woken up, instead of clumsily fumbling for the alarm button.
PrimeNap: Sleep Tracker (Android: Free)
PrimeNap: Sleep Tracker might not have the most creative name or sharpest interface, but it does come with some well-thought-out features, and an optional smart alarm clock as an in-app purchase. PrimeNap does the usual sensor-assisted sleep logging, but it also includes a customizable activity log so that users can record how their daily activities might affect their sleep. The app also includes a dream journal, cinema mode, and red filter. An in-app purchase unlocks a highly customizable sleep cycle alarm clock with more than 40 different parameters.
AutoSleep (iOS: $2.99)
AutoSleep is another sleep tracking app for iOS that takes advantage of your Apple Watch sensors to both track sleep and assess the quality of your slumber. If you wear your watch to bed, then the app tracks your sleep activity and quality with the onboard sensors. The app then sends you a notification in the morning when you unlock your iPhone with a report of your night's sleep quality and activity. Even if you don't wear the Apple Watch to bed, the app can still at least record your sleep duration, starting when you plug in your watch to charge.
Twilight (Android: Free)
The bright, backlit displays of smartphones and tablets radiate a lot of blue light that's said to mess with your body clock and sleep cycle. On iOS, a Night Shift mode reduces blue light on the display. For Android users, the Twilight app does the same by automatically adjusting the colors of your phone's display based on the time of day, gently toning down the blue and introducing a red filter as evening approaches and night falls. This results in a softer display that's easier on the eyes and less likely to mess with your sleep cycle.
Sleep Time+ (Android, iOS: $1.99)
Sleep Time+ (Android, iOS) by Azumio is another solid combination of sleep tracking and smart alarm clock, using your phone's sensors to measure the quality of your sleep and wake you up at the optimal time. In addition to the detailed metrics and smart alarm features, Sleep Time+ comes with soundscapes to help you sleep and HealthKit integration.
Sleep Sounds (iOS: $1.99)
Numerous apps promise to help you sleep through the use of soothing ambient sound, but few are as customizable as Red Hammer Software's Sleep Sounds & Spa Music. The app comes with pre-made mixes of soothing sounds and pictures that you can use with no fuss, but the real fun is in the app's soundboard of more than 100 different soothing sounds, pieces of relaxing music, white noise, lullabies, and binaural beats. Users can mix up their favorite soothing sounds, save these custom combinations to create their own themed ambient noise combos. The app comes with a sleep timer and a gentle wakeup timer to slowly wake you up with gentle sound. It will cost you $1.99, and the soundboard means it will take up more than 470MB of space.
Noisli (Android, iOS: Free)
We've featured Noisli before as one of our favorite browser white noise generators for helping you focus and relax, and now, there are also mobile apps (Android, iOS) that can help you relax and calm down with your mobile phone or tablet. The mobile app comes with an offline soundboard of various types of white noise that you can mix, and then save for your own custom soothing sound combos or sleep aids. You can fire off your custom mix and then set a sleep/fade out timer, and the app syncs with your Noisli account.
Sleepo (Android: Free)
Sleepo (Android) is another simple and helpful app that provides a variety of restful soundscapes that you can easily mix and match together to create a relaxing ambience to help you fall asleep. The app comes with a variety of sound categories, such as Rain & Water, Nature & Forest, and more technical sounds like white, pink, and brown noise. Users can select and mix sounds together with customizable volume levels and a sleep timer, and the app also comes with a variety of preset mixes. The app is ad-supported, and an in-app purchase removes advertising and lets you save custom mixes.
Pzizz (Android, iOS: Free)
Pzizz (Android, iOS) helps users slip gently into sleep using a combination of music, words, sound effects and binaural beats to help you de-stress and re-energize. Once users set a listening duration (10 minutes to 10 hours), Pzizz generates a unique sleeping soundtrack from its library of built-in media. Users can adjust the volume levels of music, sound effects and vocal tracks to achieve the desired effects; with more than 10 billion possible combinations of audio elements, the app won't repeat itself any time soon. The app comes with Sleep and Nap modules, with a premium subscription unlocking richer soundscapes and a Focus module.
White Noise (Android, iOS: $1.99)
The White Noise app (Android, iOS) helps generate a soothing audio soundscape to help its users fall comfortably to sleep. The app comes with a variety of looped sounds, such as blowing winds, burning camp fires or ocean waves, with additional tracks available as in-app purchases. In addition, you can create your own customized mix of sounds, blending and mixing the noises together to your taste. Additional features include a smart alarm clock, AirPlay support and a variety of configuration settings.
Sleep Genius (Android, Free; iOS, $4.99)
Sleep Genius (Android, iOS) touts itself as "the most scientifically designed sound program for the world today," developed by neuroscience, sleep, and sound experts based on work helping NASA astronauts sleep. Sleep Genius claims that the customized sleep music in its programs is superior to white noise in lulling users to sleep, and the "Revive Cycle Alarm" is designed to give a gradual wakeup experience rather than jolting you awake. An in-app purchase unlocks premium features, adding more sleep music programs and alarms, sleep tracking features, as well as music tailored for relaxation and power naps.
Digipill (iOS: $3.99 Sleep Deeply module)
Digipill (Android, iOS) features a variety of purpose-built guided meditation sessions and soundscapes called "digipills", each designed for a variety of purposes, with the relaxing T-Break digipill coming free, and the rest as in-app purchases. Of particular interest to light sleepers and insomniacs is the Sleep Deeply module designed to help you relax and drift off to sleep.
Calm (Android, iOS: $12.99 per month)
Calm (Android, iOS) is a guided meditation and mindfulness app that comes with a variety of programs to reduce stress and anxiety, which includes helping you get better sleep. Meditations run a variety of lengths, from 3 to 25 minutes, and the app also comes with a daily meditation, "Sleep Stories" designed to help you fall asleep, breathing exercises and more. It is pretty feature packed, which might explains its correspondingly pricey monthly subscription.
Sleep Well Hypnosis (Android: Free)
Surf City's Sleep Well Hypnosis app provides users with guided meditations designed to help you drift peacefully to sleep. The sleep meditation aid is read by a certified hypnotherapist, and comes with soothing background noises, and a volume mixer for the voice and background audio. An in-app purchase ($2.99) unlocks premium features such as a range of background soundscapes, the option to set the meditation on loop and a "Sleep Booster" that uses binaural beats to help induce a restful mood.
Lucid Dreamer (Android, iOS: Free)
Lucid Dreamer (Android, iOS) helps sleepers achieve the lucid dreaming state by triggering an audio and visual cue onscreen that trains sleepers to make a reality check, triggering lucid dreaming. A built-in dream log then allows users to quickly jot down their dreams and store them, or share with the app's community. An in-app purchase unlocks a toolkit of additional features to aid sleepers, such as a sleep cycle adjustment tool, options for custom music and sounds such as binaural beats, and pre-sleep visuals and cues to help sculpt your dreamscape.